PEI Vet College Benefits from Massive Oceans Grant


ATLANTIC VETERINARY COLLEGE benefiting from massive grant to ocean science

Teresa Wright
Published on September 06, 2016

Grant part of a new partnership between Dalhousie University in Halifax, UPEI and Memorial University in Newfoundland called the Ocean Frontier Institute

A funding grant that will see $2.5 million invested at the Atlantic Veterinary College in P.E.I. will support scientific research aimed at preventing and treating illness in Atlantic salmon.

The grant is part of a new partnership between Dalhousie University in Halifax, UPEI and Memorial University in Newfoundland called the Ocean Frontier Institute.

Prince Edward Island’s contribution to this research is focused on fish health.

Increased appetite and demand for salmon in the food market is creating greater need for data that will protect salmon stocks in an environmentally sustainable way.

“We’re always on the lookout for cheap and sustainable protein, and aquaculture does that. We’re trying to find a way of helping the industry produce a more sustainable salmon filet for our consumption,” said Mark Fast, associate professor of pathology and microbiology at the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC).

“The better treatments we can come up with, the more longer lasting they are, the less impact they have on the environment reduces the cost to the end user — people who like to eat salmon — but also we protect the environment and make sure the industry is here to stay and work in a good ecologically sound way.”

One aspect of this funding grant will help Fast’s team of researchers get a better idea of how salmon respond to different vaccines.

Toxicology testing will also be funded as part of this project, to track the effectiveness of antibiotics given to salmon to treat infections.

Liz Dobbin, director of diagnostic services at AVC, says this will mean increased samples coming through their lab, which will help grow UPEI’s reputation both in and outside of Atlantic Canada.

“We’re quite excited about playing (this) role and, for us, it means some good news for our laboratory, we can upgrade equipment, it can put us further ahead in terms of a toxicology lab in Atlantic Canada, so we’re quite excited about being part of this project.”

A third element of the P.E.I. research will help develop sophisticated models to help salmon producers and government regulators track potential illness outbreaks and predict the possible spread of diseases.

AVC gathers data from a variety of sources, including salmon producers and Environment Canada, and uses this data to try to predict where diseases may occur in the salmon population.

“By gathering information, looking at averages and trends over time, we’re able to rank where the next potential sites may be, inform those producers… it also can help government in preparedness,” said assistant professor Raphael Vanderstichel.

P.E.I.’s research is just one aspect of the Ocean Frontier Institute, which will look at ocean and ecosystem changes caused by climate change and other factors.

The institute is getting a massive cash infusion to the tune of $220 million from the federal and provincial governments as well as private partners.

P.E.I.’s share of this funding may be small, but AVC officials say this will create jobs, knowledge and infrastructure that will prove invaluable to the university in the long term.

“The overall goal would be to make these three universities in Atlantic Canada the world leader in oceanographic science,” said Veterinary College Dean Greg Keefe.

“Getting this additional funding helps bridge the funding for my program and then we’ll also have five new post-docs (post-doctoral researchers), three or four graduate students and more technicians. That’s good for the province, it’s good for the college, it’s good for the university.”