Fruit flies and woodpeckers. TWU sees unique research in its NSERC scholarship recipients

TWU graduate student Amanda Edworthy recently won an NSERC scholarship to be part of a 15-year study looking at cavity-nesting birds and mammals in interior BC. (photo by Mike Rathjen)


Trinity Western University is pleased to announce that Jessica Vanderploeg and Amanda Edworthy are individual recipients of a $17,500 NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship.

Elsie Froment TWU’s Dean of Academic Research says, “NSERC scholarships are fundamental to TWU’s mission of graduating students with the broad and deep education, standards of excellence and high level skills needed to extend knowledge and understanding, and become leaders in their fields.”

Understanding relationships within ecological communities will help British Columbia's forest managers safeguard species richness. That is the over-arching goal of Amanda Edworthy’s research. With a research topic titled, Fecundity of woodpeckers in response to a Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic in forests of South-Central British Columbia, Edworthy’s research project is part of a 15-year study looking at cavity-nesting birds and mammals in Interior BC.

Cavity-nesting species depend on holes in trees for nesting and shelter and Interior BC is a biodiversity hot-spot for cavity-nesters, with more than 30 species including Northern Saw-Whet Owls, Mountain Bluebirds, Northern Flickers, and Flying Squirrels. The lifetime and quality of a cavity is influenced by tree health factors, such as beetle infestation and fungal decay, and by species that create or alter cavities (e.g. woodpeckers and squirrels). In this study Edworthy will track changes in cavities over time and space and connect these changes to bird population dynamics and nest success.

Says Edworthy, Studies of forest and grassland birds provide information needed for land managers to safeguard species richness and protect ecosystems. This is especially important in light of increased salvage logging after the mountain pine beetle epidemic. I hope my research will contribute to our knowledge of community ecology in British Columbia's grassland and forest landscapes.”

DennisVenema-2Vanderploeg, who will study at McMaster University in the Master of Science in Biology Program, was granted $17,500 for her project titled, The Drosophila heart as a model of cell signaling during vessel formation. Says Vanderploeg, “At McMaster University, I will be using the model organism Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) to study early heart development.  Proper heart formation is critical, as disruptions in this process can result in congenital heart defects or later-onset cardiac diseases.  Drosophila has already proven very valuable in deepening our understanding of the signals controlling heart development.  It is my hope that through my research at McMaster, we may gain a better appreciation for the intricacies of heart development, and then apply this knowledge towards the treatment and prevention of cardiac disease.”

Froment says, “Good scholars passionately pursue focused research questions, rigorously using the research methodology of their field, while maintaining broad interests that enable them to place their work within and develop new theoretical frameworks for interpretation.  While they are precise in their investigations, they are seeking to assist human beings to, in some way, live better, including in their relation to the earth and all its inhabitants.”

NSERC (National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) is a federal agency whose vision is to help make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians. The agency supports some 26,500 university students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies.

NSERC came into existence on May 1, 1978. University-based research had previously been supported through the National Research Council; the report of the Senate Special Committee on Science Policy led to Bill C-26, which created NSERC. NSERC has grown since that first day, from a budget of $112 million, to a budget of $1.0 billion.

 Trinity Western University, in Langley, B.C., is an independent Christian liberal arts and sciences university enrolling approximately 4000 students. TWU offers 42 undergraduate majors, ranging from biotechnology, education, nursing, theatre and music, to psychology, communications and biblical studies. TWU's 16 graduate degree programs include counseling psychology, business, theology, linguistics, and leadership, and interdisciplinary degrees in English, philosophy and history. TWU holds Canada Research Chairs in Dead Sea Scroll Studies, Developmental Genetics and Disease, and Interpretation, Religion & Culture.

Last Updated: 2009-09-09
Author: Erin Mussolum