‘A dream come true’

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Local aquaculture team making waves locally and internationally

By Robyn McCallum
BIBLE HILL, N.S. – “I never thought I’d be doing research that would bring me to another part of the world,” said Brad Elliott. “It’s definitely a dream come true.”

A native of Wallace, Elliott is a recent graduate of the Faculty of Agriculture, returning to the Bible Hill agricultural campus to pursue his masters degree alongside Dr. Sarah Stewart-Clark.

Wallace native Brad Elliott is part of a team researching aquatic invasive species. The partnership with Dalhousie Agricultural Campus in Bible Hill extends to a university in Isreal. Submitted photo
Wallace native Brad Elliott is part of a team researching aquatic invasive species. The partnership with Dalhousie Agricultural Campus in Bible Hill extends to a university in Isreal. Submitted photo

His work is part of newly funded projects with Stewart-Clark through the Schulich Ocean Studies Centre Initiative. The funding allows for collaboration between ocean researchers at Dalhousie University and the National Center for Mariculture in Eilat, Israel. In partnership with Dr. Noa Shenkar at Tel Aviv University in Israel, Elliott’s project will examine invasive tunicates.

“I’m looking forward to this project for a number of reasons and to travel to another part of the world to collect data is the icing on the cake,” said Elliott. “Being able to study at the AC on a project like this is absolutely perfect. I’ll be working on the sort of project I’ve only dreamed about, with a group of very talented and like-minded experts.”

Elliott and Stewart-Clark will investigate molecular mechanisms that drive tunicate species invasions.

“By using whole transcriptome analysis of these tunicates we hope to explain the molecular mechanisms that confer an advantage on the tunicates that are able to invade new territory,” explained Stewart-Clark.

“This is novel research in aquatic invasive species and I am very excited to see what we will discover.”

Studying invasive species and how they operate is important to Atlantic Canada and abroad.

“The marine ecosystems of Atlantic Canada have been significantly impacted by a multitude of tunicate species invasions,” said Stewart- Clark. “In medical biology, we can quickly screen out strains of bacterial that are not virulent and pose a lesser threat to human health than other virulent strains of bacteria. This allows us to focus on the strains of bacteria that pose the biggest threat to human health. I believe that the future of detection for invasive tunicate species lies in a similar pathway.”

This could make mitigation strategies more efficient within the industry by only focusing on the most aggressive genotypes of invasive species.

Stewart-Clark is looking forward to having Elliott back in the lab.

“Brad was an extremely strong fourth year student in my lab and I am thrilled that he will be conducting his MSc in this area. In my view, Brad has a very exciting career as a scientist in his future and I know he is looking forward to snorkelling and scuba diving in the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea to collect samples.”

Elliott knows what to expect from this next chapter at the AC hands-on research and one-on-one interaction with students, professors and the industry.

“During my undergrad at the AC, I got to work very closely with other students and professors and this interaction gave me a hands-on feel for what scientific research is all about,” he said.

One unexpected surprise, though, was the opportunity to conduct research in another country.

“I never thought that I’d be doing research that would bring me to another part of the world,” said Brad.  “It’s definitely a dream come true.”

Robyn McCallum is a PhD student at the Faculty of Agriculture in Bible Hill and outgoing president of the Dalhousie Agricultural Students’ Association.

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