Veterinarian hired as Canada’s first college pollinator health research chair

In the new role, Sarah Wood, DVM, PhD, plans to focus her work on managed and wild bee species from a veterinary perspective.

A new University of Saskatchewan (USask) research chair at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) will focus on the health of pollinators that play a critical role in global food production and agricultural sustainability.

Sarah Wood, DVM, PhD is the new USask Pollinator Health Research Chair at WCVM, according to a university press release. Wood is a USask alumnus who earned advanced degrees from WCVM and has worked on research related to pollinator health since 2015.

“My long-term vision for this research chair position is to improve agricultural sustainability and ecosystem health by studying wild and managed bee species from a veterinary perspective. By applying veterinary research tools to address today’s pollinator health and biodiversity challenges, I believe we can bring about impactful change,” Wood said in the university’s statement.

Animal pollinators, most of which are insects, are involved in two-thirds of global food production. Through their daily work, pollinators allow plants to grow and produce crops successfully. Of all pollinators, honey bees have the greatest impact on global agricultural production.

“As the first veterinary college in North America to establish a honey bee research and education program, we are the perfect home for this new research chair. We are very grateful for the support of industry partners who recognize the need for these findings at such a critical time when bees and other pollinators are facing major health issues,” said WCVM Dean Gillian Muir, DVM, PhD, in the university statement.

“This new research position is an exciting step for our college as our researchers strive to protect the health of wild and managed pollinators and, in doing so, improve the sustainability of agriculture in Canada and around the world” , added Gillian.

The new position of chair was created with a five-year, $750,000 funding commitment from the Saskatchewan Beekeepers Development Commission ($250,000), BASF ($250,000), SaskCanola ($150,000), British Columbia Blueberry Council ($50,000) and Manitoba Canola Growers ($50,000).

The research chair builds on the strengths of the college’s existing Bee Health Research Group, which is based in WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Pathology. Led by Elemir Simko, DVM, DVSc, DACVP; WCVM was the first veterinary college in North America to establish a honey bee research and education program in 2015.

“As members of the veterinary profession, we are uniquely prepared to address the big questions regarding pollinator health, while doing so in a way that balances the need for high-quality food production with the protection of pollinators and ecosystem health and biodiversity,” Simko said in the university’s statement.

The group has expanded its research program over the past 7 years with over $2 million in financial support from industry and government. The group’s research focuses on ecotoxicology, pesticide risk assessment and infectious diseases. The research chair position will now expand work in these key areas while training a new generation of veterinary professionals, beekeepers, researchers and policymakers, according to the university.

Reference

WCVM is about to hire a chair in pollinator health research at USask. Press release. University of Saskatchewan. June 23, 2022. Accessed June 23, 2022. https://news.usask.ca/articles/colleges/2022/wcvm-set-to-hire-pollinator-health-research-chair-at-usask.php

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