Research Story: Sky’s the limit for fully autonomous UAVs

Dr. Abdelhamid Tayebi Dr. Abdelhamid Tayebi

Photo 1: Lakehead University professor Dr. Abdelhamid Tayebi joins graduate student Zeke Sedor as fellow student Geordi McGrath, right, goes over the cameras placed on an unmanned aerial vehicle.

 Photo 2: Lakehead University professor Dr. Abdelhamid Tayebi, right, watches graduate student Zeke Sedor operate an unmanned aerial vehicle at the school’s Automatic Control Laboratory.


Published in the Chronicle Journal Thursday, July 26, 2018: Imagine this: there’s a car crash on a highway and a First Aid kit arrives within minutes. Smoke is detected on a remote mountain and firefighting crews are dispatched to the hot spot. An alarm sounds at a nuclear power plant and damage assessment begins immediately.
In all of these scenarios, unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, could play a pivotal role.
“You can equip drones with whatever you want, then you can send them to places where it’s dangerous to send humans or difficult to send robots,” suggests Dr. Abdelhamid Tayebi.
“But that’s a goal,” he cautions, “that’s a little bit far in the future.”
Tayebi, an Electrical Engineering professor at Lakehead University, has been working to make UAVs fully autonomous. That means, essentially, developing drones that can accomplish a task without human intervention.
“That’s the ultimate goal of all the people working in this area,” Tayebi explains. “It’s to one day send a UAV from some location, give it GPS co-ordinates and then the UAV goes to that location, choosing the best route to avoid obstacles and collision.”
There are a multitude of issues that have to be overcome before the skies are abuzz with drones, though. Tayebi acknowledges the huge task of building transmitters and receivers to track a drone’s exact position and then how to efficiently control a device the weight and size of a toy.
Progress is taking place at a small office on campus, the Automatic Control Laboratory, of which Tayebi is the director. On any given day, two graduate students are working on standard four-propellor drones, writing computer code, fixing minor mechanical issues and seeing where that takes them.
“It’s a real challenge,” says Geordi McGrath, a Master’s student in Electrical and Computer Engineering. “This work is a good culmination of what you learned in undergrad studies.
“Electrical engineering is very math heavy, so using equations from calculus and physics to control a physical system is quite satisfying.”
McGrath’s focus is on the two cameras mounted on the UAV, trying to figure out how the drone can know where it is based on what it sees. Getting the cameras properly calibrated has been both tedious and exhilarating.
“When I finally was able to complete the calibration successfully, there was such a relief,” he says. “But at the same time it was frustrating because it was a single mistake that caused months of issues.”
His colleague, Zeke Sedor, faces other challenges. On the white tile floor of the lab is the black outline of a large circle. His objective is to get the drone to fly in a particular path — in this case, follow the circle while airborne.
“Everything right now works, but nothing works together really well,” Sedor says.
“It sounds simple, but it’s really not,” he continues. “You first have to control the orientation to get it flat. Then, depending on the final position and the velocity information available from the sensors, you have to control the orientation to control the movement of the drone. That is a lot more complicated than it sounds. ‘Let’s trace a circle for the drone.’ It should be easy, but — ”
“Pretty much everything we’re doing,” McGrath adds, “sounds simple in concept, but the execution is the challenge,”
Tayebi can appreciate what his students are going through. He’s been at this research for 15 years and knows the hurdles that need to be overcome to make mini-aircraft available for a variety of important tasks.
“I tell my students it’s much easier to control a big spacecraft or satellite than to control a small drone,” he says, explaining that larger crafts have delicate and expensive sensors that you can’t afford for drones.
“These are challenging problems and we’re working on it. We have solved a few problems and there are other problems we’re trying to solve,” Tayebi acknowledges. “We’re still progressing.”

Research Stories: Research Provides Direction for School Food Environments

School Food Environments

Photo cutline: Celebrating the launch of the school food inventory report. Front row left to right: students Jordyn Jones, Brooklyn Hawkins, Danika Banning, Emma Sloss, and parent Jessica Carfagnini.  Top row left to right: Karen Kerk (Food Strategy), students Kya Zechner and Phoebe Shaw, Dan Hobbs (Red Cross), students Jade Roberts Danni Gale, and Dawn Teepell, Barbara Parker (Lakehead University),  Erin Beagle (Roots to Harvest), Gladys Berringer (Our Kids Count). 


By: PhebeAnn Wolframe-Smith

Published in the Chronicle Journal Tuesday, October 22, 2019: Children’s access to and knowledge about food has an enormous impact on their wellbeing. Healthy food environments are places where children have access to nutritious foods, are learning about food and food systems, and are able to use eating, cooking and/or growing food to help build community among students, teachers, staff, and parents.

 Recognizing the importance of healthy food environments, the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy’s School Foods Environment Working Group set out to do a school foods inventory. The purpose of this project was to assess the current food environments of Thunder Bay and area schools, to understand where improvements could be made. The Working Group is comprised of representatives from community organizations engaged with food school programs, including the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board and the Lakehead Public School Board.

Karen Kerk is a member of the Working Group and the Coordinator of the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy. “We learned a lot about how research works and about reaching out to the community. Once we started asking questions, it led to more questions we wanted to ask. It was a great process to see it come together from the initial idea to the surveys, to bringing the results back to the community and thinking about next steps,” she said.

Dr. Barbara Parker, Assistant Professor in Sociology at Lakehead University, is a member of the Working Group and led the research along with then-undergraduate student Mario Koeppel, who completed his honours thesis on the project.

 Koeppel, from Switzerland, is a Master’s student in Sociology at Lakehead who is studying student food insecurity.

 “Two important things I learned were the value of connecting with community – the Working Group was there for me to get perspectives on the work throughout the research process. The second thing was as a sociologist I got to put the methodologies I’ve learned into action, and to see how research could benefit the community,” Koeppel said.

 Key findings of the inventory are that most schools don’t have a formal philosophy or policy around food, but have informal underlying principles, such as that no child should go hungry. There are Red Cross nutrition programs in all schools in Thunder Bay, but there are inequities among schools in terms of delivery: most rely on volunteers, and some schools have greater numbers of helpers than others. Some schools are able to provide a granola bar and a fruit, while other schools serve hot breakfasts and even lunches. Some schools have initiatives like community gardens, cooking programs, and Indigenous traditional food teachings, while others do not. Disparities in resources contribute to these differences. The results of the survey were launched in a report in May of 2019, which can be found at

 Currently, the Working Group is helping school boards put the recommendations that came out of the inventory into action. Some of these recommendations are that schools develop food philosophies with their students, and that food programs be expanded. Dietician interns working with the Red Cross – a member of the School Foods Working Group – are developing tool kits to help teachers and principals create school food programs not just focused on nutrition, but also on the social and cultural context of eating.


“Around the world parents struggle to provide a healthy lunch their kids will eat or to provide a lunch at all. Food is about connection and relationships, but can also work to set individuals apart from one another and maintain difference. We want to use food and food policy to bring people together,” Parker said.

School Food Environments

Research Story: Lac Seul/Ecuador Exchange Offers New Insights Into Tourism Potential

Frederico Oliveira

Photo Cutline: In Lac Seul, from left, Jairo Calapucha, Tom Chisel, Frederico Oliveira, Jeremy Capay, Fernando Romero, Gavin Shields, Brian McLaren, Rhonda Koster, Patricio Lozano, and José Calapucha. Sitting in front of the group is Paul Shiguango.

 Published in the Chronicle Journal Monday, April 1, 2019: In 2018 Lakehead University researchers and students had a unique opportunity to facilitate and take part in an exchange between two Indigenous communities: Lac Seul First Nation in Ontario and Verde Sumaco in Ecuador. The goal of this project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council, was to compare experiences of nature- and culture-based tourism in the two communities’ traditional territories. Both communities are looking to land-based tourism as an economic opportunity that may also serve cultural and ecological preservation goals.

 The team from Lakehead University included Drs. Frederico Oliveira (Associate Professor, Anthropology) and Brian McLaren (Associate Professor, Natural Resources Management) as leaders of the project, Drs. Rhonda Koster (Associate Professor, Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism), Rosemary Coombe (Canada Research Chair, Anthropology, York University), and Martha Dowsley (Associate Professor, Anthropology/Geography), Lakehead students Caleb Kutcha, Benjamin Bohemier, and Gavin Shields, and Lac Seul Elders Tom Chisel and Kaaren Dannenmann.

 The exchange involved two trips: During the study break in February of 2018, the Lakehead team went to Ecuador. Then in July of 2018, a team of researchers from partner university Escuela Superior Politécnica de Chimborazo (ESPOCH), including professors Fernando Romero and Patricio Lozano, and three Verde Sumaco community members, Jairo Calapucha, José Calapucha, and Raúl Shiguango, visited Lac Seul for one week.

 Gavin Shields, a fourth year student in Indigenous Learning and Philosophy, emphasized the value of being part of the project. “It was completely different getting an experience in the field with an Indigenous community compared to being in the academic environment, because of what you learn from human interactions and building relationships, but then back in the classroom, you can connect what you learned in the field,” he said.

 While visiting each other’s communities, the teams from Canada and Ecuador engaged in a series of discussions and workshops to develop mapping skills, varied concepts of land stewardship and tourism products and itineraries. Over the course of the visits, the groups travelled on foot and by boat through the traditional territories, telling their stories of the places they visited. They discussed which of these stories might be shared with visitors as part of cultural tourism, and which are sacred and should be kept private within the community.

 “What really caught our attention and became clearer was how strongly connected to the land the communities were, in similar ways despite different cultures and languages,” said Dr. Oliveira.  “The communities understood each other very quickly despite a language barrier. They both see tourism as a way to provide some income for their communities while maintaining a sense of identity,” he said.

 Lac Seul Elder Tom Chisel reflected on parallels between the two cultures as well. “We each share similar values and beliefs about taking care of the land for future generations and being able to continue to use the land in a good way,” he said.

Jairo Calapucha, a member of Verde Sumaco, noted the importance of traditional knowledge in establishing tourism initiatives.

 “Indigenous peoples such as the Kichwas of the Amazon in Ecuador and Anishinaabe in Canada have an invaluable legacy, which, through the use of their ancestral knowledge and scientific technical knowledge, promote respect and recognition of their rights to strengthen conservation strategies and sustainable tourism based on natural and cultural heritage in their territories,” he said.

 Both communities felt that the exchange was valuable and hope to keep the relationship going. A report featuring pictures of the exchange will be published soon, and the team is also using footage taken in both Verde Sumaco and Lac Seul to put together a documentary film.

Lac Seul/Ecuador Exchange Offers New Insights Into Tourism Potential

Call for Applications for Lakehead University Research Chairs (LURC)

These Chairs recognize high quality research, scholarly and creative achievement, by providing a two‐year research grant to support an individual’s program of research. The LURCs program is a key initiative in retaining outstanding research talent at our institution, a goal consistent with Lakehead’s Research Plan.

Lakehead University is seeking applications for two (2) new 2021-2023 Lakehead University Research Chairs, one (1) in the disciplines supported by SSHRC/CIHR and one (1) in the disciplines supported by NSERC/CIHR.

Eligibility: All faculty who are full‐time tenure‐track or tenured members of LUFA and have been employed by Lakehead University for at least five years are eligible. Current or past research chair holders such as CRCs, LU/TBRHRI Research Chairs, LURCs, Ontario Research Chairs, SHARCNET Chairs, etc., are not eligible to receive this award.

Value of Award: Up to $45,000 as a research grant (up to $22,500/year) tenable over two years beginning January 1, 2021. The Chair’s research grant may be used to support the following eligible expenditures: teaching release (Chairs are required to teach a minimum of 1.0 FCE per year), stipends for students, post‐doctoral fellows and research associates, research and conference travel, equipment and grant‐writing support. Chairs must receive the necessary approvals for teaching release using Lakehead University’s Release Time Request Form. Salary payments to Research Chairs in lieu of teaching release are not an eligible expense.

Application Process: Applications must be submitted via the Romeo Research Portal no later than 4:30 pm Monday November 30, 2020. The following information will be required as part of the application:

  • Lakehead University Research Chair application form (available in the Romeo Research Portal);
  • Release Time Stipend Request Form (if requesting release time from teaching);
  • Canadian Common CV (do not use generic CCV, use appropriate Tri‐Council CCV);
  • Three external letters of reference addressing the selection criteria from individuals who are at arm’s length from the applicant and do not have a conflict of interest; and
  • Supporting letter from the Faculty Dean.


Selection Process and Criteria: The Vice‐President (Research and Innovation) shall appoint a Lakehead University Research Chair Selection Committee. The Selection Committee will review all submitted nominations and make its recommendations to the Vice‐President (Research and Innovation). The Lakehead University Research Chairs Selection Committee will review all eligible Lakehead University Research Chair nominations/applications utilizing the following evaluation criteria:

  • be outstanding and innovative researchers whose accomplishments have made a major impact in their fields;
  • be recognized nationally and internationally as leaders in their fields;
  • have a track‐record of attracting external research funding;
  • have an excellent record of mentoring undergraduate students, supervising graduate students and postdoctoral fellows (taking into account circumstances in the Department or practices in the relevant field or discipline) and as Chairs have the potential to attract excellent trainees and future researchers;
  • have a record of participating in collaborative interdisciplinary research and contributing to research capacity building (e.g., development of new graduate programs); and
  • have proposed an original, innovative research program of high quality that fits the priority research areas outlined in Lakehead University’s Research Plan.

Successful Lakehead University Research Chairs will be expected to give at least one public presentation as part of Lakehead’s annual Research and Innovation Week. Each Chair will also be required to submit to the Vice‐President (Research and Innovation) and their Faculty Dean a report highlighting their activities and accomplishments during their term as a Lakehead University Research Chair at the end of their award period.

For additional information regarding the application process, please contact Anne Klymenko, Director, Research Services at

Research Story: Cloverbelt Co-Op Offers Insight for Northwest Agriculture

Tim and Bob Wall
Photo cutline: From left, Bob and Tim Wall run Wall’s farm, just south of Oxdrift. The farm is a
member of the Cloverbelt Local Food Co-Operative. photo credit to Cloverbelt Local Food Co-Operative

Chronicle Journal November 8, 2017: Dryden-based Cloverbelt Local Food Cooperative is a non-profit distribution network that connects 130 local food producers to consumers across the region.

As co-op members, consumers can browse and order a producer’s wares online, and then pick
them up at one of five distribution points. But Cloverbelt does much more than distribute
food—the typical function of a food co-op—which is why it is so interesting to Dr. Charles
Levkoe, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Food Systems and Assistant Professor of Health
Sciences at Lakehead University.

Cloverbelt, under the direction of President Jen Springett, has built a community greenhouse
and revitalized an abattoir, and is working to find ways to bring fresh food to remote First
Nation communities, among other projects. Because it’s unique, Cloverbelt was included as one
of four case studies in Dr. Levkoe’s research on informal and under-recognized contributions of
food initiatives in the region, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of

“Our work on this project is coming out of the needs of the region, not from us as researchers. I
am interested in how research can help to fill gaps and build capacity,” said Dr. Levkoe.
In partnership with Cloverbelt and others, Dr. Levkoe has worked closely with Dr. Connie
Nelson, Professor Emeritus of Social Work at Lakehead, among others, to support the
development of a regional food charter for Northwestern Ontario. A food charter would
recognize the right of every individual to have access to enough safe and nutritious food to stay
healthy and have energy for daily life, and provide policy recommendations to ensure this right.
“The food charters project is a synergy of researchers and co-op members,” Springett said. “We
know the food landscape in the region, and we’re good at outreach and talking to people about
food, but it would be difficult for an organization like ours to write a charter. Working with the
university has allowed us to develop evidence to support what we already know from our work
on the ground.”

In addition to developing the food charter, Dr. Levkoe’s team gathered more information about
producers’ experiences of being part of the co-op. Allison Streutker, who recently completed
her Honours Bachelor of Psychology at Lakehead, was one of four research assistants who
worked on the project. Streutker’s interest in the project came partly from her experience
growing up on a dairy farm in Slate River Valley, Ont., just outside Thunder Bay. She conducted
interviews to find out how Cloverbelt benefits individuals, businesses, and the environment.

“There is only so much you can learn in a classroom versus hands on. I liked that I was able to
build a relationship with Cloverbelt members,” said Streutker, adding that she also explored
Cloverbelt’s greenhouse project.
“Allison – as an outside researcher – was able to validate the importance of the work being
done through Cloverbelt and identify some of its challenges,” Dr. Levkoe said.
Springett said that Streutker’s feedback has been valuable, and that they will use the
information to plan future education and services for their members.
You can learn more about Cloverbelt at

Research Story: Lakehead professor assessing walleye movement in Black Bay

Dr. Rennie

Photo: Lakehead University graduate student Graydon McKee returns an acoustically-tagged walleye that will be tracked to assess its movement in Black Bay.

Published in the Chronicle Journal, July 21, 2018: Decades after the collapse of a fish species in an area east of Thunder Bay, researchers are hoping walleye will make a comeback someday.

Early results from a study in Black Bay suggest a great deal of movement in and out of the no-fishing zone, meaning a re-evaluation of the situation may be in order.
“What’s your management strategy?” asks Lakehead University’s Dr. Michael Rennie. “Protect the whole bay from angling in order to speed up recovery of the species or keep one small portion closed? You might change your management
strategy based on an understanding of how fish move seasonally.”
An assistant professor in Biology and Canada Research Chair in Freshwater Ecology and Fisheries, Rennie is involved in a collaborative project with Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to assess walleye movement in Black
Bay. Master’s student Graydon McKee is analyzing data from walleye fitted with acoustic tags to analyze and track their movement throughout the bay. He also collects biological samples to assess growth and feeding patterns.
Black Bay is unique because, unlike much of Lake Superior, it is shallow, relatively warm and murky, making it an ideal habitat for walleye. The researchers have found two distinct groups of walleye in the bay: migrators and residents.
Some walleye leave during the summer (following spawning) and return in the fall, while another group stays the year round.
“When looking at growth patterns, the migratory fish grow larger than their resident counterparts,” McKee states.
This may be due to the type of food available outside of Black Bay. But a more definitive analysis awaits.
The species suffered a major collapse in the late 1960s. From the line that now represents the no-fishing sanctuary in the bay, 70 per cent of the fish that are tagged actually move out of the sanctuary.

“So it might represent some kind of refuge,” Rennie says. “But if you think it protects the walleye we have in the system, well, they’re moving around quite a lot, so the fishing ban doesn’t protect fish if they are angled when they leave the
sanctuary.” Black Bay walleye movement is one of several projects Rennie is involved with
focusing on lakes and how they respond to climate warming, invasive species and contaminants.
As lead researcher of the Community Ecology and Energetics Lab, much of Rennie’s work is located at ISD Experimental Lakes Area (IISD-ELA), a set of 58 lakes and their watersheds just outside Kenora that are dedicated to
experimentation on whole lakes. A unique kind of real-world laboratory, it is the only place of its kind in the world.
Rennie is completing a project with Trent University examining nanosilver, an understudied substance that can be found in everything from athletic clothing and socks to coatings on cutting boards. Initially, it was thought this anti-microbial
would impact the lower food web, such as algae and zooplankton.
“What we found was quite the opposite,” Rennie says. “We found most of the impacts were on fish rather than organisms lower in the food web. They were eating less in the presence of this silver, and smaller/younger fish were growing
slower.” It is hoped the results will spur regulators to limit the amount of nanosilver being released into the environment.
Other work at IISD-ELA shows that lakes recovering from acid rain have laketrout populations that are stunted, less abundant and have high levels of mercury. That could be due to the absence of a freshwater shrimp called Mysis diluviana, on which the trout feed, which were eliminated from the lake during acidification.
This year an experiment is being launched to add Mysis back into the lake to see if it improves trout populations. Rennie is also looking for Mysis DNA in the lake sediment (or environmental DNA) from the acidified lake to see if this technology can be applied to other affected lakes.

“You can now use the sediment to ask the question: what used to be here before we messed the system up?” Rennie says. “It will help managers set restoration targets. If you’re introducing species to ecosystems, you want to put back what was there already, which you might not have information on. We’re trying to use the DNA trapped in sediments from this lake as a case study for how you can apply this technology to other impacted lakes in Ontario.”

The CALAREO Consortium: MOU Signing

On Wednesday, October 7, 2020, The CALAREO Consortium, represented by Dr. Moira McPherson and Dr. Andrew Dean, signed an MOU for cooperation with 6 technical and polytechnic universities in the Mexican state of Querétaro.   The virtual signing event, hosted by the Embassy of Canada in Mexico City, was attended by the Canadian Ambassador Graeme C. Clark, the Minister of Education from the State of Querétaro, José Alfredo Botello Montes, and representatives from the Queretaro universities. 

The signing of the MOU was the preliminary event to a series of B2B meetings between the Canadian members of CALAREO and the universities in Querétaro.  The State of Querétaro, adjacent to the State of Mexico in the centre of the country, has a strong economy, including investment from Canadian companies (e.g. Bombardier), thanks in part to the recent development of the higher education sector to meet industry demand for skilled workers.  The partnership has strategic value for both sides for student exchange and and internships, and research partnerships, particularly in engineering and applied research. 

The Queretaro universities included:

 Universidad Politécnica de Santa Rosa Jáuregui (UPSRJ)

Universidad Tecnológica de Querétaro (UTEQ)

Universidad Politécnica de Querétaro (UPQ)

Universidad Aeronáutica en Querétaro (UNAQ)

Universidad Tecnológica de Corregidora (UTC)

Universidad Tecnológica de San Juan del Río (UTSRJ)

photos: The CALAREO Consortium; Dr. Andrew P. Dean

Call for Proposals: LUARS Agricultural Research Capacity Development Program - Applications Due November 30, 2020

LUARS Agricultural Research Capacity Development Program - Applications Due November 30, 2020
The Vice-President Research and Innovation (VPRI) is pleased to announce another call for proposals through the LUARS Agricultural Research Capacity Development Program. 
Areas of research priority for LUARS to be supported include, but are not limited to: agriculture, agribusiness, environmental studies, water management, soil science, food security, natural resources management, and other areas that can demonstrate the project has an agricultural focus. In addition, research projects that are based at LUARS and address the emerging regional research needs of the economy of Northwestern Ontario will receive priority.

Eligibility: The LUARS Agricultural Research Capacity Development Program is open to all full-time tenure-track and tenured faculty members.

Grants Available: Up to $30,000 total per project will be available for projects ranging from 1 – 3 years. Projects that leverage matching funds and partnerships are encouraged but not required. Funds may be used to support the following: 1) research expenses, including supplies, materials, equipment and travel; 2) stipends or salary support for the training of graduate students; and 3) organization of workshops and conferences involving community partners with the goal of expanding LUARS-relevant research.

Deadline: Monday, November 30, 2020

All applications must be submitted through the Romeo Research Portal. Additional details and requirements can be found here.

Backyard Gardening a Small Step Towards Food Sovereignty

Dr. LevkoePortinga

Photos: Dr. Charles Levkoe and Sustainable Food Systems, graduate student Rachel Portinga's research into Seed Saving.

 When the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, people started stockpiling not just hand sanitizer and toilet paper. They were also hoarding food and seeds. While it’s admirable that more people are growing their own vegetables, the produce from backyard gardens won’t improve access to nutritious food on a sufficiently large scale, says a Lakehead University researcher.

“Yes, grow some food. It’s a good idea,” Dr. Charles Levkoe agrees. “But it’s not a solution for food insecurity and it’s not going to make a huge dent in the grand scheme of things. Having said that, where it starts is people who are growing food are becoming part of a bigger dialogue about how we start to take back control of our food systems.”
Levkoe is the Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at Lakehead. His work looks at the connections between social justice, ecological regeneration, regional economies and democratic engagement.

“Food insecurity — not having enough food — is the result of poverty,” Levkoe states, noting that in Northwestern Ontario, half the population of Indigenous communities lack access to adequate food. “But it can also be the result of systems and structures, of people essentially not able to control their food systems.” A lot of the decisions regarding food systems are made by government and big corporations. These have an impact on what people can grow and what farmers can plant.
“We are trying to understand some of the politics around seeds in this region,” Levkoe explains. “But it’s also to support people — whether home gardeners or farmers — to be able to control the knowledge around seeds, control information, control seeds themselves, how they can save them, how they can trade them, how they can develop new technologies that work for them.

“My goal,” he adds, “is to understand how to create more healthy, sustainable and equitable food systems for everybody.”
He is currently involved in a half-dozen projects, several linked to the Lake Superior Living Labs Network, a collaboration with universities in Duluth and Sault Ste. Marie. These hubs are involved in research projects and experiments around the broad concept of “Just Sustainability,” or social and environmental justice.
One of these projects is a partnership with the Lakehead University Agricultural Research Station, Roots to Harvest and Superior Seeds Producers. Rachel Portinga, a PhD student who served an internship with Roots to Harvest, explored how seed saving contributes to community well-being. In interviews with nearly two dozen participants, she focused on the barriers to and the opportunities for increased seed saving. “Seed access, seed saving and seed sovereignty are all essential to just and sustainable food systems and they help us adapt to climate change,” Portinga says.

The participants — residing in Thunder Bay and surrounding areas — grew “entry-level” crops such as tomatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, garlic and carrot. Portinga’s research indicates participants are keen to improve their seed saving skills and increase access to locally adapted seeds. Seeds from California or southern Ontario are not suited to this climate and soil conditions, Levkoe notes, so the challenge is to find seeds that are compatible with the area’s unique characteristics. “Seeds, like people, are very adaptive,” Levkoe says. “Seeds adapt to different climates and soil, so it’s important we have the ability to grow and share seeds that are from this area. The solution is we need to be growing things here that are from this region.”

Portinga hopes her research can assist Roots to Harvest and Superior Seed Producers in developing supports and educational opportunities for local food growers to expand their skills to include seed saving.
“With many of these supports, I could see the Thunder Bay region having a strong community of seed savers who gather, swap seeds, exchange knowledge and generally help our community of growers be more self-reliant, be confident in their own seeds, and be proud and happy their seed networks are providing safe, locally-adapted food for families,” she says.

However, the issue goes beyond small garden plots. Along with thinking on multiple levels, we also need to understand what’s happening elsewhere and put people in contact with each other to take back control of local food systems, Levkoe says. “When we talk about food security we talk about poverty, equity and systems level things,” he says. “Food insecurity was not started in Thunder Bay, it’s not going to be solved in Thunder Bay. We can be part of a bigger solution. We need to be thinking about the structures and systems that create poverty, that create inequality. That’s where the solutions are, and the seed thing is a huge part of it.”

 By Julio Heleno Gomes

Printed in the Chronicle Journal on October 16, 2020


CFI John R. Evans Leaders Fund (Unaffiliated) - Internal Deadline: January 29, 2021


All faculty members with tenured or tenure-track positions at Lakehead University are invited to submit applications to Lakehead University’s internal 2021 Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) competition.  The deadline for the internal competition will be January 29, 2021.  

Please note that up to $205,000 (CFI portion only) from Lakehead's JELF allocation has been allocated to this competition to support a total investment of up to $512,500 in research infrastructure.  Researchers are required to secure the required 20% matching funds in order to be eligible to apply. Please note that this internal competition will expend Lakehead's remaining CFI JELF 2019-2022 allocation.


Internal Review of Applications

In order to support research excellence and ensure fairness and transparency in the distribution of these funds, applications will be reviewed internally by an internal CFI JELF peer review committee  which will rank the applications and then make recommendations to the Vice-President Research, and Innovation.

Eligibility and Application Process
The JELF "enables a select number of an institution’s excellent researchers to undertake leading-edge research by providing them with the foundational research infrastructure required to be or become leaders in their field. In turn, this enables institutions to remain internationally competitive in areas of research and technology development, aligned with their strategic priorities."

The candidate(s) listed in the proposal must be:

  • A recognized leader or have demonstrated the potential for excellence in the proposed research field(s);
  • Engaged in or embarking upon research/ technology development that is original, internationally competitive and of high quality; and
  • A current faculty member with a full-time academic appointment or a candidate that the institution is in the process of recruiting to a full-time academic position in an area of strategic importance.

The JELF is intended to serve the infrastructure needs of individual faculty, or groups of up to three faculty members where there is a need to share infrastructure.

Priority will be given to early career researchers, and infrastructure that will be shared (small group applications). Candidates who have previously been supported  through the JELF, Leaders Opportunities Fund, New Opportunities Fund or Canada Research Chairs Infrastructure Fund are eligible for funding under the JELF; however a justification of the value-added of a subsequent award is required. Application forms and guidelines are available by referring to the CFI's website.

Candidates must be recognized leaders in their field of research, or show promise of becoming research leaders. They must be engaged in, or embarking on, an innovative research program for which the infrastructure is essential and which will provide an enriched research training environment. CFI JELF  applications must also fit with the research priorities outlined in Lakehead University's Research Plan

In addition to meeting general CFI eligibility requirements, infrastructure items for JELF candidates must be essential for the research program of the candidate(s). If the requested items have been purchased or received, they must be obtained as an in-kind contribution no more than six months before the date of submission of the application.


Required Components for a Complete Application

Complete CFI JELF applications for the internal competition must be submitted to the Office of Research Services by the internal deadline and must consist of:

1.    CFI LOF Application Forms (CFI Award Management System)- Please use the John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) – Unaffiliated version of the form.

2.    CFI Request for Quotations Form plus one quote for each major equipment item.

3.    CFI Internal Budget Worksheet and one quotation in CFI format for all equipment/renovation items.

4.     Letter from the relevant dean confirming support for application and confirming space. Space must be confirmed by the internal application deadline.  

5.  Projects requiring renovations* must include:

  • a cost estimate (from Physical Plant) prior to the internal application deadline
  • Evidence of the required cash contributions to offset the 20% matching fund requirements.

6. Completed Internal Research Proposal Approval Form

 *Please note that if renovations are not required as part of acquiring and installing the requested infrastructure, the applicant(s) must indicate in the CFI application why renovations are not required.


CFI Funding Formula and Matching Funds

Please note that the CFI JELF program will contribute up to 40% towards infrastructure costs, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities' Ontario Research Fund will contribute 40% and the remaining 20% must be found from other sources by the researcher. Funds from CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC, as well as Tri-Council programs (e.g. the Networks of Centres of Excellence and the Canada Research Chairs) are not considered to be acceptable funding partners. However, the CFI will allow the cost of eligible item(s) to be covered in part by the aforementioned funding sources, provided that this portion is not used to leverage CFI funds. Equipment discounts beyond the best educational price are eligible as in-kind contributions towards the 20% matching funds required.

CFI JELF applications must include confirmation of the required matching funds. If the matching funds are to be provided by the private sector or other external agency, a letter of support outlining their commitment must accompany the application. If the 20% matching fund is provided in the form of a "discount beyond best educational price" by a supplier, a copy of the quotation must be included showing:

1. List Price

2. Best Educational Price

3. Discount Beyond Best Educational Price (the in-kind or CFI contribution)

4. Net CFI Price

Researchers must use Lakehead University's CFI Request for Quotations Form to ensure quotations meet CFI eligibility requirements. A CFI Internal budget worksheet must be completed and submitted along with copies of the equipment quotations used to complete the CFI form. Note that only "discounts beyond best educational price" are eligible.  Please note that project leaders should be aware that once the relevant taxes (3.41% HST) are applied to the total cost of the requested infrastructure in the application budget, the contribution by a vendor may actually work out to slightly less than the required 20%. Additional matching funds may be required to make up the resulting short-fall.

If you have any doubts regarding the eligibility of your matching funds, please call Anne Klymenko or Andrew Hacquoil in the Office of Research Services for advice.

Please note that LU start-up grants may be used towards the matching fund requirement whether it has been spent during the six months prior to the CFI JELF external deadline (June 15, 2021) or will be spent on research infrastructure. Funds from start-up grants are to be shown as a cash contribution from the institution, not in-kind (as per CFI guidelines). It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all in-kind contributions are eligible in accordance with CFI's guidelines.

Renovations to Space

Requests for renovations to new space (not currently allocated to the applicant) must be approved by the Lakehead University’s Space Committee prior to the internal deadline. Researchers should be aware that renovation costs can also include such expenses as changes to a space in order to accommodate a piece of equipment that has special power requirements, or environmental cooling (for example). If an application is to include renovations in the budget, researchers must contact Kevin Schlyter in Physical Plant far in advance of the January 29, 2021 internal deadline to arrange for a cost estimate. Applications that do not accurately reflect costs may be deemed ineligible for consideration. Additional information is available on-line at the Lakehead University Physical Plant website.  

Should you have any questions regarding the CFI JELF program, please contact Anne Klymenko at or Andrew Hacquoil at Additional information regarding the CFI program can be obtained by referring to the following website: CFI John R. Evans Leaders Fund.