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Renowned researcher named pollinator conservation chair

The University of Guelph has filled Canada’s first research chair in pollinator conservation, which will tackle issues related to the decline of bees and other insect pollinators.

Nigel Raine, a leader in pollination conservation and ecology from Britain, has been named to the post after a year-long international search.

“We are extremely fortunate to have attracted a scientist of such international reputation and stature to this important chair,” said Prof. Jonathan Newman, director of the School of Environmental Sciences, where Raine will be based when he arrives in May.

Raine “will bring his far-reaching research program, boundless enthusiasm and energy, and strong leadership to the university, and, more importantly, to addressing the plight of pollinators in Ontario, in Canada and globally,” Newman said in a news release.

The endowed chair is funded by a $3-million gift from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation in the name of Wendy Rebanks, daughter of Garfield Weston and one of the foundation’s directors.

Raine is currently a faculty member in the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway University of London. He studies the impacts of pesticides on bees, insect behaviour and pollination ecology.

At the U of G, he will raise awareness of the importance and plight of pollinators, inform public policy, and help train highly qualified conservationists and agriculturalists, the release said.

“This is a unique and extremely exciting opportunity to tackle the issues that are causing widespread declines of bees and other insect pollinators,” Raine said in the release. “I look forward to being able to set up a world-class research program in Guelph and putting in place a range of activities to ensure this research has wide conservation impact across Canada and beyond.”

In Canada, 28 species of butterflies and moths and two bee species are known to be at risk. In the United States, honeybee populations have declined 30 per cent in the past 20 years, the release said.

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