The University of Guelph has named the inaugural holder of Canada’s first research chair in pollinator conservation following a year-long international search.
Nigel Raine, a leader in pollination conservation and ecology from Britain, will join U of G in May 2014 as the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation.
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.
U of G selected him for his work in pollinator behaviour and his vision for pollinator conservation in Canada, said Rob Gordon, dean of the Ontario Agricultural College. The search included input from the public, industry and government.
“Pollinator health is a subject of significant importance, and Nigel, as the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation, will provide tremendous leadership in enhancing our institution’s role and global reputation in this area,” Gordon said.
Raine will be based in the School of Environmental Sciences (SES).
“We are extremely fortunate to have attracted a scientist of such international reputation and stature to this important chair,” said SES director Prof. Jonathan Newman.
“Nigel 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. We look forward to welcoming him to Guelph.”
Raine studies the impacts of pesticides on bees, insect behaviour and pollination ecology.
At Guelph, he will raise awareness of the importance and plight of pollinators, inform public policy, and help train highly-qualified conservationists and agriculturalists—all critical to the health of pollinators and food systems.
“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.
“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.”
The diversity and numbers of insect pollinators are falling globally because of such factors as disease, pesticide exposure, malnutrition, habitat loss and climate change. 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.
Out of some 300 crops used for food, fodder and fibre worth about $200 billion-plus a year, about 80 per cent need pollinators to set seeds and fruit.
In the U.K., Raine has been an adviser and expert witness for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology; the Advisory Committee on Pesticides; the Environment Audit Committee (a select committee of the U.K. Parliament); the National Action Plan for pesticides; and the Pollinator Conservation Delivery Group. He has also advised the European Food Safety Authority.
He is a Fellow of both the Royal Entomological Society and the Linnean Society of London. He has held academic positions at Sheffield University, the Zoological Society of London and Queen Mary University of London.
He studied zoology and biological sciences at Magdalen College, University of Oxford.