Grant to Victoria paleontologist will shape ‘next generation of scientists’

A top paleontologist from Victoria has been awarded more than $150,000 in grant funding by the federal government, which she says will help shape “our next generation of scientists.”

Victoria Arbour, the curator of paleontology at the Royal B.C. Museum, received the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada grant through her adjunct appointment in the School of Earth and Ocean sciences at the University of Victoria.

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The funding will be administered at a rate of $31,849 per year for five years and will support the research of graduate and undergraduate students under Arbour’s supervision. A one-time federal supplement of $12,500 will support further research into Cretaceous vertebrates in North America, one of her main areas of expertise.

“It’s a really nice partnership between the university and the museum,” Arbour said. “This way we can support student researchers with very hands-on training. It will let me take students into the field when I go to collect more fossils. It’s an all-around positive.”

Arbour’s past expeditions unearthed fossils of a dinosaur species unique to the province, which are now part of the Royal B.C. Museum’s collection.

The funding will allow her to continue collections-based research at the museum with her students, much in the way the Nova Scotian learned when she studied with mentors at Dalhousie University and the University of Alberta.

“That’s kind of how science works, in many ways,” she said. “You get very hands-on mentoring while you’re growing up academically, and then you get to switch into the role of being the mentor, which I’m pretty excited about.”

The foundational work of her research with students will lead to more applied work later on, she said.

“You can see where you’re going with this in the next few years. That’s one of the real strengths of this kind of grant. It really gives you time to supervise people, and time to collect that data and do the work.”

Arbour likes that the funding is spread out over a few years, and noted that COVID-19 is liable to substantially affect her first year of study with the students. “Because of the pandemic, and to keep everyone healthy and safe, we’ve called off fieldwork for the summer, so I’ll be very excited to get back into the field next summer.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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