Discovery Frontiers: Biodiversity and Adaption of Biosystems

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NSERC has launched a new call for proposals under its Discovery Frontiers (DF) Program. The fourth call for proposals is linked to the area of Biodiversity and Adaptation of Biosystemsthis call offers teams of multi-disciplinary researchers an opportunity to help address the ongoing and alarming disappearance of species on Earth, Discovery Frontiers will support a program that will be paradigm-shifting, “transdisciplinary” in nature, open new fields or integrate existing fields in new ways, involve international collaboration, and accelerate the establishment of expertise and capacity.

Discovery Frontiers grants support a limited number of large international activities, opportunities or projects that are of high priority in the context of advanced research in Canada. These will be led by world-class Canadian researchers and will comprise multi-institutional teams that will generate substantial impact, for the benefit of Canada. This initiative will bring together groups of researchers in new ways to address a major research challenge. The groups will incorporate new and emerging ideas, and combine their complementary expertise to conduct transformative, paradigm-changing research.

Humans are changing global habitats at a faster pace than ever through climate change, deforestation, ocean acidification and overfishing. Globally, over one in five species of vertebrates, invertebrates, and plants are now at risk of extinction (critically endangered, endangered, or threatened). Moreover, recent estimates show that climate change is playing an increasing role in this threat. In order to devise realistic and viable conservation and mitigation strategies for biodiversity and to address this global challenge, a comprehensive understanding of natural and managed environments from genes to ecosystems and how they respond or adapt to complex changing conditions is essential. In addition, harnessing ecological and evolutionary knowledge has the potential to spur adaptation where needed (to improve productivity in agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, fisheries) and to limit adaptation where undesirable (to prevent emerging diseases and resistance to pesticides or drugs).

To address the ongoing and alarming disappearance of species on Earth, Discovery Frontiers will support a program that will be paradigm-shifting, “transdisciplinary” in nature, open new fields or integrate existing fields in new ways, involve international collaboration, and accelerate the establishment of expertise and capacity.


The objective of this 2017 Discovery Frontiers initiative spans a range of disciplines including: evolution, climate change, productivity in managed systems, population dynamics, conservation, invasive species, extinctions, adaptation, and the diversity of life. It will bring diverse researchers together to conduct transformative and integrative research of international impact through studies, assessments, comprehensive experiments and the development of models that will inform and ultimately provide solutions to the global biodiversity-loss crisis and generate new knowledge on the nature of adaptation. This will also be an opportunity to develop improved methods for understanding and facilitating the adaptation, conservation, and health of ecosystems.

The anticipated outcomes of this collaborative research initiative will redefine biodiversity science and likely lead to the following benefits:

  • a strong evidence-based focus in the development of new models and/or refinement of existing ones to gain a better understanding of ecosystems and the biodiversity they support, and processes of adaptation;
  • the development and use of new technologies, strategies or methodologies that advance model building and experimentation, reduce pressures on natural systems, and provide solutions to existing threats to biodiversity;
  • an improvement in forecasting future developments and consequently provide more precise directions in terms of implementing mitigation measures;
  • the dissemination of data, results, and advancements to the broader community, including the public domain for information and action.

Approaches used will emphasize new ideas, perspectives and solutions and interdisciplinary thinking with potential for long-term impacts. International linkages will be required.


Up to $1 million per year for four years


Discovery Frontiers projects funded under this call for proposals are encouraged to promote approaches that increase the inclusion and advancement of women and other under-represented groups in the natural sciences and engineering, as one means to foster excellence in research and training. Diversity and increased gender equity must be considered when developing their group of co-applicants, collaborators and trainees.

Applicants must outline the measures that will be implemented to advance gender equity within the structure of the proposed network and its activities. Examples include strategies for any of the following:

  • increasing gender equity in the composition of the research team and group of trainees;
  • ensuring equitable mentorship of all trainees;
  • initiatives aimed at ensuring an equitable and inclusive research and work environment;
  • the implementation of networking and leadership training events within the project that highlight gender equity.


Letter of Intent: 

  1. Cover Page (1 page):
    • the project title
    • a list of up to 10 keywords
    • an approximate budget request, by project year;
    • the applicant’s name, affiliation, telephone number and email address; and
    • a list of all co-applicants, with affiliation and email address.

2.   Research Proposal (5 pages):

    • a description of the main research challenges and activities;
      a discussion of anticipated participation by collaborators, such as international researchers and government scientists, and their roles;
      a discussion of anticipated outcomes and benefits;
      a description of the plans for training of highly qualified personnel; and
      a high level summary of the major budget items with justification.

3.   Biographical Information on the Team (2 pages):

    • contain short biographies of the applicant and co-applicants and their areas of expertise.

* Results will be communicated by June 1, 2017.  Only selected projects will be invited to submit a full application.


Your main contact for this program is Mike Folinas,   Please inform Mike of your intention to apply.


Monday, March 20, 2017: Internal Deadline for Editorial Review.  Please submit the following:

  • Draft Letter of Intent  package, which includes a cover page and Research Proposal

Monday, April 3, 2017: Internal Deadline for completed applications.  Please submit the following:

  • Completed (near final draft) Letter of Intent  package, which includes a cover page, Research Proposal and a Biographical Information on the Team.
  • My Research Applications , authorized by your Chair and/or Dean (as your unit’s policies determine) is required before your application can be approved by Research Services.

Monday, April 17, 2017: Sponsor Deadline

  • The Letter of Intent should be saved as a single PDF document, and uploaded toNSERC’s secure portal before the deadline.

**Applicants to this program may also be eligible to apply for project management support through the University’s Major Research Project Management program. For further information on the MRPM program please see the Funding Opportunity here.**

Contact Information

Alexander Quinn
Research Funding Manager | (416) 978-1614

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