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New genomics research to help heal Canada's forests

Canada's forests store carbon, help clean and purify air and water, and help regulate the climate. They are economically significant to industry and tourism, and culturally significant to First Nations communities. If you have ever spent time hiking through forested areas you also know they are home to a wide range of animals, birds, and insects. Over centuries forests have been able to adapt to natural and man made changes to the environment, but shifting weather patterns have decreased that ability to cope.  Drought weakens the trees, and warming temperatures have increased the range and survival rate of forest pests such as the mountain pine beetle.

Alberta-led research announced in early December hopes to develop stronger and more resilient trees to help sustain the forest ecosystem. Barb Thomas is one of the project leaders and she says, "The funding for this new project will help our team better understand the capacity of white spruce and lodgepole pine in Alberta to cope with biotic (insect) and abiotic (drought) stress. Understanding this capacity is fundamental to ensuring healthy forests in the future by providing information to managers tasked with running our tree improvement programs. By taking advantage of new genomic selection methods in our tree improvement programs, we will be able to make decisions more quickly as the rate of change in climatic conditions facing Alberta and our forests is unprecedented."

This newly funded project Resilient Forests: Climate, Pests, & Policy: Genomic Applications (just call it RES-FOR) is led by Barb at the University of Alberta along with colleagues Nadir Ebilgin also at the U of A, and Yousry El-Kassaby at UBC.
In part 1 of our 360 degree RES-FOR video tour, Barb Thomas gave us an overview of the project. In part 2, forest entomologist Nadir Ebiligin, is our guide and we'll look at how insects such as the mountain pine beetle stress trees and how they adapt.

With the price of 360 degree cameras coming down and the editing tools becoming more sophisticated, Genome Alberta is using the technology to take you inside our research. The 360 video embedded here looks sharp on your tablet or smartphone. As you tilt the device you'll get to poke around the lab while listening to the commentary. I sat in a swivel chair, held up my iPad and as the chair turned it was like having a place to sit right in the lab.
If you are watching this video on a desktop, it works the best in Chrome . It performs well with the new Vivaldi browser and with newer versions of Firefox. If you are using the Microsoft Edge browser I encountered a few problems so we are not recommending it right now. Left click your mouse or track pad then drag the cursor or use your finger to move up or down or side-to-side to look around the video. You can also head straight to YouTube on your browser or watch in the YouTube app.
The video will also look great if you have a VR headset.


New genomics research to help heal Canada's forests

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