VIU's Canada Research Chair Focused on "Future Proofing" Shellfish

Dr. Timothy Green is VIU's Canada Research Chair in Shellfish Health and Genomics. He's researching whether Pacific oysters possess the evolutionary capacity to adapt to a rapid pace of ocean change.

May 9, 2018 - 9:45am

Dr. Timothy Green will be CRC Research Chair in Shellfish Health and Genomics

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to shellfish populations and sustainable shellfish farming in Canada and worldwide. In British Columbia, ocean acidification caused by climate change is recognized as a key threat. That’s one reason why Dr. Timothy Green, Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) new Canada Research Chair in Shellfish Health and Genomics, will be researching whether Pacific oysters possess the evolutionary capacity to adapt to a rapid pace of ocean change.

“We’re very pleased to have Dr. Green join VIU as our new Canada Research Chair,” said Dr. David Witty, VIU’s Provost and Vice-President Academic. “VIU is committed to supporting our coastal communities by undertaking research in areas that are of key importance to the Island’s Indigenous and local communities. Green’s global perspective in applied shellfish research will greatly contribute to our understanding of the impacts climate change is having on shellfish populations, and how to best address those impacts to support a thriving coastal aquaculture industry which so many of our communities rely on.”

An internationally recognized expert in the scientific discipline of aquaculture, with a strong emphasis on aquatic animal health and immunology, Green’s research aims to help “future-proof” the shellfish industry in Canada and the world by researching ways to make shellfish more resilient to climate change and the diseases that are linked to it.

As VIU’s Canada Research Chair, Green’s project will specifically quantify genetic and epigenetic (a biological mechanism that switches genes on and off) changes that occur in both oysters adapting to ocean acidification, and disease tolerant shellfish. 

“His research is investigating how shellfish evolve to new conditions in the environment – such as climate change,” says Dr. Daniela Fischer Russell, Associate Dean, Science and Technology. “In his role of Canada Research Chair, he will be focusing on a new area – whether or not shellfish are genetically able to meet the challenges or changes brought on by the rapid pace of climate change.”

Disease caused by viruses is the biggest threat to global production of food from aquaculture. New viruses are emerging in the environment due to climate change, expansion of aquaculture, and increasing international trade and shipping. The evidence to support this is found in incidences of a new herpesvirus killing billions of oysters and causing considerable socio-economic losses in Europe, Asia and Australia.

Green has already delved deep into research based on addressing how to “disease-proof” oysters against herpesvirus infection. Through his research Green discovered a way to “vaccinate” oysters, as well as the offspring of “vaccinated” individuals, so they are less susceptible to this disease.

“This discovery has the capacity to revolutionize oyster farming worldwide,” says Green. “An individual oyster can produce millions of offspring, and therefore, aquaculture hatcheries only have to treat a few oysters to produce millions of disease-resistant oyster larvae. I'm looking forward to expanding my research through the Canada Research Chair position to develop new technologies for breeding shellfish resilient to ocean change and disease.”

Green will be based in VIU’s Centre for Shellfish Research and the Deep Bay Marine Field Station which are focused on supporting interdisciplinary research in sustainable shellfish production to strengthen BC’s shellfish industry in a way that is compatible with the social and cultural values of coastal communities.

“Vancouver Island University provides one of the best environments for this type of research in Canada,” says Green. “The success of VIU in the discipline of aquaculture and shellfish research stems from the University’s commitment to the state-of-the-art infrastructure, including the Centre for Shellfish Research and Deep Bay Marine Field Station.”

For more information, visit Canada Research Chairs



Janina Stajic, Manager Communications and Public Engagement, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6288 I C: 250-618-2360 I E: I T: @viunews

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