New Canada Research Chairs for York

York proudly welcomes its new Canada Research Chairs (CRC). Yesterday, the federal government announced four CRCs at the University whose work will advance the engineering of space-based technology to study climate change and ozone depletion, enhance research on the effects of the loss of Canadian forests on declining migratory bird populations, advance the study of organs within cells, and make valuable resources from the Mediterranean basin in Roman times more accessible.

The new Chairs are: Prof. James Whiteway, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science, Faculty of Pure and Applied Science (FPAS), CRC in Space Engineering and Atmospheric Science, Tier II; Prof. Bridget Stutchbury, Department of Biology, FPAS, CRC in Ecology and Conservation Biology, Tier II; Prof. David Hood, School of Kinesiology and Health Science, FPAS, CRC in Health Sciences, Tier I; and Prof. Steve Mason, Division of Humanities, Faculty of Arts, CRC in Greco-Roman Culture, Tier I.

A side note: Mason will be among the five international scholars at a public session in Toronto this month commenting on the authenticity of the ossuary, recently damaged en route to the Royal Ontario Museum, and believed by some to have once contained the bones of James, brother of Jesus.

Here are brief synopses of the research being conducted by recently-named York CRCs:

Prof. James Whiteway

Whiteway has been in the forefront of atmospheric research on the role of cirrus clouds and tropical thunderstorms in the prediction of climate change and ozone depletion, and the use of advanced laser-radar technology to measure these phenomena.

Whiteway is currently running a measurement campaign in Darwin, Australia, to study the cloudy air that flows from the tops of tropical thunderstorms. The influence of these storms on the distribution of water vapour is one of the main causes of uncertainty in predicting changes in the global climate at the ground and also changes in ozone in the stratosphere.


Whiteway will use new funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation to build a laser-radar for measurements of ozone, water vapour and clouds, to be installed on board an aircraft. The new laser-radar will also be designed for ground-based measurements and the development of technology for space-based laser-radar systems.

Prof. Bridget Stutchbury is internationally respected as an innovative researcher in the fields of ecology and conservation biology. Her recent studies on Canadian migratory forest birds are the first to follow bird movements between fragmented forests using radio tracking technology.

Stutchbury’s research focuses on the Carolinian Forest Region of southern Ontario, an area with a large human population and extensive industry and agriculture. The forest contains more rare and endangered species of plants and animals than any other part of Canada. Her project will be one of the few research programs in Canada to study migratory birds on both their breeding and wintering grounds, to determine the level at which forest fragmentation impedes movement and survivability for some species. The research addresses the issue of sustainability of forest ecosystems that have been degraded and fragmented by human activity.

Prof. David Hood

Hood’s work in cell physiology will advance the study of the organs within cells (mitochondria), which produce 90 per cent of a cell’s energy. Dysfunction in cell mitochondria can lead to muscle diseases and fatigue, diabetes, Parkinson’s and heart disease, as well as cell death in the process of aging.

Hood’s laboratory in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at York is unique in that it seeks to understand the basic science of cell mitochondria as well as the benefits of regular exercise to treat mitochondrial disorders, with far-reaching implications for overall health.

As Chair, he has a number of objectives over a five-year period, including the investigation of nuclear and mitochondrial gene transcription, the mechanisms of protein transport into mitochondria, understanding the types of signals contracting muscles send, an evaluation of how exercise-induced mitochondrial biogenesis affects cell death, and the development of a collaborative research group on skeletal muscle cell health.

Prof. Steve Mason

Mason’s research promises to make valuable resources from the Mediterranean basin in Roman times more accessible, beginning with the 30 volumes written by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus – the most important source in the period after the Bible for Judean history and the origins of Christianity in the first century CE [aka AD]. The research program will establish York as an international centre for the study of ancient texts, using new technologies to digitize texts and commentaries and improve access to research by scholars worldwide.

The writings of Josephus tell us much about how the ancients handled intercultural conflict and negotiation, in their analysis of relations between the ‘superpower’ of the day and the smaller subject states.

“Even though we must read Josephus in his own historical context, it is remarkable to see how much some basic problems of human life – not only death and taxes, but also questions of human and national dignity, legal protection, and political-military power – have remained the same,” Mason says.

Announcing the new CRCs in St. John’s, Nfld., Industry Minister Allan Rock said, “The Canada Research Chairs Program is key to Canada’s competitiveness in the knowledge economy. Each of these new chairholders moves us closer to our goal of being one of the top five countries in research and development by 2010.” The federal government awarded a total of $5.2 million for four new Chairs at York, including $1.4 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which provides infrastructural support to the Chairs.

For more details on the research, read the Media Relations news releases at:, and