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New applicants for Beef Researcher Mentorship program introduced

NewsMakers from the October 2017 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) has introduced its three successful applicants for the 2017-18 Beef Researcher Mentorship program. Each has been paired with leaders in the Canadian beef industry and given a travel budget to enable them to become more familiar with Canada’s commercial beef industry.

Dr. Mika Asai Coakwell.
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Dr. Mika Asai Coakwell is the new assistant professor of animal genetics at the University of Sask­atchewan. She grew up in Saskatchewan and began her MSc studies in bovine genetics in the department of animal and poultry science, after graduating with BSc in biology and archaeology at the U of S. She completed her PhD at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland, examining epigenetic events in cloned cattle. Upon returning to Canada, she began studies in a new field, ocular genetics, in Edmonton, as a post-doctoral fellow. There, she studied genes implicated in human ocular defects. She subsequently became a research associate in the department. Her current research interests are in beef cattle genetics, particularly in muscle and bone growth and development. Other interests include the study of inherited disease in cattle and companion animals. Asai Coakwell’s husband Colin is a pilot with the Canadian Armed Forces, and after five military postings in five years, they and their three children are ready to settle down back in her home town of Saskatoon. She is being mentored by producers Lance Leachman, Ryan Beierbach, and Michael Latimer, the CEO of the Canadian Beef Breeds Council.

Robert Gruninger.
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Dr. Robert Gruninger is research biologist at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Lethbridge Research and Development Centre. He was born and raised in Lethbridge and attended the University of Lethbridge and graduated with a BSc (honours) in biochemistry. His PhD work was conducted in the labs of Dr. Brent Selinger and Dr. Steven Mosimann and he was awarded his PhD in biochemistry from the University of Lethbridge in 2009. His PhD studies applied biochemical approaches to characterize the molecular basis of enzyme activity of several rumen phytases. Dr. Gruninger then went on to complete a post-doctoral fellowship from 2009-2012 in the lab of Dr. Natalie Strynadka at the University of British Columbia where he used structural biology to probe the basis of beta-lactam antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria. Dr. Gruninger has been working for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada as a post-doctoral fellow (2012-16) and as a research biologist at the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre under the guidance of Dr. Tim McAllister. The focus of Dr. Gruninger’s research is to apply a combination of “-omics”-based techniques and protein biochemistry to better understand the microbiology of ruminant microbes and the role that the rumen microbiome plays in determining the efficiency of lignocellulose degradation in the rumen. He has received numerous prestigious awards from NSERC, Alberta Ingenuity and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. He is being mentored by producers Larry and Justin Helland, and ruminant nutritionist Darryl Gibb.

Dr. Stacy Singer.
photo: Supplied

Dr. Stacy Singer is a research scientist (forage biotechnologist) with Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada’s Lethbridge Research and Development Centre. She obtained her PhD at the University of Regina in 2005, and subsequent to this, carried out postdoctoral fellowships at the USDA-ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Station in West Virginia and Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. The majority of her work during this time centered on developing plant biotechnological applications, understanding and improving abiotic and biotic stress tolerance, and coming up with ways in which to mitigate transgene flow between transgenic crops and their non-GM counterparts. Following this, she was employed as a research associate at the University of Alberta, where her research focused on utilizing biotechnology to enhance seed oil content and composition. In the past 10 years she has published 38 peer-reviewed articles in a number of high impact journals, two book chapters, has an extension publication under review, and has five further manuscripts in preparation. Her research program presently focuses upon the development of advanced breeding tools and “clean” biotechnological platforms, which do not produce foreign proteins, for the improvement of various performance- and quality-related traits in forage crops. She is being mentored by forage and beef producer, Graeme Finn and forage seed grower Gord Card.


Betty Green.
photo: Supplied

Fisher Branch beef producer Betty Green has been appointed to the board of the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation, a body that supports sustainability and diversity in the agriculture industry. Green is the co-ordinator of the Verified Beef Production program in Manitoba, and a partner in the G7 Ranch with her husband and son. She previously served as president of the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association and as president of both the Provincial and Canadian Associations of School Trustees.


Peter McLaren.
photo: Supplied

Cow-calf producer Peter McLaren of Perth has been elected president elect of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association. He has 400 acres in forages, silage, grain corn, barley and soybeans to support his beef and cash crop operation.


Gerry Ritz, the federal minister for agriculture and agri-food for nine years in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government said goodbye to federal politics last month, stepping down as the MP for Battlefords-Lloydminster, a riding he has held since 1997. The beef industry remembers him best for the deregulation of the Canadian Wheat Board and his steadfast and ultimately successful opposition to the U.S. government’s mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL) law.

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