Collaboration agreement signed between Saint Mary’s and LAU

 Saint Mary’s President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray shakes hands with LAU President Dr Joseph G. Jabbra

Saint Mary’s President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray shakes hands with LAU President Dr Joseph G. Jabbra

Saint Mary’s University and the Lebanese American University (LAU), have signed an agreement that will open doors to more collaboration between the two institutions.  The agreement allows for a variety of new opportunities including academic and professional exchange, joint research and short-term academic programs.

LAU President Dr. Joseph G. Jabbra welcomed Saint Mary’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray, to the Jamil Iskandar Conference Room at LAU’s Byblos campus on October 9, 2018, to sign the agreement.

President Jabbra is known to many on campus from his time spent as both an active member of the political science department and as the Vice President, Academic and Research from 1980 to 1990. In April 2017, President Jabbra received a Doctor of Civil Law, honoris causa, from Saint Mary’s.

 Saint Mary’s President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray and LAU President Dr Joseph G. Jabbra sign the collaboration agreement between the two universities.

Saint Mary’s President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray and LAU President Dr Joseph G. Jabbra sign the collaboration agreement between the two universities.

Saint Mary’s University has a well-established commitment to cultural diversity and encourages and supports the development of a global perspective. This new collaboration supports Saint Mary’s commitment to international and intercultural education and the global connectivity of the university and the university’s research partnerships. Saint Mary’s is recognized as a Canadian leader in these areas with extensive international outreach and collaboration by way of institutional linkages with universities around the world. This agreement with LAU marks another opportunity for students, faculty and staff to benefit from global perspectives and partnerships.

At the signing, Dr. Summerby-Murray emphasized the importance of the collaboration and the strong foundation that is already in place between both institutions and countries. The end of the event was marked by the exchange of gifts between the two presidents. The partnership is expected to begin shortly, with a representative of LAU expected to arrive on campus later this month.

SMU faculty participate as scientific experts at G7 Oceans Inspiration Expo

 Dr. Danika van Proosdij speaks at the G7 Oceans Summit

Dr. Danika van Proosdij speaks at the G7 Oceans Summit

Three Saint Mary’s University faculty members were invited to participate as experts at the G7 Oceans Summit at the Halifax Convention Centre, in parallel with the G7 Joint Ministerial Session on Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Communities.

The summit, and the G7 meeting, generally focused on oceans – with the three themes of the gathering being: plastic reduction, sustainable fishing, and coastal resilience. Professors Dr. Danika van Proosdij, Dr. Cathy Conrad and Dr. Tony Charles represented the university, working with 200 other global experts to develop the framing and guiding document on Oceans for the G7 ministers meeting that followed.

This collaboration was thanks to an ongoing partnership between the Canadian Government’s Environment and Climate Change department (ECCC) and the Community Conservation Research Network (CCRN) led by Dr. Tony Charles and based at Saint Mary’s University.

Dr. van Proosdij was a panellist for the “Resilient Coasts and Communities” event, speaking about her Natural Infrastructure to adapt to climate change impacts. She has worked in Canada, and on the Indian Ocean and Caribbean, primarily on vulnerability assessment and recommendations of implementation.

She was also a judge at the Clean Coastal Challenge, where youth pitched and designed sustainable coastal communities. The communities had to be sustainable, circular economy, renewable energy and healthy lifestyles.

Saint Mary’s was the only university with a booth at the Oceans Inspiration Expo, a public G7 event with presentations by Sylvia Earle and Alexandra Cousteau. The booth featured the work of the CCRN, on local communities around the world that are conserving their environment and sustaining their local economy, as well as several other university ocean and coastal initiatives.

Saint Mary’s students make their first venture capital investment in international travel start-up

Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund, a student-raised and led venture capital fund, is making its first investment, $15,000 to travel start-up Trip Ninja.

Trip Ninja is a travel-planning software for use by online travel retailers such as Expedia or Priceline. When retail customers are booking plane trips to several different places, Trip Ninja helps online travel retailers find the best price. This multi-destination platform finds the best way to book the trip, whether travellers are flexible in their route or if they need to visit destinations in a particular order.

“It has been great working with Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund, and seeing the confidence they have in our product,” said Trip Ninja Co-Founder, Andres Collart. “Saint Mary’s has helped us through reviewing aspects of our business with their MBA students who have a firm grasp on entrepreneurship and innovation. It’s been great working with an organization who is committed to helping start-ups and entrepreneurs have success.” 

The Saint Mary’s University Venture Grade Fund is a student-raised and run venture capital fund and the first student-raised venture capital investment fund in Canada in which the students raise the capital. Their fund is operating at about $200,000 currently.

The team seems to have chosen well as the fledgling travel tech company has attracted notable local, national and international investors, including East Valley Ventures, Innovacorp and other investors experienced in the travel industry. Innovacorp is also a supporter of Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund’s assessment of Trip Ninja, and provided Venture Grade with half the capital required for their investment.

The team’s faculty advisor and mentor is venture capital expert and SMU professor, Dr. Ellen Farrell.

“This is a win-win-win situation,” said Farrell. “Venture Grade’s donors and partners like Innovacorp get to offer students an unparalleled experiential education experience, the students get the benefit of raising the capital and conducting due diligence, and the start-up spends the investment thus supporting their business.”

Should the company experience a successful exit, meaning if they are purchased for a large sum, the investors, including Venture Grade, will receive a payout scaled to the purchase. Any returns made on Venture Grade’s investments are returned to Venture Grade, the student fund.

The fund was started by students of Dr. Ellen Farrell at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University in fall 2016, with a connection to Silicon Valley’s C100 group, Boston’s Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England, and initial support from Innovacorp. It has expanded to include members at other Atlantic universities including Acadia University, Dalhousie University, and Memorial University.

“Sobey School of Business and Saint Mary’s University are proud to offer students the opportunity to experience the risks and rewards of investing,” said Dr. Harjeet Bhabra, dean of the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University.

“With the School’s strengths in finance and entrepreneurship, the Venture Grade Fund could only have been created here. We’re proud to continue making an impact on our region and on the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Saint Mary’s archaeological expedition to share the story of people enslaved at coffee plantation in Cuba

 Students unearthing artificacts at the Angerona Plantation archaeology site. 

Students unearthing artificacts at the Angerona Plantation archaeology site. 

A group of Canadian university students are about to depart on an archeological expedition to Cuba, spearheaded by Saint Mary’s University. The students will be excavating historical artifacts and investigating the cemetery at Angerona, a Cuban national historic site and former slave plantation, 80 kilometres east of Havana.

Interested in applying to join the expedition or looking for more information?

Email Professor Taylor at The fee to join the expedition is $1600 (this includes accommodations, meals and transportation within Cuba) plus airfare and tuition (2 credits). The deadline to apply is May 4th.

“This expedition offers an opportunity to work with our partners in Cuba to uncover more of the lost history of the Angerona Coffee Plantation,” said Aaron Taylor, a Professor of Archaeology at Saint Mary’s and the program’s instructor.  “This plantation has a big historical significance in Cuba, and we want to help tell the stories of the people who were enslaved there.”

During the 19th century, Angerona was one of the largest slave plantations in the Americas—yet little is known about the day-to-day lives of the people who lived there.

 A collection of some of the artifacts found in the first year of the excavation.

A collection of some of the artifacts found in the first year of the excavation.

From June 10 to July 1, students from Canada and Cuba will be working together on excavating, identifying and interpreting the artifacts they find.

In addition to continued exploration of the site’s barracks, this expedition will include an investigation of the plantation's cemetery and the recovery of skeletal remains. This will provide a clearer story of life on the plantation. The team will be able to learn more about the people on the plantation, such as their general health, diet, age of death, and burial customs. This will include further research into the possibility that Nova Scotia supplied large quantities of codfish to Cuba during the period of the plantation system.

This trip marks the second year of what will be at least a five-year partnership between Saint Mary’s University, Havana’s Cabinet of Archeology and the College of San Geronimo.

 For more information about the expedition and to apply to join the team, visit

Saint Mary’s biologists receive federal funding for Fish Behaviour and Physiology (FiBP) Lab

  Dr. Laura Weir and Dr. Anne Dalziel

Dr. Laura Weir and Dr. Anne Dalziel

Two Saint Mary’s biologists have received funding to investigate how environmental variation influences fish populations in Atlantic Canada, which should help predict how fish will fare with continued changes in climate. Drs. Laura Weir and Anne Dalziel will use their $200,000 John R. Evans Leaders Fund award from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to develop a Fish Behaviour and Physiology (FiBP) Lab at Saint Mary’s University.

 “Saint Mary’s is delighted that Drs. Weir and Dalziel have received a prestigious CFI research award,” says Dr. Malcolm Butler, Vice-President Academic and Research. “This investment supports not only the world-class research taking place at Saint Mary’s, but also our students access to state-of-the-art infrastructure and technologies.”

Integrative studies that combine the genetic, biochemical, physiological, and behavioural mechanisms are needed to understand how fish populations adapt to environmental change. The FiBP Lab will investigate how these mechanisms contribute to differences in environmental tolerance, physiological performance, and reproductive behaviour among populations and species of fish common to Atlantic Canada, including salmon, trout, stickleback, killifish, alewife, and herring.

“Fish are a valuable natural resource,” says Dr. Laura Weir, assistant professor in the Department of Biology. “Our research will provide important baseline knowledge and inform policy and conservation efforts for our local fish populations.”

Research in the FiBP Lab will also help scientists and the public understand how biodiversity in aquatic environments is affected by coastal development.

“Canada has the longest coastline in the world, and understanding how changes to coastal waters will impact the animals living there is essential,” says Dr. Anne Dalziel, assistant professor in the Department of Biology.

The FiBP Lab formalizes an existing research collaboration between Dr. Anne Dalziel, an expert in fish physiology and evolutionary biology, and Dr. Laura Weir, whose expertise lies in behavioural and evolutionary ecology. Currently, the pair are working together to discover the physiological and behavioural mechanisms that lead to the unique breeding coloration of the white stickleback, an endemic Nova Scotian fish.

About the John R. Evans Leaders Fund

The John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) supports Canadian researchers by providing them with the research tools and infrastructure required to become leaders in their field. It also helps Canadian institutions attract and retain world-class researchers by remaining internationally competitive in areas of research and technology development aligned with their strategic priorities.