Students and faculty in the natural sciences programs at University of Toronto Scarborough will enjoy more opportunities to study a local nature reserve in hands-on ways, thanks to a $1 million gift from TD Bank Group.
The gift will fund research scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students in the departments of physical and environmental sciences and biological sciences – specifically to perform fieldwork in Rouge National Urban Park. Located on the border between Scarborough and Pickering and on the doorstep of UTSC, the 47-square-kilometre park features forests, meadows, ponds, wetlands and sandy beaches. As UTSC is the primary research and education partner of Parks Canada in the Rouge River valley, faculty and students enjoy extensive opportunities to study the park’s biodiversity. Past undergraduate research initiatives have focused on identifying flora and fauna, testing soil and water quality, and assessing the impact of invasive plant species. The 40 undergraduate scholarships funded by the gift – worth $5,000 each – will let students work with faculty members on similar projects. Meanwhile, 20 graduate scholarships, each worth $10,000, will enable master’s and doctoral students to pursue research on sustaining natural environments located near urban areas.
As well, the donation will create a $100,000-per-annum specialized professorship in urban forest conservation and biology. The chosen prof will be an environmental or biological science expert, and will lead all programs, research and student placements associated with the park. TD’s commitment also includes support for community university initiatives, such as environmental workshops for local youths, science talks and community garden allotments.
“Through this gift, students and faculty will develop a better understanding of the benefits of this kind of local ecosystem and the importance of preserving it,” says Andrew Mason, chair of the department of biological sciences. “They will have access to something that can advance their degrees and connect them to what they are studying in the classroom.