TLDR: This week in UW science


Nov. 10

UW researchers have discovered a river underneath the Antarctic ice sheet that could drastically change current climate change predictions. 

The 460-kilometre river was identified by Dr. Christine Dow and her team using airborne radar surveys, and they suspect the water flow is why the ice seems to be melting faster than anticipated at the South Pole. As air temperatures continue to rise, Antarctica could become more like Greenland, with larger volumes of freshwater entering the ocean. The region where the river is located contains enough ice to raise sea levels over four metres. Discoveries like this one help improve the accuracy of climate change predictions and their long-term impact.

UW Media Relations

Nov. 20

The world’s first fully electric plane is in Waterloo. Students and faculty from the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics are currently conducting tests and research on it with the hope of getting flight certification from Transport Canada. The plane was manufactured by a Slovenian company and can fly for around an hour before needing to be charged again — roughly the distance between Toronto and Hamilton. The plane runs on two batteries — one as the primary power source and the other as a backup. The upfront cost of the aircraft was around $300,000, but this is offset by a motor that requires less maintenance and a flight cost of approximately $2-3 for charging versus $100 for fuel.

Yahoo! News

Nov. 25

The University of Waterloo ranked the highest of all Canadian universities on Pitchbook’s annual list of institutions most likely to produce founders of venture-backed start-ups. UW moved up in ranking one spot to 21st out of 100. Other Canadian universities in the top 50 included McGill University, the University of Toronto, and the University of British Columbia. To compile its list, Pitchbook looked at 144,000 venture-backed companies that received funding between 2012 and 2022. UW has produced nearly 500 founders of venture-backed companies, including Databricks, Instacart, and Netskope. These start-ups have raised some $19 billion in funding in the last 10 years.

Nov. 26

Six UW research projects dedicated to solving environmental challenges received financial support from the Canadian government to the tune of $15.8 million. The donation comes from the Environmental Damages Fund and is part of an initiative to support sustainable net-zero emissions by 2050. Maria Strack’s work to protect and restore global peatlands is one major project that will get a boost from the funding. Peatlands are some of the most carbon-rich ecosystems on the planet and play a key role in maintaining Earth’s temperature by containing potential greenhouse gasses. They also provide essential habitats for wildlife and help purify water and prevent flooding. According to Strack’s research, global peatlands are being lost at a rate 10 times higher than their formation. As human activities destroy these peatlands, their stored carbon is released into the atmosphere. Preserving and restoring even the tropical peatlands can reduce global annual emissions by two per cent.

CityNews Kitchener