MSSI Funding

Scroll down for information on all available funding opportunities.

High risk/high reward projects are increasingly seen as avenues to move fields of research forward rapidly. The MSSI Ideas Fund provides small amounts of seed funding to explore bold projects and novel ideas which, if successful, could make a significant impact on a sustainability-related challenge.

The Fund allows recipients to explore the feasibility of ideas before dedicating significant resources to flesh them out. This includes development of collaborations and production of data required to justify a multi-disciplinary grant application in the area of sustainability. Its aim is to enable development of projects to a stage where they can attract other funding, perhaps in one of our thematic research areas.

The 2019 Ideas Fund is now closed.

Download the MSSI Ideas Fund 2019 Funding Call Download the MSSI Ideas Fund Winter 2019 Funding Call

MSSI Ideas Fund Faculty Recipients – Winter 2019

Jeffrey Cardille & Bernhard Lehner

GLAD – the Global Lake Analysis Dashboard

This project will build the Global Lakes Analysis Dashboard (GLAD), a novel toolbox for both the general public and scientists to learn about lakes. GLAD will be a public repository of lake information, including satellite imagery, delineated lake perimeters, calculated area, estimated depth, and more. Running in Earth Engine, GLAD will provide the ability to graph time series, compute similarities between far-flung lakes, and find regional patterns.

Cynthia Kallenbach & Peter Douglas

Coupling microbial metabolism and biogeochemistry to identify mechanisms that mitigate positive feedback effects of thawing permafrost peatlands to climate change

Permafrost peatland soils store vast quantities of carbon. As it thaws under a warming climate, soil microbial communities could release much of this carbon as greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, creating a runaway feedback effect on warming. Combining molecular chemistry, genomics, and isotopic geochemistry, we will determine the microbial controls regulating if and when positive versus negative feedback effects to climate change occur.

Bernhard Lehner & Jim Nicell

Global contaminant fate model and data development to screen for chemicals in rivers and lakes

To protect our surface water ecosystems and to sustain their benefits to society, including the provision of safe drinking water, we need to understand the sources and distribution of potentially harmful substances in the river and lake network. This project aims to develop a contaminant fate model and associated data, in particular information about wastewater treatment plants, to screen for the concentrations of contaminants in the aquatic environment at large scales, including down-the-drain household chemicals, pharmaceuticals, microplastics, and nanoparticles.

Walter Reisner & Peter Grutter

Fabrication of Nanoporous Membranes for Blue Energy Harvesting

One attractive source of renewable energy, known as “blue” or osmotic energy, uses the salinity difference between ocean and fresh water to generate power. A major impediment to exploiting blue energy is the poor efficiency of commercially available membranes for blue energy conversion. Nanoscale membranes with pores at or below 5 nm in diameter may provide sufficient power generation to make blue energy viable, yet, currently no technology exists that can produce such membranes with sufficient control and scale. Here, leveraging a new approach developed at McGill for fabrication of nanopore arrays, "Tip-Controlled Local Breakdown," we will produce nanoporous membranes for blue energy conversion with sufficient control of pore size and spacing to optimize membrane efficiency.

Jennifer Ronholm

Mining the Chicken Microbiome for Anti-Infective Probiotics to Eliminate the Need for Prophylactic Antibiotics

Current high-density models of poultry production are not sustainable without the use of antibiotics, but due to antibiotic resistance agricultural use of antibiotics is becoming less accepted. This project aims to investigate the avian gastrointestinal tract as a source of novel probiotic bacteria, particularly within the Proteobacteria phyla, that have a negative effect on the ability of bacterial pathogens to colonize commercial poultry. The discovery of anti-infective probiotics could decrease reliance on prophylactic antibiotics and improve sustainability within the poultry industry.

Ali Seifitokaldani

Combined CO2 Reduction and Biomass Upgrading System for Sustainable Production of Fuels

Electrochemical CO2 reduction reaction (CO2RR) and biomass upgrading hold promise for CO2-mitigation and green fuel production. However, CO2RR suffers from high applied potential, and the biomass upgrading process emits significant amount of greenhouse gases - hindering their employment. Here, we combine these processes within a single electrochemical system to not only reduce the applied potential, but also to produce green chemicals and feedstocks with zero CO2 emission.

MSSI Ideas Fund Student Recipients – Winter 2019

Matthew Fong & Agus Sasmito (faculty supervisor)

Seasonal energy storage through means of phase change of water contained in soil

Seasonal energy storage through means of phase change of water contained in soil: There is a growing need to incorporate renewables into our energy consumption budget. A lot of work has been done in including renewables into the electrical grid, however another way to do so is through heating and cooling. Directly incorporating renewables into heating and cooling systems allows for relatively easy and high impact reduction in emissions. This project seeks to use the cold from winter to cool during the summer and the heat from summer to warm during winter.

Asif Iqbal & Kirk Bevan (faculty supervisor)

Designing High Performance Photocatalytic Semiconductor Junctions for Solar Fuel Production

This project aims at unraveling the in-operando charge transport process at a photocatalytic semiconductor-aqueous junction. Our scientific approach connects numerical computation with the experimental results to explore critical processes occurring at fast and slow timescales. A comprehensive study of this nature promises to open up new avenues to engineer the in-operando performance of photocatalytic semiconductor junctions en route to improved solar hydrogen production.

Nicholas Lin, Sunny Weng & Nathalie Tufenkji (faculty supervisor)

Designing fully degradable alternatives to single-use plastics by upcycling food waste

Most single-use plastics are not recycled. Instead, they accumulate in landfills for centuries. Many by-products from the food industry are degradable, biorenewable, nontoxic, and edible. Fruit peels, vegetable husks, and other food waste will be blended with natural biopolymers such as starches, gums, and seaweed extracts to design fully degradable products that can replace single-use plastics.

Soyoun Park & Jennifer Ronholm (faculty supervisor)

A new strategy to screen antagonistic bacteria against Staphylococcus aureus for sustainable therapeutics and medical interventions

This project aims to design and develop a new strategy to screen antagonistic bacteria against S. aureus which causes a broad range of diseases in livestock including bovine mastitis. Antagonistic bacteria has been suggested as one of the promising alternatives to antibiotics to maintain the sustainability of agriculture since antibiotics are being phased out of usage in Canadian agriculture. To find bacteria that are antagonistic to S. aureus among commensal bacteria, a more effective and efficient screening strategy needs to be developed. A new plasmid ‘pQS2’ will allow us to label S. aureus with fluorescent proteins and co-culture S. aureus with commensal bacteria to monitor its growth and quorum sensing activity.

Paola Sully, Camila Oliva, Shuting Huang, Yi Zhang, Benjamin Simpson (faculty supervisor) & Yixiang Wang (faculty supervisor)

“Green” antimicrobial straws - an alternative to synthetic plastic straws

We use “green” technology to produce composite straws from marine and agricultural waste that exhibit outstanding antimicrobial and mechanical properties. The generation of “green” antimicrobial straws is a sustainable approach to reducing the use of single use plastics by being compostable, biodegradable and nontoxic to the environment. Our goal is to propose an alternative solution to synthetic plastic pollution.

James William & Mary Kang (faculty supervisor)

A compact, ready-made methane monitoring station powered by leaking oil and gas infrastructure

Fugitive methane emissions from the oil and gas sector represent a significant portion of the greenhouse gas budget in North America, but are still poorly understood in terms of their temporal emission patterns. A necessary step to improve our knowledge of temporal trends in emissions is long-term and continuous monitoring, which requires a power source that can sustain a measurement system. By harnessing fugitive natural gas emissions as a fuel source, our monitoring station will simultaneously reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of a leaking well, and gather long-term temporal data regarding emission patterns. Our project also has potential applications in other fields of methane emission monitoring, such as arctic regions where popular off-grid power sources (e.g. solar panels) are limited in their power generation capabilities.

Tian Zhao & Sidney Omelon (faculty supervisor)

Transformation of Soluble Phosphate, a Pollutant within Manure, to an Insoluble, More Sustainable Calcium Phosphate Solid with Waste Concrete

Phosphorus fertilization is essential for agriculture; however, the primary resource for making phosphorus fertilizer, phosphate rock, is non-renewable and depleting. Therefore, the goal of the project is to stabilize the phosphate in cattle manure and convert it into feasible phosphorus fertilizer, as a calcium phosphate crystal. Manure has a long history as a fertilizer, but excessive soluble phosphate in manure is environmentally problematic. The project can help offset the depletion of phosphate rock and ensure food security, as well as reduce soluble phosphate and avoid eutrophication.

MSSI Ideas Fund Faculty Recipients – Spring 2018

Hamid Akbarzadeh & Larry Lessard

3D Printing of lightweight sustainable materials: Wood-fiber reinforced cellular composites

As 3D printing is currently revolutionizing the manufacturing of intricate lightweight components with arbitrary topologies, a state-of-the-art practice is developed for transformation of waste lumber, woodchips, and sawdust into a form of 3D printed wood-fiber reinforced polymeric cellular composites with optimized microarchitectures to be used as durable engineered structural components.

Bruce Arndtsen

Development of an electrocatalytic method for the direct functionalization of methane to aldehydes

Alkanes, and alkyl-containing compounds are perhaps the most common resource available for the generation of synthetic materials. As a result, the design of a method that allows the conversion of these feedstocks directly into easily manipulated products has become one of the central goals of chemical research, and would offer a significant step forward in their sustainable use. The proposed work is directed towards creating a new method to functionalize hydrocarbons such as methane: via their catalytic coupling with carbon monoxide. This would offer not only a new method to exploit alkanes in chemical synthesis, but also a potential avenue for the utilization of methane as a chemical and energy resource.

Jeffrey Bergthorson

Supercritical metal-water reactor proof of concept

Convenient access to clean and reliable energy sources is key to transitioning away from fossil fuels. This research focuses on using metal-water reactions to provide clean energy on demand. Metal fuels can be processed using renewable energy, such as wind and solar, thereby effectively storing and allowing for the transport of clean energy. The clean energy stored in the metal electrofuels can then be released via metal-water reactions to produce heat and hydrogen for use in a wide range of transportation and stationary power-generation applications.

Treena Delormier, Gordon Hickey & Murray Humphries

Indigenizing concepts of food security

Traditional food security, based on the sustainable local harvest of wild plants and animals, is a critical natural, health, and cultural asset of Indigenous Peoples globally. Most food security research focuses on market food accessibility and availability. Our project will realize a conceptual understanding of food security distinct to Indigenous Peoples Food Systems (IPFS) and valuing Indigenous knowledge.

Matthew Harrington

Green supramolecular polymer assembly inspired by the velvet worm

By mimicking supramolecular self-assembly achieved by nature, we aim to develop a novel bio-inspired paradigm for circular processing of polymeric materials. We will produce stable mechanoresponsive colloidal suspensions of nanoglobules using oppositely charged polymer chains that can be disrupted by mechanical shear, leading to triggered aggregation of polymer chains under controlled conditions.


Mary Kang, Peter Douglas, Yajing Liu & Jeffrey M. McKenzie

The role of induced earthquakes on methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure in Western Canada

Oil and gas production is the largest emitter of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, in Canada. Methane
emissions have been linked to natural earthquakes but the role of induced earthquakes on methane
emissions is unclear. Here, we measure and analyze methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure
and investigate potential links to earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing activities in Western

Ajjamada Kushalappa

Changing-climate resilient cisgenic crop variety development through genome editing

Kushalappa lab at McGill has identified several disease resistance R genes. Some of these genes are mutated in commercial wheat cultivars, such as Pasteur, which will be replaced with functional gene segments from a resistant wheat land race based on genome editing using CRISPR-Cas9 system that does not leave any foreign DNA in the recipient plant. Following proof of concept, this technology can be used to enhance multiple disease resistance in hundreds of wheat and other crop cultivars, saving billions of dollars around the world.

C.J. Li, Hong Guo & Zetian Mi

Engineering nanocatalysts for photo-fixation of nitrogen into ammonia

Nitrogen is one of the essential building elements for all living organisms. However, the industrial ammonia synthesis process requires high temperatures and pressures and consumes more than 1% of the world’s annual energy supply. This proposal will combine the expertise of Prof. Li, Prof. Mi, and Prof. Guo to develop sustainable nitrogen-fixation with solar light by using theoretical and experimental means.


Milan Maric

Sustainable copolymer additives for durable roadway asphalts

Many of us are familiar with the cracks over roadways during the winter season. Block copolymers have been applied previously as bitumen additives but face several limitations, which can be overcome by using controlled radical polymerization. Applying this method makes the process greener: polymerizations can now be done with a continuous aqueous phase. Further, the feedstocks will be derived from sustainable sources.

Sarah Moser, Idowu Ajibade & Laurence Côté-Roy

Resilience planning in new master-planned cities

This project is concerned with how new cities built from scratch around the world are adapting to or anticipating climate change and disasters. The research seeks to understand how new city projects are planned and executed, and how they may expose a large number of people to disasters and the effects of climate change in the coming decades. The study examines over 100 new city projects and focuses on six case studies in Nigeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco.


Jennifer Sunday

Developing the use of seawater eDNA to track species responses to environmental change

Environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding technology can allow a sample of “empty” to reveal nearby fish assemblages with remarkable speed and accuracy. We are developing this technology and testing sampling designs to bring us into an era of tracking of biodiversity in near-real time, adjusting the pace at which we can adapt.


MSSI Ideas Fund Student Recipients – Spring 2018

Yves Abanda, Stephanie Goyer, Robert Ishimwe, Connor Spencer, Treena Delormier (faculty supervisor)


In partnership with the First Nations Adult Education Center(FNRAEC) of Kahnawà:ke, winner of the Ken Spencer award for alternative education, SymBioSyn is designing a pilot Food Sovereignty Leadership program. Rooted in the desire to support indigenous communities’ members transitioning towards sustainable self-determination, the methodologies employed will stem from collaborative action-research, traditional Mohawk and Academic views of food security and education - and focus on community building in cross-cultural context. This will offer McGill students unique Applied Student Research opportunities and hands-on experience in food sovereignty topics within the context of, and in partnership with, an Indigenous community in Québec

Kevin Kelly, David Villegas, Jan Kopyscinski (faculty supervisor)

Using air and solar energy as a sustainable source of water

Presently, water scarcity affects every continent. In 10 years, more than two-thirds of the world's population could be living under water stressed conditions. However, a significant amount of water resides in our atmosphere, a resource that if made available, would help solve the problem of water scarcity. Taking on this challenge, we have come up with an idea to extract humidity from air using low grade thermal energy (e.g., solar heat), and create water through a novel process.

Callaghan Wilmott, Jovan Nedic (faculty supervisor)

Development of a solar-powered UAV

This project aims to design, manufacture and test a solar-powered UAV capable of long endurance flights. The platform will be designed to carry a multispectral camera for use in large scale crop monitoring, enabling farmers to more effectively utilize their resources whilst simultaneously increasing crop yields.

Do you have an innovation that has potential for commercialization or a process that will lead to policy development in the field of sustainability? Do you need funds to proceed to the next stage of development? The MSSI Innovation Fund can provide up to $75K to accelerate the innovation or process and move your project forward.

The 2018 Innovation Fund is now closed.

Download the MSSI Innovation Fund 2018 Funding Call Download the MSSI Innovation Fund 2018 Funding Call

MSSI Innovation Fund Recipients – Fall 2018

Masad J. Damha & Tomislav Friscic

Greener synthetic approaches to biologically active oligonucleotides

Chandra Madramootoo & Yixiang Wang

Building Resilience in Fragile Ecosystems: Innovative cellulose hydrogels for water and fertilizer savings in dryland agriculture

MSSI Innovation Fund Recipients – Spring 2018

Karine Auclair & Tomislav Friscic

Solvent-free enzymatic depolymerization of poly(ethylene terephthalate

•Plastic contamination is a major environmental problem.
•Poly(ethylene)terephthalate (PET) is one of the most widely used plastics with 30M tons produced globally in 2015
•This project will explore a novel, non-conventional method for the degradation of PET
•Unlike current degradation processes, our method is clean and does not restrict to downcycling


Sylvain Coulombe

Novel plasma technology for renewable ammonia synthesis

Ammonia (NH3) is one of the most important chemicals produced today. It is produced at large scale using the energy-intensive Haber-Bosch (H-B) process, and used in the synthesis of fertilizers and virtually all synthetic nitrogen-containing chemicals. The annual production of NH3 is larger than 160 million tons, with associated CO2 emissions exceeding 300 million tons, and energy requirements accounting for ~2% of the world’s energy consumption. The proposed plasma technology bears the potential to displace the energy-intensive and polluting H-B process by using electricity from renewables as the only energy source.

Richard Leask, Milan Maric & Jim Nicell

Sustainable Green Plasticizers

Plasticizers are added to the majority of consumer plastics to improve their flexibility and processing behavior. During the last decade, the most common plasticizers, known as phthalates and which are produced in the millions of tons annually, have been shown to have adverse health effects. Moreover, they are made from fossil fuels and are ubiquitous environmental contaminants. In this work, we will be performing large scale production run of our replacement sustainable green plasticizer as a validation towards commercialization.

Eric McCalla

Design of advanced Na-ion batteries

The poorly understood Na-Fe-Mn-O pseudo-ternary system contains promising Na-ion cathode materials. Herein, high-throughput techniques will be used to characterize and screen the battery performance of hundreds of compositions. This will help develop advanced electrode materials from earth abundant benign materials and thereby lower the batteries’ environmental impact.


Sidney Omelon

Closing the Phosphorus Loop through Phosphate Rock Production from Municipal Sludge

Municipal wastewater contains high concentrations of phosphorus (P) that must be reduced to prevent algal blooms and eutrophication. Current wastewater treatment precipitates insoluble iron phosphate, which is too stable to act as a P-fertilizer. This project investigates P-capture as phosphate rock to produce P-fertilizer from municipal wastewater, CO2, and limestone.

The New Opportunities Fund

The New Opportunities Fund is now closed.

The Adapting Urban Environments for the Future theme within the McGill Sustainability Systems Initiative (MSSI) aims to develop an integrative program of research on urban sustainability that will generate and mobilize the knowledge required to make cities more socially inclusive and less environmentally impactful, while improving the well-being of residents.

We are requesting applications from McGill faculty members for projects focused on novel research and collaborations on urban sustainability. We encourage questions looking at urban issues from a multidisciplinary perspective. The scale of proposals can be local, national, or international. Using novel datasets and methods are encouraged. Proposals dealing with the natural and built environments in cities, transport and mobility, equity and inclusion are welcome. Proposal focused on Montreal would provide an exciting opportunity to collaborate on the development of the Montreal Sustainability Dashboard.

Eligible activities include:

  • Seed money for new collaborations between faculty, especially across departments and faculties. This could include support for undergraduate and graduate students to conduct the study.
  • Seed money to prepare for Tri-Council team grant applications.
  • Funds to support workshops, working groups or species symposia on the urban theme.


Deadline for submission of applications is May 15th, 2019. Proposals should include a 1-page justification and budget indicating the request from MSSI (up to $5-7.5k) and the source of matching funds if needed. Please clearly explain the novelty of the opportunity and the expected research and training outcomes. Applications should be sent to MSSI [at]

Proposals will be reviewed and ranked by the leadership team. Results of the evaluation will be made available by June 3rd, 2019.

New Opportunities Fund Recipients – Spring 2018

Emine Sarigöllü

From a Throwaway Society into a Sustainable Society: A Consumer Perspective

Sébastien Breau

Potential impact of the proposed ‘Pink’ metro line as a sustainable and more inclusive form of transportation in Montreal

Will Straw

An international workshop of urbanists, lighting experts, historians and geographers will take up the question of how lighting policy can ensure a safe, accessible and festive experience of the Montreal night


Landscapes Scholar Program

Are you a Ph.D. or MSc student at McGill who works on landscapes, sustainability, social-ecological systems, or something similar? 

Do you need a little extra funding to do something really cool with your research?

Do you want to benefit from additional training in interdisciplinary research, knowledge-to-action science, and leadership?  

If so, you want to apply to be an MSSI Landscape Scholar!


  • $5000 funding per year (for 2 years), plus additional training in leadership and interdisciplinary landscape sustainability research, and membership in a unique, cross-faculty cohort of graduate students who share your interest in landscape sustainability. We anticipate the cohort will meet approximately every other week to engage in activities, discussions, or projects. Additional support may be available for related research dissemination and/or group activities.


  • Approximately 5-10 Ph.D. and master’s students will be chosen to be part of a 2-year training and funding program. Any graduate student at McGill is welcome to apply. We will prioritize the development of a multi-faculty cohort who are seeking to understand landscape sustainability from a variety of perspectives.


  • The first cohort will start September 1, 2018. A second cohort will start the following year. To participate in the cohort, you must be present at McGill for the majority of the 2-years (e.g., not planning to graduate or be away for extended periods – please mention any absences, such as for fieldwork, in your application.)


  • To create a community of like-minded scholars working at the cutting edge of applied, integrative, interdisciplinary science
  • To use the best of academia to address a real-world problem
  • To hone leadership skills to apply to problem-solving in sustainability science


  • To apply, please send (a) your CV, (b) a brief (no more than 1-page) statement about why you want to be part of this cohort, what you stand to gain, and what you can offer to the group, and (c) a letter of support from your primary supervisor. Please send materials to mssi [at] (subject: %E2%80%9CMSSI%20Landscapes%20Graduate%20Student%20Cohort%20Application%E2%80%9D) with the subject line MSSI Landscapes Graduate Student Cohort Application” by August 3, 2018. In your materials, please mention any absences for the upcoming two years, such as for fieldwork.

Decisions will be made by mid-August. Cohort activities will begin at the start of the fall semester

If interested in applying for external funding, McGill researchers are asked to contact the Office of Sponsored Research (info.osr [at]

Sustainable Development Goals Funding Program

*Applications should go through the Office of Sponsored Research. Interested applicants: please contact Agnes Wong, OSR Grants & Agreements Officer - agnes.wong2 [at]*

Up to $100K for a maximum 12-month project that advances a minimum of two U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Application period is ongoing.

In 2015, Canada and all other United Nations Member States, committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to eliminate poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity by the year 2030.

In November 2018, we launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Funding Program to support projects aimed at:

  • building awareness of the 2030 Agenda
  • increase partnerships and networks
  • advance research
  • further Canada’s implementation of the 2030 Agenda

See the full posting: