Message from the Chair

Dr. Declan Ali, Professor and Chair
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta

Welcome to the Department of Biological Sciences!

We are home to a broad range of research and teaching interests in biology. Our academic diversity - who we are - clearly reflects the origin of our Department, which was founded in 1994 as a product of the merging of five academic units: the Departments of Zoology, Botany, Genetics, Entomology and Microbiology. Our academic interests span scales of organization from molecules to ecosystems, and our taxonomic breadth touches all domains of living things. Another obvious consequence of our coalescence from five Departments is our size - we are a very large Department, comprising approximately 100 academic staff (counting Faculty, Adjuncts and Emeriti), a similar number of support staff, up to 300 full and part-time graduate students and post-docs, 400 Honours and Specialization students, and as many as 500 General Science students graduate every year with major or minor concentrations in Biological Sciences. We are the largest Department in the Faculty of Science, we are larger than half of the Faculties on campus, and we are among the largest Biology Departments in Canada.

As Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, I am proud to champion the values-based guiding principles that underpin how our Department operates. These shared values, identified by the collective input of all of the stakeholders in the Department, are at the core of our Strategic Plan (2018-2022) and guide decision making by my office, the Executive Committee and the Departmental Council. The Strategic Plan and our underlying commitment to our shared values provides our compass and our rudder, even when times are turbulent. Our values also support the vision statement for the Department of Biological Sciences that came out of our planning exercises: "Inspire Discovery for a Better World". These six words elegantly summarize our vision, and my own personal motivation for what I do as an academic, and how I wish to lead the Department for the next five years and into the future. "Inspire Discovery" - this is what we do as biological scientists, we train and mentor others to discover the wonders of the natural world. "Inspire" implies collective action. I quite like "Inspire Discovery" alone - it could make a great and succinct vision statement for any academic unit, but the second line is what makes our vision statement uniquely biologically aspirational. "for a Better World" - to me that addresses the living planet, Oikos/Gaia - the "biology" part of the vision statement.

Our Strategic Plan and vision are founded on these shared values:

Pioneerism and Innovation: We pursue truth, understanding and meaning to solve problems, increase values and respond to faculty, staff and student needs.

We provide a holistic perspective on the research and teaching enterprise of the Department that we support with principled insight, solutions and services.

We meet expectations through our collective and sincere efforts in completing our tasks, initiatives and projects with professionalism and integrity.

We promote a safe, productive and equitable workplace that reflects our shared values.

Our decisions encourage the Department to use collective capabilities to make unique contributions that align with our strategic priorities.


These values serve as the cornerstone of our Strategic Plan, and they align our efforts for the next five years along three axes of priority for action - to Revitalize Faculty and Staff, to Promote Student Success, and to Broaden Engagement with our clients and stakeholders. Our values guide our decisions along these axes of priority for the Department, and they also ensure that our vision is aligned with those of the Faculty of Science and the University of Alberta - For the Public Good.

I became Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences because I believe my values are shared with our stakeholders, and together we are aligned with the Department vision. We're in this together. It's my home too, and I care about it deeply. My mission statement as Chair of Department of Biological Sciences for the next five years, as one who has the responsibility to lead but is also a peer among equals, is to see that we "Build Community for a Better Department" that serves and represents all of the staff, students and stakeholders, those of us who are in this together, an equitable, diverse and inclusive community. I will do my best to ensure that we remain committed to our strategic vision - to ensure that we always endeavor to "Inspire Discovery for a Better World"