For Greg McDermid, getting a federal research grant is taking his work to another level.

The associate professor of geography at the University of Calgary will receive $145,000 over five years to broaden his research with remote sensors that are used to study climate change and landscape dynamics.

“They tend not to be the big money grants, but they are the ones for you to chase your dreams with,” he said. “It’s the cool stuff.”

McDermid is studying how drones can be used with remote sensors for ecological and forestry applications.

“It’s quite broad because it’s meant to be discovery,” he said.

He’s one of 83 scientists and engineers at the U of C who received support through the Discovery Awards Program and three others who were recognized under Discovery Accelerator Supplements.

The programs are part of a total of $465 million in awards from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, which was announced Thursday by federal Science Minister Kirsty Duncan.

“Today’s investment will allow many of Canada’s scientists and engineers explore the frontiers of knowledge where they can make exciting new discoveries,” said Duncan in a news release.

There’s a total of $14.7 million for the University of Calgary.

In a statement on its website, the U of C said the funding will support the work of 118 researchers on campus who are working on projects that range from environmental protection to the health of newborns.

In addition to the 86 scientists and engineers, the awards also include 22 undergraduate and graduate students who received support through the scholarship and fellowships program.

McDermid’s funding will include work by a PhD student who will use drones to map ground squirrel burrows to determine how ferruginous hawks are using the landscape.

“To me, that’s the cool thing about drones,” he said. “It allows you to think about things at a scale that we’ve not been able to do in ecology and in forestry.”

On the forestry side, McDermid said they will also be working to better map the mountain pine beetle.

“If we can figure out a way to remotely sense (beetle) attacked trees, that would be a huge thing for the forest industry,” he said, noting he believes it could be possible.

Overall, he said the funding will be used for a lot of little projects that could have practical results.

“It’s a discovery grant, so it’s exploratory stuff,” said McDermid.