Dalhousie University is hoping a new $10-million research grant will spark world-leading breakthroughs in the field of oceanography.

Dalhousie was one of 19 recipients of a Canada Excellence Research Chair, and is using it to lure renowned researcher Douglas Wallace to Halifax from the University of Kiel in Germany.

“This is a fantastic opportunity,” Wallace said yesterday. “It gives me the chance to really start something new and tackle new projects. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Dalhousie is launching a massive research program behind Wallace, who will be looking at how pollution is affecting ocean life.

“We know that over the last 200 years or so, 50 per cent of (the carbon dioxide) we’ve emitted has ended up in the ocean, dissolved in the ocean somewhere. The question is: Where? How much? And how’s the future going to look?” he said.

“It’s starting to affect the chemistry of the ocean, so that may have some implications for the organisms that live there. So I’m trying to track that down.”

It’s a homecoming for Wallace, who lived in Halifax during the 1980s while getting his PhD from Dalhousie.

To match the federal grant of $10 million over seven years, Dalhousie is putting up another $24 million over that timeframe.

The school will use the money to hire more researchers, technicians, grad students and support staff to study ocean science and technology.

“It will in the long run help us manage our oceans, our ocean resources, our oceans-based industries much more effectively,” said Dalhousie president Tom Traves.

“This is of huge, huge importance to a place like Nova Scotia, which, of course, has 15 per cent of its total provincial GDP tied up in oceans-based activities.”

Wallace will begin at Dalhousie in August 2011.