H2O CREATE Project

Meet our Graduate Students

Additional Readings

H2O CREATE Project

H2O CREATE is a 6-year project (2013-2019) to develop a research training program that will assist First Nations to achieve their goals in water security and sanitation at a significant moment when drinking water regulations for First Nations are coming into effect. The project is funded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada and it will support training programs coordinated by the Institute for Watershed Science in partnership with the Indigenous Environmental Studies Program at Trent University, and by the University of Manitoba, and the University College of the North. The research training program brings together world-class experts in natural sciences and engineering (NSE) and non-NSE fields from these institutions.

While the federal Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act (Bill S-8) provides a legislative framework for drinking water and wastewater security in First Nations communities, there is limited capacity in Canada and within these communities to address water and sanitation issues in an appropriate context. The results of this situation are often financial liabilities, inappropriate solutions and little progress in solving the water and sanitation crisis in First Nations communities. Recognizing this gap in knowledge and skills, the H2O CREATE program will combine technical training through applied water and wastewater research in combination with the development of the professional and cultural skills that are necessary to work effectively in First Nations communities. CREATE is the first training program in Canada to combine technical water and wastewater management training with capacity building in Indigenous culture, law and policy. Program trainees at the undergraduate and graduate levels will be offered excellent opportunities to transition into the workforce following work-study projects in association with tribal councils, First Nations organizations, engineering firms environmental consulting services, non-profit organizations, and governments.

In order to advance water and sanitation security on First Nations reserves, CREATE recognizes that investment in water and wastewater infrastructure will be more cost-effective if innovative technologies and culturally appropriate approaches are used. Through innovative and culturally-respectful research training, the program will provide the highly-trained labour force and system innovation urgently needed to address the water and sanitation crisis in First Nations communities across Canada.

The official website, created by the University of Manitoba, is


Meet Our Graduate Students

Marsha Serville:

Ph.D. student- Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate Program

Supervisors:  Chris Metcalfe

Marsha did her undergraduate B.Sc. at Nippising University and then returned to the Caribbean where she completed her MSc. in Natural Resource and Environmental Management at the Centre of Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus in Barbados.

For her master’s program, Marsha specialized in Water Resources Management. Her research project was based on a component of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded Integrating Watershed and Coastal Area Management (IWCAM) demonstration project in St. Lucia. She focused on correlating water quality in the Fond D’Or watershed, St. Lucia with the health of watershed residents.

Marsha has an interest in water and wastewater issues affecting disadvantaged communities. For her project, she intends to work closely with First Nation communities to protect source waters in order to improve public health and ecosystem health. Her experience with environmental education and capacity building initiatives has made her aware of the importance of community involvement in promoting water safety.

Mary-Claire Buell:

Ph.D Student - Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate Program

Supervisors:  Chris Metcalfe

Mary-Claire's project focuses understanding the ecological risk of contaminated sediment and water to a First Nations Traditional Fishery in Lake Huron. Through her research, she will aim to identify the extent of this contamination within the First Nation’s Territory and understand the potential impacts posed by land use changes such as dredging. By working in collaboration with communities, she plans for her project to generate sustainable community–based solutions to improve upon ecological health, fishery sustainability and environmental management decisions.

Mary-Claire comes from a diverse background in environmental and aquatic sciences. She holds an MSc from Trent University and an honours BSc in environmental biology from the University of Guelph, where much of her studies focused on waterborne disease and aquatic ecology as well as environmental chemistry and conservation.  She is also an instructor for the Building Environmental Aboriginal Human Resources program and the Trent Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge and Science Program.

After completing her BSc, she worked for the Ministry of Natural Resources as a management biologist in Wawa, Ontario. During that time, Mary-Claire worked extensively with multiple stakeholders, including community and industrial partners, on forest and water management planning.

Richard Herman:

Master of Science student - Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate Program

Supervisors: Chris Metcalfe and Chris Furgal

Rick will assist the M'chigeeng First Nation of West Bay, Manitoulin Island, with a water source protection plan. He will look at microbial water pathogen drivers that are point source (such as wastewater lagoon discharge) and non-point discharges (industry, agriculture and wildlife) compared to raw water intake microbial counts.

He will also deploy passive samplers to detect artificial sweetener, a tracer for wastewater discharge. The wastewater plume will be characterized under lake stratified conditions at the end of July to assess if wastewater is found above and below the thermocline. The discharge and drinking water intakes are both at 10 metres, where the thermocline is anticipated.

Rick holds a BSc honours microbiology co-op degree from the University of Guelph and an Environmental Monitoring and Impact Assessment post-graduate certificate from Cambrian College. His research interests are watershed assessment, including water quality, flows, benthic invertebrates and documenting phytoplankton/chlorophyll levels.

Erin Hayward:

Master of Science student - Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate Program

3M National Student Fellow

Supervisor: Dr. Chris Metcalfe and TBD

Shé:kon Sewakwekon Erin Elizabeth Hayward yónkyats. Aterón:to nitewaké:non, Ohsweken nitewakahtóntyeu tahnon Peterborough tkenákere. Kenien’kehá:ka nì:’i tahnon kaniáhten niwaki’tarò:ten.

Erin Hayward is a Mohawk woman, turtle clan, born and raised in Scarborough Ontario, traditionally from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. She is a ceremonial helper, hand drummer, and traditional medicine gardener. In addition to many roles that Erin currently holds, she is the youth director of the Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre (NFC), the Chair of the NFC youth council, the South-East regional youth representative for the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, and a member of the Peterborough youth constituency council.

Erin graduated from Fleming College with a certificate as a Cartographic specialist and from Trent University with a H.BS in Biology and Geography with an Emphasis in Geographic Information Systems. She has worked as a G.I.S technician and lab assistant within the Limnology laboratory at Trent University. Erin has also work as a G.I.S technician completing species at risk analysis on the Five-Lined Skink, Ontario’s only lizard.

Erin is completing her masters of science in Environmental and Life Sciences through Trent University. Her project is currently titled: Biimaadiziwin Nibi Aawan ‘Water is Life’: Organism responses to ozone pre-treated wastewater effluent from two Anishnaabek First Nations communities in Ontario, Canada. She hopes to identify if Ozone used as a pre-treatment method to current wastewater treatment, will decrease oxidative stress and immune responses in Freshwater mussel species living downstream of wastewater treatment systems.

Erin recently was recently named one of 10 3M National Student Fellows through the Society of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and 3M Canada!  http://www.trentu.ca/newsevents/newsDetail.php?newsId=18187

Nicholas Weissflog:

Master of Science student - Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate Program

Supervisors: Eric Sager and Tom Whillans

Nicholas Weissflog is a student intent upon understanding the processes by which human beings can restore the societies and the ecosystems which they inhabit. In 2014 he completed an Honours Bachelors of science in Ecological Restoration, a program run by both Fleming College and Trent University.

He is currently setting up a research project whose purpose is to inform the restoration of Manoomin or wild rice (Zizania Palustris) in the Kawartha Lakes. This project is multifaceted, it shall include a genetics survey of wild rice populations across Central Ontario in order to document genetic and morphological differences which are indicated by the ecological differences identified by traditional knowledge holders.

These surveys shall be coupled with greenhouse experiments testing the seed stock of each of the populations sampled for differences in phenotypic expression under controlled conditions.

Additional Readings Provided

a) Major drinking water and wastewater service gaps for First Nations reserves were identified in a recent national engineering assessment. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, 2011a. National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems, National Roll-up Report, 121 pp. Report prepared for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada: Neegan Burnside Ltd., 121 pp.

b)As of October 31, 2016, there were 133 Drinking Water Advisories in effect in 90 First Nations communities across Canada, excluding British Columbia.
Health Canada, 2012(a). Drinking Water and Wastewater. Retrieved from: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fniah-spnia/promotion/public-publique/water-eau-eng.php.

c) Unsafe water supplies and poor sanitation adversely affect the health of First Nations residents.
Reading and Wien, 2009.  Health Inequalities and Social Determinants of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health, National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health, 47pp.