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Trent-Led Research Project to Assess Environmental Risks to the Great Lakes

Collaborative project led by Dr. Marguerite Xenopoulos awarded $574,000 NSERC Strategic Project Grant

Dr. Marguerite Xenopoulos
Dr. Marguerite Xenopoulos

With the ecological health of the Great Lakes, at risk both now and in the future, a team of researchers led by Trent University’s Dr. Marguerite Xenopoulos will seek to improve our understanding of these complex aquatic ecosystems with the help of a significant $574,000 Strategic Project Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) announced today.

The highly collaborative three-year project will focus on Lake Erie, the so-called “poster child” for pollution problems and involves Professor Xenopoulos and Dr. Paul Frost from Trent University, and researchers from Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment as well as other partners in both Canada and the United States, including a Trent alumnus, Dr. Michael Twiss, now working with Clarkson University.

“Lake Erie has been facing some of the worst algal blooms ever. This funding will allow us to better quantify the impact of nutrient loading on lakes and to assess current and future environmental risks to all of the Great Lakes,” said Dr. Xenopoulos, associate professor of Biology at Trent University and project coordinator. “The time is right to collect data to provide improved management plans and better water quality in these lakes and waterways for future generations.”

The research project, entitled Linking regime shifts to carbon dynamics in Lake Erie, will aim to better understand the new ecological state (regime) of the Great Lakes. Determining this information in a timely manner is of critical importance as these lakes provide our society with a panoply of ecosystem services including drinking water for the City of Toronto, recreational and commercial fishing, tourism, and transportation of goods, while enhancing regional biodiversity and wetlands.

The study also has immense potential to positively assess current and future environmental risks in the Great Lakes, and thus inform government policy on potential remedial activities. Ultimately, it will also help to inform future Canadian initiatives in identifying slow (but potentially reversible) regime shifts in other large lakes (such as Lake Winnipeg, named in 2013 the world’s most threatened lake by the Global Nature Fund) and coastal waters.

The funding to support Professor Xenopoulos’ project is part of a $43 million investment by NSERC in support of 77 scientific teams at universities across the country announced today in British Columbia by The Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of State (Science and Technology).

At the announcement, Janet Walden, chief operating officer of NSERC said: “By taking fundamental research and moving it towards solving real-world problems, these talented research teams are helping improve the lives of Canadians, and build Canada’s future economic prosperity. These collaborations exemplify NSERC’s goals to connect and apply the strength of the talented researchers in our learning institutions with the needs of industry.”

NSERC is a federal agency that helps make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators. The agency supports almost 30,000 post-secondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding approximately 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging over 2,400 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.

The NSERC Strategic Project Grants aim to increase research and training in areas that could strongly influence Canada’s economy, society or environment in the next 10 years in four target areas: environmental science and technologies; information and communications technologies; manufacturing; and natural resources and energy.

Posted on Thursday, January 9, 2014.

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