For several years, Trent University’s Dr. Chris Metcalfe and Dr. Maggie Xenopoulos have dedicated countless hours to the study of aquatic contaminants and the threat they pose to our environment.
Now, through the efforts of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), their research is reaching a wider audience thanks to a new video.
The video is one of a five-part series being released by the IISD that looks into environmental issues in Canada. The video entitled “Distilling Science at the Experimental Lakes Area: Nanosilver” and featuring Professors Metcalfe and Xenopoulos profiles their research around nanomaterials at the Experimental Lakes Area.
Prof. Xenopolous’ involvement in the project falls in line with other environmental issues she has tackled. In the past, her research has examined how human activities - including climate change, eutrophication and land use - affect ecosystem structure and function in lakes and rivers. She has also taken an interest in how land use affects the material exported and processed in aquatic ecosystems.
Prof. Metcalfe's ongoing research on the fate and distribution of pharmaceutical and personal care products in the environment has generated considerable attention both nationally and internationally.
Together, their research into nanomaterials is getting some attention. Nanomaterials are submicroscopic particles whose physical and chemical properties make them useful for a variety of everyday applications. They can be found in certain pieces of clothing, home appliances, paint, and kitchenware. Initial laboratory research conducted at Trent University showed that nanosilver could strongly affect aquatic organisms at the bottom of the food chain, such as bacteria, algae and zooplankton.
To further examine these effects in a real ecosystem, a team of researchers from Trent University, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada has been conducting studies at undisclosed lakes in northwestern Ontario. The Lake Ecosystem Nanosilver (LENS) project has been monitoring changes in the lakes’ ecosystem that occur after the addition of nanosilver.
“In our particular case, we will be able to study and understand the effects of only nanosilver because that is the only variable that is going to change,” says Prof. Xenopoulos. “It’s really the only place in the world where we can do that.”
The knowledge gained from the study will help policy-makers make decisions about whether nanomaterials can be a threat to aquatic ecosystems and whether regulatory action is required to control their release into the environment.
Posted on Monday, December 8, 2014.