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Trent University Researchers Awarded $515,500 to Study Water Quality of Urban Ponds in Ontario

City of Peterborough Among Project Partners

 A group of Trent University researchers led by biologist Dr. Paul Frost will receive $515,500 over three years from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to study the water quality and efficacy of urban ponds in several municipalities in Ontario, including Peterborough.

“This is a major study that will examine how effectively the water management systems we build in cities are functioning and why some urban ponds are better at retaining nutrients than others,” explained Professor Frost.  “Our goal is to determine the sensitivity of key biogeochemical processes in ponds to patterns of urbanization, which will aid efforts aimed at enhancing the environmental quality of urban ecosystems.”

Urban ponds are being created across Canada and the US to hold and clean storm water runoff before it moves downstream. Prof. Frost explained that, while each pond costs approximately $1 million to create, little research has looked to see if they function the way they were engineered to work. Since the 1970’s urban ponds have been extensively incorporated into commercial and residential development; for example,  a community the size of Toronto now has 700 of them throughout the city.  In addition to measuring nutrient retention in urban pond ecosystems within the partner communities of Peterborough, Richmond Hill and Ottawa, this study will explore ways to improve how municipalities receive the optimal benefit for their investment.

Trent’s associate vice president of research, Dr. Gyles Iannone, noted how this significant funding announcement reflects the University’s growing importance as a world-leading centre in the study of water quality issues.  “As urban development spreads, and the volume of capital infrastructure projects grows as part of the nation’s economic recovery strategy, Trent is well positioned to take on major projects like this one that seek to improve the health of the environment.”

Joining Prof. Frost in this project are Trent faculty members Dr. Maggie Xenopoulos from the Department of Biology, Dr. Jim Buttle from the Department of Geography, Trent alumna Dr. Frances Pick from the Department of Biology at the University of Ottawa, and Dr. Jiri Marsalek from Environment Canada’s National Water Research Institute in Burlington, Ontario.  Together, they will examine how pond and catchment characteristics affect the input, storage, and output of key biogenic elements, including carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. In addition, they will measure rates of biological activities and determine their effects on elemental storage in urban ponds.

“The research being conducted through this Strategic Project Grant is timely and important,” said NSERC President Dr. Suzanne Fortier. “In addition to improving our ability to manage urban landscapes and stormwater systems, Dr. Frost and his team will provide invaluable training opportunities for the next generation of urban ecologists.”

“This project will provide urban planners and environmental consultants with a valuable assessment of urban pond water quality, its determinants, and its consequences,” said Prof. Frost.  “Moreover, this work will determine the mechanistic links between watersheds, stormwater flux, and the ecology of urban ponds that are important structural features of many developing communities in Canada.”


For further information, please contact Dr. Paul Frost, Department of Biology at (705) 748-1011, ext. 7903.