Trent University Announces New Grants and International Partnerships during Launch of the Centre of Knowledge in the Environment



RBC to Fund New Trent Project to Protect Source Water in Northern Indigenous Communities; New Collaborations with United Nations University and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Celebrated

Thursday, October 22, 2009, Peterborough

Day two of the launch of Trent University’s Centre of Knowledge in the Environment got underway today with a series of new grant and international partnership announcements, including a $500,000 gift from RBC to fund Trent's “Protecting Drinking Water in Indigenous Communities in Canada's North” program and new collaborations with the United Nations University’s International Network on Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

“Trent University has always been proud of the strong relationships we hold with our local, national and international partners,” said Dr. Steven E. Franklin, president and vice-chancellor at Trent. “Today’s series of announcements further reinforce Trent’s reputation as a solid collaborator and help build on the ecology of partnerships that is and always will be a main feature of our institution, today and in the future.”

Securing the Future: RBC Funds New Project to Protect Source Water in Northern Indigenous Communities

With the support of RBC, Trent University is proud to be launching a new project to empower Indigenous communities in Canada’s north to develop and implement approaches to providing access to clean, safe drinking water.

 The $500,000 grant through the RBC Blue Water Project will assist Trent, in partnership with Fleming College, to develop the Protecting Drinking Water in Indigenous Communities in Canada’s North Program. Trent’s project was successful in receiving the top amount available within the RBC Blue Water Project’s National Leadership category and is one of two universities selected this year from 159 applications.

“The unique aspect that Trent and our partners and collaborators bring to this project, is the ability to ensure that our work will both respect and be enhanced by Indigenous knowledge,” said Dr. Chris Metcalfe, director of Trent’s Institute for Watershed Science, and the lead on this project. “We will ensure that the outcomes from our training can be implemented within the individual household and within the community.”

Trent will build upon the experience of the Institute for Watershed Science and the Indigenous Environmental Studies Program. The University will also leverage established relationships with Fleming College and communities in the north and collaborate with a number of other educational institutions, Indigenous organizations and non-governmental organizations on this project, including the United Nations University International Network on Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), and others, as well as three northern colleges.
The goal of the new program is to enhance capacity within northern Indigenous communities to ensure that natural sources of water are protected from threats that could degrade the quality and quantity of drinking water. Trent University, working with its partner organization, Fleming College, will develop training modules on source water protection that will be delivered through a combination of face-to-face and distributed learning formats. Through collaborations with three northern colleges, certification in source water protection and training in source water protection will be available to Indigenous students. Ultimately, the experience gained and materials developed for this project will serve as a template for similar capacity enhancement projects within other Indigenous communities in Canada and potentially internationally.

“Freshwater is essential for human health and all life on earth, so it’s really the cause for the ages,” says Shari Austin, vice president of Corporate Citizenship for RBC and executive director of the RBC Foundation. “It’s important for people to understand the value and vulnerability of our water resources. That’s why we are excited to be working with Trent University on this important project – to help protect our watersheds and ensure access to clean drinking water for generations to come.”

RBC’s Blue Water Project, established in 2007, is a wide-ranging, multi-year program to help foster a culture of water stewardship in Canada and abroad, so that people have clean fresh water today and tomorrow. Over the next ten years, RBC’s goal is to contribute to a future of sustainable water resources worldwide, to promote sustainable water use and create an understanding of the value and vulnerability of our water resources.

New Trent-UNU-INWEH Partnership Announced

The primary goal of an exciting new partnership between Trent University and the United Nations University’s International Network on Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) is to involve Trent faculty and students in projects that address the world’s urgent and critical water issues.

This partnership will allow Trent faculty and their students to participate in water-related projects that receive support from UN agencies, the World Bank and other international development agencies. It will also provide an additional international outreach for Trent’s expertise in water issues, particularly within indigenous communities, as well as opening up an international network for Trent graduate students. In addition to the new partnership, Dr. Chris Metcalfe, a professor of Environmental & Resource Studies at Trent, has also been appointed an adjunct professor with UNU-INWEH.

Dr. Zafar Adeel, director of UNU-INWEH, stated that, “This new partnership with Trent University will enable both Trent and UNU-INWEH to share our expertise and to further our mutual goal of contributing to the resolution of the global water crisis.”

Trent is one of 30 universities worldwide to have a partnership with UNU-INWEH. Currently, Trent and UNU-INWEH are partnering on a project in the Caribbean region with a focus on developing capacity among Caribbean partners for contaminants monitoring.  As well, UNU-INWEH is a collaborator on Trent’s “Protecting Drinking Water in Indigenous communities in Canada’s North” program which was also announced today. 

UNU-INWEH acts as the “UN Think-Tank on Water” by responding directly to the global water crisis. Its mission is to contribute, through capacity development and directed research, to resolve pressing global water problems. UNU-INWEH’s program is designed to provide applied science and capacity-building initiatives to enable water managers to better address both the root causes and current manifestations of the global water crisis.

United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Selects Trent as Partner for New Project

Previously announced in August 2009 and celebrated again at the launch of the Centre of Knowledge in the Environment, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has selected Trent University as a partner to develop a new computer software system that will enable decision-makers to evaluate the suitability of land for a variety of actual and potential uses.

The system, which is intended for use in rural land planning projects world-wide, will assist government officials and rural planners in making rational decisions concerning policies for the allocation of lands for different competing uses, such as whether to grow crops for grain production, for biofuels, or for the benefits represented by government incentives for a given crop.

 “The present research and development assignment represents an exciting partnership opportunity involving researchers and graduate students, and will place Trent University in a central place concerning land resources assessment for agriculture, forestry and livestock in the international arena,” says Dr. Raul Ponce-Hernandez, a professor in the Geography and the Environmental and Resource Studies programs at Trent, who is leading the project with the FAO. “This new agreement between Trent University and FAO will also work to address the existing gap in methodologies and software tools needed to address new environmental concerns, such as climate change, and their impact on land use planning.”

Since September 2009, Professor Ponce-Hernandez has been leading the initial phase of the project as well as the gathering of system requirements through the FAO’s Applied Geomatics, Remote Sensing and Land Resources Laboratory. To date, he has achieved part of the work of this initial phase at FAO of UN headquarters in Rome in July, at the invitation of the FAO. Future research will also link to the academic expertise of Trent University president Dr. Steven E. Franklin, who uses remote sensing technology in his research as an environmental scientist. In addition, on Monday, October 26, an Earth Observation Systems, Geomatics & Spatial Analysis Workshop will be held at Trent University to review the Remote Sensing and Geomatics Science and applications in the Peterborough and Kawartha Lakes Region (PKLR) and Southern Ontario region and exchange knowledge, information and experiences in their methods, procedures and tools.

The FAO is providing a financial contribution of $63,000 (US) for the partnership with Trent which will support the research, development and production of an automated land evaluation system based on the Agro-Ecological Zoning approach that allows for optimization procedures for land use decisions at country level.

Trent’s Centre of Knowledge in the Environment

The Centre of Knowledge in the Environment is the first of four virtual centres designed to profile interdisciplinary teaching and research expertise among the humanities, social sciences, sciences and professional programs to be unveiled leading up to the University’s milestone 50th anniversary in 2014. This Centre celebrates Trent’s national and international expertise in and commitment to the environment as a distinct focal point of excellence. Trent’s environmental expertise at both national and international levels is focused on aquatic sciences, climate change, water contaminant analysis, environmental modeling, northern and polar studies, species conservation and biodiversity, wildlife stress and diseases, ecological restoration, community-based environmental solutions and DNA profiling of animal and plants for effective ecosystem management. Trent leaders in this Centre strive to build even further expertise by infusing Trent’s understanding of Indigenous knowledge into the study of climate change, water science, biomaterials, sustainable agriculture, ecology and conservation biology. For more information, visit   


For more information about the RBC Blue Water grant project or UNU-INWEH, please contact: Dr. Chris Metcalfe, Professor, Environmental & Resource Studies, Trent University, (705) 748-1011 x7272

For more information about the partnership with UN-FAO, please contact: Dr. Raul Ponce-
Hernandez, Professor, Geography, Trent University, (705) 748-1011 x7646

For more information about Trent’s $50 Million Campaign and the Centres of Knowledge, please contact: Dianne Lister, Vice President, External Relations & Advancement, Trent University, (705) 748-1011 x7207; or Don Cumming, Senior Director, Public Affairs and Government Relations, Trent University, (705) 748-1011 x6181