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Build 2000

Forecasting Fate and Effects: The Big Picture

Chris Warren, a PhD. candidate with the Watershed Ecosystems Graduate Program (WEGP) was one of 143 recipients to receive the prestigious Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS) from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada. Netting $70,000 over two years will assist Mr. Warren in realizing two of his long held goals - researching the fate and effects of chemicals in the environment using a mass balance model approach and the opportunity to teach science at the undergrad and graduate level.

The mass balance model is a powerful analytical tool that helps scientists understand and predict the fate and effects of chemicals in the environment - the "big picture" approach. Once the appropriate data is collected and analyzed, quantative links are established between sources, exposure and risk of effects. Furnished with this information, scientists, policy makers and practitioners can then make informed decisions to aid in the control of excessive sources of contamination on one hand and avoid uneconomic, unnecessary regulations on the other.

Chris is currently involved in a collaborative research project with Unilever examing the fate and effects of "down the drain" chemicals such as laundry detergent, dish soap, and shampoo. Using a model he developed, the collaborators will be able to determine both the movement and concentration of these chemicals in lakes and river basins. In addition to his research in freshwater, Chris is also interested in the marine environment, particularly off the coast of Newfoundland. According to Chris, there has been little work in the field of modelling that examines both the chronic and acute, fate and effects of oil in the marine environment. The model under development will be used to look at marine oil spills, as well as process water released from an oil-drilling platform. Once completed, the model can be used to predict potential environmental damage, in addition to outlining steps necessary to minimize environmental degradation.

Chris completed his undergrad degree in environmental science at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College at Memorial University located on the west coast of Newfoundland. It was on this small campus that Chris acquired a desire to continue his studies at the Masters level in environmental modelling and particularly in a small school setting. According to Chris, he "chose Trent because they have the graduate Program in Applications of Modelling of the Natural and Social Sciences and the Canadian Environmental Modelling Centre (CEMC). The CEMC mission statement is exactly what I wanted to do - it really fit with my interests, so that, along with the small university proved to be an exact fit for me." While completing his M.Sc. in Applications of Modelling under the supervision of Professor Don Mackay, Chris realized he wanted to continue to have the opportunity to work with Dr. Mackay. Now in his second year of doctoral work, the fit has proven to be right for Chris - working with Professor Mackay, a pioneer in environmental modelling, liking Trent, teaching and the opportunity to attend conferences and lectures is moving Chris closer to his desire for preserving the environment.

Chris's early interest in science can be credited to the Canadian science journalist, Bob McDonald, host of the CBC children's science television program, "Wonderstruck".
"I used to love that show, a science show that was based on everyday science for kids. What he found really wonderful was having the opportunity to meet Bob two years ago when he was invited to speak at Trent University." Chris also credits two professors from Memorial University for developing his interest in environmental studies and his passion for teaching. Chris's undergrad thesis supervisor, Dr. Julian Dust, an environmental scientist introduced him to different techniques of research and what it is to be a researcher. He also gave Chris Trent, "I knew I wanted to look at chemicals and their fate in the environment, however at that time I didn't know it was environmental modelling. Dr. Dust pointed me to Trent and the work of Professor Don Mackay at the Canadian Environmental Modelling Centre." Another professor, Dr. Geoffrey Rayner-Canham was an exemplary teaching role model. "Professor Rayner-Canham put a lot of work into teaching, that was one of his goals - he encouraged my love of learning and ignited my interest - this is one of the things I want to do - I want to be a teacher - I want to continue to do research and combine that with teaching. This is why I want to stay in the university setting and the scholarship is going to help me accomplish this goal."

Chris's wife Joann, also from Newfoundland is very involved in the Trent community. Joann is the College Don for Otonabee College and has just begun her Masters degree in Applications of Modelling of the Natural and Social Sciences. Joann is working with Dr. Jim Parker examining aspects of emotional intelligence. When not studying, Chris and Joann enjoy cycling, skiing, camping, nature photography and sea kayaking in Newfoundland.

Written by M. Dale Rodger '77, and excerpted from Trent Magazine.

Posted May 10, 2004

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