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Protecting Great Lakes focus of $6.7M research project


Windsor, ON – The Great Lakes are under constant stress from pollution, habitat loss, climate change, invasive species and over-exploitation, but a group of University of Windsor researchers have received about $6.7 million in research dollars to find ways to improve and preserve their health.

The funding being provided to the university’s Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER) is coming from the following sources:

  • $2.52 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI);
  • $2.52 million from Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI)’s Ontario Research Fund; and
  • $458,000 from the University of Windsor, and another $1.2 million in in-kind contributions.

“The Great Lakes are internationally important,” said Dan Heath, GLIER director. “They hold 80 percent of North America’s fresh water and are critical to Canada’s economic and social well-being in such key areas as transportation, energy, potable water, recreation and food. To effectively manage them we must address environmental stressors by assessing, analyzing and finding ways to remediate the problems they’re facing.”

Funding will be used primarily for the purchase of scientific equipment to be used by GLIER researchers, as well as researchers from chemistry and biochemistry, biological sciences and civil and environmental engineering.

“Partnering with the University of Windsor on this important work will give us the information we need to manage the health of our Great Lakes many years into the future,” Heath adds.

With the funding, the researchers say they plan to expand their expertise in three areas:

  • Biogeochemical function analysis, which will provide a better understanding of metals, sediments, and micro-organismal systems and more in-depth knowledge about potentially harmful contaminants and microbes in lake sediments and coming from such sources as sewage and agricultural waste;
  • Environmental genomics and proteomics, which will provide sensitive and powerful sub-organismal based genetics technology to assess responses to disturbances in aquatic ecosystems from, among others things, climate change, pollution and invasive species;
  • Ecological tracers, which will provide a broader knowledge of overall lake health through a better understanding of interactions among organisms. This is critical for the understanding of ecosystem structure and health, and will have important implications for improving fisheries while protecting endangered species.