Aquatic ecosystems get NSERC boost

A $4.4 million funding boost from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Canadian Network for Aquatic Ecosystems (CNAES) will play a key role in ensuring well-informed decisions are made when it comes to this country’s wetlands, lakes and rivers. And two Western researchers have been tapped to provide project leadership.

The funding, in conjunction with $4.3 million dollars from partner organizations, was recently announced as part of the government’s Strategic Network Grants program which encourages large-scale, multidisciplinary, collaborative research projects that could improve Canada’s economy, society and environment within the next decade. The CNAES is a consortium of 27 researchers from 11 universities, Canadian government scientists, industrial partners and environmental and technology associations that conducts research and training in aquatic ecosystems.

Western Biology professors Brian Branfireun and Irena Creed are two of the researchers leading CNAES.

Branfireun, the Canada Research Chair in Environment and Sustainability, is the leader of the theme titled Coupling the Landscape, Aquatic Ecosystems, Services, and Environmental Change in Canada’s North. This team is exploring the relatively understudied wetland and river ecosystems of northern Canada, with a particular emphasis on Ontario where climate change and development pressures are impacting water quality and quantity, as well as, the important local fisheries of the region.

Creed, the Canada Research Chair in Watershed Sciences, is co-leading the theme Healthy Forests, Healthy Streams with John Richardson from the University of British Columbia. This team will be studying the critical role forests play in the provisioning of safe, reliable water supplies, and the cumulative effects of the ever-increasing human footprint on the health of forests and associate water supplies.

In addition to Western, participants in the CNAES include University of British Columbia, University of Guelph, Laurentian University, McGill University, University of New Brunswick, Nipissing University, Université du Québec à Montréal, University of Toronto, Trent University and University of Waterloo.

Research partner organizations include: Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, DeBeers Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Kongsberg Maritime, Le Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Natural Resources Canada and Canadian Forest Services and Parks Canada.