UWindsor scientists to train future freshwater experts

WINDSOR, ON, June 6, 2011 /CNW/ - A new generation of UWindsor graduates will be better prepared to find ways of preserving freshwater resources for both humans and animals thanks to a $1.6 million grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

More than 50 students will be trained over the next six years by a team of about 30 scientists led by Melania Cristescu, an assistant professor in the university's Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER). The funding, from NSERC's Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program, will help prepare students to understand a multitude of such environmental stressors as metal contaminants, the decline of calcium, and invasive species that threaten our sources of fresh water and the diverse range of organisms they support.

"The main goal is training," said Dr. Cristescu, who has already begun recruiting students for the program. "Graduates will be able work in positions where they can have a positive influence on the way we manage our aquatic ecosystems."

Cristescu said Canada's environmental sector is facing serious labour shortages and cited a 2008 labour market report by Environmental Careers Organization which estimated 14,300 environmental specialists will be needed in the next four years to meet federal government commitments to clean up contaminated sites and secure clean water. Graduates from the program will be qualified to work in such roles as environmental consulting, human and ecological health risk assessment, hazardous waste specialist and laboratory management.

The funding will allow Cristescu's team - which includes 10 North American universities, five industrial and four governmental partners - to train new environmental professionals through interdisciplinary collaborations, national and international student exchanges, internship placements and interactive workshops. These future scientists will gain the skills to transform academic knowledge on the effects of pollutants in aquatic environments into such concrete action as assessing risks, implementing policies and designing recovery plans.

One of the main objectives of the research is to better understand the impact of contaminants on aquatic crustaceans, certain species of which Cristescu said are excellent "sentinels" for measuring the long-term effects of metal toxicity on biological organisms.

Dr. Ranjana Bird, UWindsor's Vice-President, Research, said that as the global population expands, freshwater resources must be managed wisely to meet human needs and maintain sustainable aquatic ecosystems. Guidelines to protect those resources are essential and require training of graduates with interdisciplinary expertise to develop effective management systems.

"Currently, the training of environmental professionals focuses on high specialization within narrowly defined disciplines," she said. "Training our students to study these problems from a variety of perspectives will make them better suited for finding timely and relevant solutions and to become future leaders in the field."

Founded in 1963, the University of Windsor has close to 16,000 full-time and part-time students. The University of Windsor's mission is to enable people to make a better world through education, scholarship, research and engagement.

SOURCE University of Windsor

For further information:

Lori Lewis
Manager, News Services
Public Affairs and Communications
519-253-3000 ext. 3241


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