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UOIT partners on water quality research project to determine at-risk lakes in The Land Between

Group receives $25,000 as part of the RBC Blue Water Leadership project

The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) has partnered with the Couchiching Conservancy, Lakehead University and The Land Between on a research project that is investigating the water quality in The Land Between, a unique 240 km ecotone stretched across south-central Ontario from Georgian Bay to Kingston, and determining lakes that are at risk of becoming damaged. The group was recently awarded a $25,000 grant as part of the RBC Blue Water Leadership project.

The project will examine factors affecting water quality by using algae as biomarkers. Dr. Andrea Kirkwood, an assistant professor with the Faculty of Science at UOIT who has received $10,000 of the grant, will study and monitor selected bodies of water by taking samples from lakes with different characteristics such as shoreline development and agricultural activities. Each lake will be characterized based on the amount and type of algae found and whether it is good algae that supports the food web versus algae of concern such as toxic blue/green algae.

"I am very pleased to be working on this project," said Dr. Kirkwood, who teaches Biology. "The Land Between is an ideal outdoor laboratory. It offers a great opportunity to collect many algae samples in a small geographical area, which will give us a large data set to review and analyze. By understanding the ecosystem function in different lake types, we will better understand the lake's health and in turn, learn how to manage contamination and use in the future."

Part of the funds received by Dr. Kirkwood will be used to hire a UOIT student in the Bachelor of Science in Biology program to assist with the algae collection, study and monitoring, which will begin in Spring 2010 and followed by a report in the Fall 2010.

"UOIT is committed to working with partners on innovative research projects such as this one," said Dr. William Smith, associate provost, Research. "The nature of this research initiative is strongly aligned with the university's strategic research objectives, applied bioscience being one of our five focus themes, and we are thrilled to have our undergraduate students on board to receive valuable hands-on experience working both in the field and the lab."

This project complements Dr. Kirkwood's current research portfolio, which aims to improve the understanding of energy, nutrient and contaminant dynamics across freshwater ecosystems. She was awarded a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Discovery Grant in May 2009, receiving $19,000 a year for the next five years to study lake ecosystem health in The Land Between ecotone in Southern Ontario. Using the NSERC grant, Dr. Kirkwood and the graduate students on her team will be looking specifically at the base of the food web in lakes within The Land Between with the aim to understand how the changing water quality and chemistry in these lakes influence energy and contaminant transfer to other organisms such as fish.

UOIT's Faculty of Science is committed to excellence and innovation in technology-enhanced and interdisciplinary teaching as well as research relevant to the needs of society and the environment. Dedicated to creating and sharing scientific knowledge, infusing the thrill of discovery and inspiring vision, determination, independence, critical thinking and integrity in its students, it prepares them for rewarding careers as the next generation of highly skilled scientists and professionals.

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