Western-led initiative unites scientists studying the future of Great Lakes Basin

A new initiative led by Western University scientist Irena Creed unites Canadian and American researchers and educators invested in bettering the future of water in the Great Lakes Basin.

Home to more than 35 million inhabitants, including more than 11 million Ontario residents, the economic output of the Great Lakes Basin is one of the largest in the world (more than $4 trillion gross regional product) and the area is estimated to grow by another 20 million people by 2032.

As it contains more than 80 per cent of the water in North America and a remarkable 21 per cent of the world’s surface freshwater, demands on the Great Lakes Basin from within and outside the region are substantial and ever-escalating.

The Transborder Research University Network (TRUN) for Water Stewardship – an international partnership of Canadian and U.S. research institutions – has launched the Great Lakes Futures Project in an effort to fully assess the biogeographical state of the Great Lakes Basin-St. Lawrence River Basin.

Since its launch, The Great Lakes Futures Project has gained the support of 21 research organizations in both Canada and the US. Eighteen Canadian and US universities and colleges have provided cash support to the project. They are: University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, SUNY at Buffalo, Guelph University, McMaster University, Queens University, Trent University, University of Toronto, University of Windsor, Ryerson University, Waterloo University, Western University, York University, McGill University, Seneca College, Université de Montréal and the Université du Québec à Trois Rivière. Funding was also provided by the Group for Interuniversity Research in Limnology and Aquatic Environment, Michigan Sea Grant and New York Sea Grant.

Creed, along with colleagues Gail Krantzberg from McMaster University, Kathryn Friedman from SUNY at Buffalo and Don Scavia from The University of Michigan, together with Western postdoctoral fellow Katrina Laurent, is leading the project, which includes Canadian and American academics, government, non-government organizations, industry, and private citizens, to forge consensus on the desired future of the Great Lakes Basin-St. Lawrence River Basin.

“This project is critical for understanding the future that current policy is leading us towards,” says Creed, the Canada Research Chair in Watershed Sciences and a professor in Western’s Departments of Biology, Earth Sciences and Geography. “Experts will be given the tools needed to construct actionable recommendations, which will bring public policies closer to achieving socio-ecological sustainability in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin.”

The Great Lakes Futures Project has targeted priority areas affecting the Great Lakes Basin, including climate change, economy, biological and chemical contaminants, invasive species, demographics, societal values, governance, geopolitics, energy, and water quantity.

The Great Lakes Futures Project is currently recruiting students to develop synthesis papers on these priority areas. Graduate students from universities in Canada and the United States will work under the mentorship of leaders in Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin research and will present their findings at a workshop at the University of Michigan in January, which will stimulate the development of the scenario papers and policy briefs that will be communicated to civilians and governments on both sides of the border.

Moving forward, the Great Lakes Futures Project will develop workshops, scholarly and popular publications, public dissemination events (schools, community groups) and policy papers that propose a research agenda and a policy strategy for the Great Lakes Basin with respect to water resources. The potential is also there to create a bi-national academic forum, research collaborations and a think tank.

If you and your institution would like to learn more and be involved in this exciting initiative, please contact Katrina Laurent (kiglic2@uwo.ca). We will be recruiting students for the next phase of the scenario analysis at the end of October/early November.