The St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences and Queen's University, together with the Mohawks of Akwesasne, welcomed more than 600 delegates to Cornwall for the International Association of Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) conference. Over five sunny days, delegates from as far away as Australia took part in meetings, field trips, events and special talks in order to share the most recent information on the ecology, chemistry, and physics of the Great Lakes.
Though there were high-profile plenary talks and more than 50 sessions about things like invasive aquatic species, mercury in fish, and beach health, conference organizers Christina Collard and Jerome Marty, both from the River Institute, made sure there was more to this conference than science. Delegates also had an opportunity to appreciate the cultural—and the fun—side of our city.
“We were very proud to host IAGLR 2012,” stated Christina Collard, Conference Coordinator and Program Leader – Administration and Special Projects at the River Institute. “This conference is hosted by a Canadian city every second year, and is usually held in a much larger city than Cornwall. The River Institute hosted IAGLR once before in 2000, and we were pleased to be chosen again in 2012. I think the small town friendliness of our community, combined with the first class facility at the NAV CENTRE gave the conference an intimate feel that people really enjoyed.”
The conference kicked off with a traditional Mohawk opening, followed by a series of traditional dances by the Native North American Travelling College from Akwesasne. More than 500 presentations provided delegates with a busy schedule and a variety of topics. On Tuesday, May 15, a community evening allowed delegates to explore Cornwall and participate in social events. A public open house at the Ontario Power Generation Visitor Centre provided information about the local Remedial Action Plan initiatives, and a public presentation from the International Joint Commission about the future of water levels in the Great Lakes. Mayor Bob Kilger dropped the puck at a Canada vs US Scientists hockey game at the Benson Centre, and the St. Lawrence River Institute hosted an Open House and tasting of local wine, beer and food. Delegates also had a chance to explore local restaurants and shops on their own.
Daily plenary sessions provided encouragement, motivation, and important new information for all delegates to take home. New partnerships were formed, and several important collaborative projects were spearheaded at this year’s conference.
“This is exactly the type of outcome we hope for at a gathering of this calibre,” stated the River Institute’s Executive Director Dr. Jeff Ridal. “It is fantastic opportunity for leading research scientists from Canada and the United States to come together and forge new partnerships and projects. This conference ensures that Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River research is shared, and that new challenges are identified and addressed by the key players. It is important for the River Institute to play a vital role in this process to ensure that the St. Lawrence River is considered as part of the Great Lakes system.”
River Institute staff, students, volunteers and partners executed an expertly organized conference that should make all of Cornwall proud. After five days, the more than 600 IAGLR conference delegates walked away having learned more about the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence ecosystems, and experienced the friendly welcome that Cornwall is famous for.