River institute reflects on a successful 2013

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By Adam Brazeau 
CORNWALL, Ontario - The St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences celebrated a remarkable year of partnerships and projects, and recognized key players who helped drive the organization's success in 2013, at their annual general meeting this month.

The St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences.

"What we have created is an organization with a solid foundation of scientific excellence," said Hendrik Saaltink, board chair.

The river institute is marking its 20th anniversary with a slew of recent major accomplishments: most notably, the launch of the Applied Research and Technical Services branch in 2013, which has lessened their dependency on government funding.

"With the support of start-up grants and client incentives, this program has already established important new partnerships with corporate clients, and innovative collaborative research projects are already underway," said Saaltink.

In addition, two new scientists have joined their ranks, increasing the river institute's capacity for research and education.

Cornwall native Caroline Keddy, a graduate of Queen’s University, is running a new education program focused on biodiversity, supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) and other partners (Ontario Power Generation and RRCA).

And Matt Windle, a new post-doctoral fellow who is fascinated by all things fishy, has been conducting research over the past year, to make eels endearing and electrifying to everyone. 

"When a new scientist joins the institute, our overall value is elevated by the expertise and energy that he/she brings," said Jeff Ridal, executive director.

In March, Ridal was named the Canadian co-chair of the Science Priority Committee of the International Joint Commission.

In 2013, the river institute organized and participated in workshops to encourage community input on the priorities and strategies for future protection and restoration work on the St. Lawrence River.

"We will continue these efforts through 2014 as we outline plans to further the work outlined in the St. Lawrence (Cornwall) Remedial Action Plan some 20 years ago," said Ridal.

To broaden opportunities for public engagement and visibility, the river institute also extended their research collaborations with universities and research institutes.

These partnerships include new projects planned with the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER) at the University of Windsor, Carleton University, and the Ottawa Riverkeeper.

Other new projects in 2013 included:

• A partnership with the Mohawks of Akwesasne on water quality and biodiversity – this work involved river institute researchers, and students from both Akwesasne and the Cornwall area communities.

• Algae Alert: an ongoing ‘citizen science’ project involving over 50 local community volunteers collecting samples and helping track the incidence of blue green algae.

The river institute will celebrate its 20th anniversary during their river symposium on May 7 & 8 at St. Lawrence College.

Organizations: River Institute

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