Faculty of Science

Addressing the Water Quality Crisis

Algal Bloom Assessment through Science, Technology and Education (ABATE) Training Program

Biology professors Irena Creed, CRC in Watershed Sciences, and Charles Trick, Schulich Interfaculty Program in Public Health, were recently awarded $1,650,000 through the NSERC CREATE program to take leadership in the development of a knowledge-rich and skill-ready workforce to address the emerging freshwater harmful algal bloom crisis.

An algal bloom

Algal blooms are proliferating throughout the world.

Algal blooms are increasing in frequency and intensity in Canadian freshwaters and globally. These blooms modify the taste, odor and aesthetics of lake water and are often harmful, producing noxious and toxic metabolites with potentially devastating health consequences for livestock, wildlife, domestic animals and humans.

Over the next six years, a collaborative training team including academics, government and industry from Canada, the U.S., Europe, Asia and Africa will contribute to the establishment of a transdisciplinary cadre of researchers who will translate knowledge into technological innovations, policies and practices to effectively and sustainably address this very serious environmental issue. The grant will support the training of 60 course-based Masters students, almost 40 thesis PhD students as well as six post-doctoral fellows through an innovative training program that includes: lectures contributed by leaders in the field, interactive webinars, field schools, and collaborative research missions on freshwater harmful algal bloom problems facing communities-at-risk, real world experiences through academic exchanges and government and industry internships, workshops to translate scientific findings into policies and practices, and an annual showcase and networking forum with potential employers.

A brown tide in a canal.

A "brown tide" in a canal.

According to a labour market research study by the Environmental Careers Organization of Canada, graduates with water specializations (ECO Canada 2010) are in high demand and water quality is one of the top skilled occupational categories, as identified by prospective employers.  As the supply of safe and reliable water sources is progressively threatened in the face of rapid global change, career opportunities in these areas will flourish in government, industry and community groups in municipal, provincial, national and international organizations, as well as academia. ABATE graduates will be uniquely positioned to fill the rapidly expanding knowledge, innovation and policy gaps and take on forthcoming environmental leadership roles.