Another Drop Lecture Series 2017

Browse the 2017 archive

Legacy and Emerging Contaminants in Fish, Wildlife and Humans: What are the Concerns?

Thousands of chemicals are produced and released by industries and used in consumer goods such as personal care products, pharmaceuticals, electronics and for food production. As a result, many of these chemicals are released to the environment and find their way into freshwaters and the aquatic food web. For decades we have been concerned about the fate and health effects of these chemicals on fish, fish-eating wildlife and humans. Some chemicals are persistent in the environment and concentrate up food webs, resulting in high exposures in top predators, while others are less persistent, yet continually discharged in wastewaters and are therefore “pseudo-persistent”.

This lecture will describe some of the current understanding of the environmental fate of legacy (e.g., pesticide DDT) and emerging (e.g., pharmaceuticals) contaminants, the broader and similar patterns of chemical exposures in humans, wildlife and fish, and the effectiveness of international treaties at reducing these exposures. In addition, examples of how these chemicals are linked to disease burdens in humans, wildlife and fish will be shown, as well as a case study of a pharmaceutical that has huge benefits for humans and detrimental effects on fish health. Understanding the risks of chemicals in the environment requires broader thinking and approaches – such as One Health. The presentation will end with some thoughts on the next steps.

For more information, view the event invitation here.

The Garden and The Marsh: The Fascinating Story of Cootes Paradise

Cootes Paradise Marsh is a Great Lakes coastal wetland gem. Although a natural feature, its history and future are bound up intimately with human activities, ranging from the gathering of natural resources by Indigenous peoples before European colonization to industrial-scale modification in the 19th century and multiple ecosystem stressors and restoration efforts in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Awareness of the fragility of the wetland and the potential for its destruction by development led directly to the deliberate creation of Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) as a hybrid institution – a set of large public gardens and large protected nature sanctuaries – by the City of Hamilton Board of Park Management and allies in the 1920s and 1930s. It was then established as a separate not-for-profit organization in 1941 by the Province of Ontario. Since the 1940s, RBG has led efforts to address the ecosystem stressors in Cootes Paradise, including the 1993 creation of Project Paradise and in 1997 the opening of the Cootes Paradise Fishway.

In this lecture, taking place during the 20th Anniversary celebrations for the Fishway, we will take a long view of Cootes Paradise Marsh, seeking to understand the relevance of the wetland today in its present condition against what is known of its ecological and cultural history, and examine trends and potential for further restoration.

For more information, view the event invitation here.


Boreal Burning! Managing Wildfire and Water in an Era of Drought and Warming

The boreal is a mosaic of forests and wetlands shaped by wildfire. Fire drives boreal vegetation and soil dynamics and is a vital component of this biome that plays a globally important role in climate regulation. However, boreal wildfire severity and area burned are expected to double by the end of this century as forest and wetland fuels become drier. An increase in high severity ‘mega fires’ can lead to catastrophic ecosystem collapse and the loss of valuable ecosystemservices such as water regulation and quality to downstream communities. This increase in wildfire risk is taking place at the same time as more people are working, living and playing in the boreal. Recent wildfire disasters such as the 2010 Moscow peat fires and the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire have increased the awareness of the key challenge and question facing wildfire management agencies. “How can boreal ecosystems be managed to reduce the risk of catastrophic collapse while protecting human health, water quality, property and economic activity from wildfire?” In this lecture, an integrative watershed-ecosystems approach to answering this question will be explored and a potential strategy to mitigate wildfire severity will be discussed.

For more information, view the event invitation here.


From the Age of Carbon to the Age of Water – The Role of Wetlands

We are currently living in the age of carbon and we are now starting to see the consequences of carbon emissions, leading to climate change. In 2015, at the climate change summit in Paris, almost all countries agreed to take steps to decarbonise their economies and reduce emissions.

Water is the sustaining flow that supports life. But our understanding of the vital role of water is still in its infancy, and the agreements, laws and policies governing water are equally weak. We need to realise that at the same time as carbon emissions are warming the planet, the global water cycle and local water cycles are changing and speeding up.

We need to safeguard the water that sustains our economies, in terms of drinking water supply, irrigation for agriculture, water for industrial processes and energy generation. And we also need to safeguard the water that sustains nature, its glorious biodiversity, and its complex functions and processes which are essential for life on this planet. Wetlands provide the vital link, wherever the water meets the land. In many places, wetlands are at risk either from human decisions or from climate change. Water-related disasters, such as droughts, floods, and coastal storm surges, are becoming increasingly frequent and severe.  However, I will show examples of how wetlands can help to reduce disaster risks. More research will help us understand all the multiple services that wetlands provide, and a better understanding of global and local water cycles will lead to better water management. It’s time to move away from the age of carbon, towards the age of water.

For more information, view the event invitation here.

Emerging Technologies for Resources Recovery from Wastewater

Wastewater can be used as a resource to recover valuable products. Nutrients in wastewater can be separated into various forms, such as struvite and ammonium carbonate minerals or gaseous ammonia. Wastewater sludge can be used to produce energy in the form of biogas and properly treated sludge can also be applied in the agricultural industry as land fertilizers. Treated and purified wastewater itself can also be used for various purposes, such as groundwater recharge, agricultural irrigation, and even direct potable water reuse.

This lecture will present the challenges for contaminant separation and water purification. The presentation will also highlight recent development of microbial electrochemistry methods for resources recovery and sustainable wastewater treatment.

For more information, view the event invitation here.