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Spring 2008

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In this issue:

Science Notes

Papers and Reports

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Science Notes

Progress on Emerging Issues -- Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) in the Canadian Environment

  • A national assessment on this emerging issue in now available online. The assessment synthesizes the current state of Canada's research by government, academia and industry sectors, and identifies key actions to guide future research. Currently, research is focussed on long-term exposure to low levels of PPCPs residues and their effects on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and human health. More work is needed to understand effects of individual and combined chemicals on Canadian ecosystems and populations, identify which ecosystems are most at-risk, determine fate and effects of these compounds, and establish the science base of best management practices to prevent/reduce impacts.Read more...

Microbial Source Tracking -- New Findings on Sources of Contamination

  • Dr. Tom Edge gave a presentation on microbial source tracking at a public meeting on the state of Hamilton Harbour beaches. He highlighted results from recent research, indicating bird fecal droppings on the beach sand were now the most significant source of E. coli contamination contributing to beach postings at Bayfront Park Beach. Other presentations at the meeting highlighted similar concerns about bird droppings at urban beaches in Toronto and Chicago. The meeting was organized by the Bay Area Restoration Council (BARC) to provide the community with a better understanding of why local beaches have been closed so frequently, despite investments in upgrading municipal wastewater infrastructure. Read more...

Aquatic Biodiversity Monitoring in Canada -- CABIN Training Program Launched in April 2008

  • The new CABIN (Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network) national training program was launched in April to provide interested participants across Canada with a standardized protocol for national aquatic biomonitoring. Inspired by Australia's AUSRIVAS, the CABIN training program was developed by Environment Canada Water S&T Branch's National CABIN Team, in collaboration with the Canadian Rivers Institute (CRI) of the University of New Brunswick. The course consists of five interactive learning modules delivered online, allowing EC to provide comprehensive training in an innovative and interesting fashion, reaching more participants across Canada. Read more...

Groundwater Study Expected to Produce New Information for Groundwater Managers

  • Nitrate is the most widespread contaminant of groundwater in Canada, largely due to agricultural activities and septic system effluents. One of the most important nitrate removal processes in groundwater is denitrification, which produces nitrous oxide gas as a by-product. Dr. John Spoelstra is a co-investigator on a NSERC Strategic Project Grant to study use of dissolved nitrous oxide gas as a highly sensitive indicator of denitrification activity in groundwater aquifers contaminated with nitrate.

  • Routine analysis of nitrous oxide can be done at concentrations 10,000 times lower than those for typical nitrate analysis. Results of this project will have implications for groundwater management, especially in designing wellhead protection schemes. The study is expected to produce a new method for the identification of denitrification activity in aquifers where analysis of nitrate concentrations would otherwise be inconclusive.

Environment Canada and Health Canada Integrating Efforts to Improve Human Health Risk Assessments

  • The National Water Quality Monitoring Office was invited to present Environment Canada's monitoring program at a national Health Canada workshop to discuss ways to improve the quality of human health risk assessments through better integration of existing sources of ambient environmental monitoring data. The workshop brought together a wide range of experts working in risk assessment, as part of a Geoconnections project. Chris Lochner, Tom Dann and Rita Mroz made presentations on surface water, air and soil quality monitoring, and Greg Bickerton spoke on groundwater science and associated data.

  • Participants agreed water quality monitoring data is an extremely important input for national risk assessments, and regulatory risk assessors will be seeking a greater awareness of our monitoring activities to improve their risk assessment methods and results. To this end, Health Canada has partnered with the National Water Quality Monitoring Office and financially supported specialized IM/IT capacity to enhance EC's water quality data management and access.

An Innovative Approach to Filling Gaps in the Climate Record

  • Climate scientists are not the only ones interested in finding out about changes in climate over time. So are historians, anthropologists, paleo-ecologists and others, as a recent workshop at the University of Saskatchewan made clear. Hydrologists, aquatic ecologists and meteorologists met with historians, anthropologists, paleo-ecologists - all with an interest in the incidence of drought across the North American mid-west - to discuss the topic and generate ideas on how they could combine their expertise and resources to fill gaps in the historical record.

  • They discussed questions such as: What are the most important gaps in our knowledge about past climate in the Great Plains? What data sources provide the richest potential for filling those gaps? What have been the key interconnections between physical processes and human dimensions of climate change? Can we identify significant cultural responses to climate change (adaptation, migration, etc.) or human drivers of past climate change? How might we conceive of a large, interdisciplinary, multi-institutional research project attempting to tackle these questions? What approaches, skill sets and experience would be most useful to assemble for such collaboration? Proceedings will be available online in the near future. For more information contact Dr. Marley Waiser.

Lab News -- NLET Methods Chosen as Standard for International Polar Year (IPY)

  • Analytical methods developed by the National Laboratory for Environmental Testing (NLET) will be used exclusively in IPY studies for determining persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in Russian and Asian air. Dr. Hayley Hung, Canada's International Polar Year principal investigator, is coordinating the Russian/Asian component of the project and has chosen NLET's analytical methods for this study area. NLET's particular involvement will help determine source apportionment and transboundary influences of legacy and currently used POPs. Read more...

Science and Technology on Environment Canada's Website - Taking Federal S&T to S&T Users

Communicating Science Communications to Scientists!

  • Scientists are becoming ever more aware of the need to communicate their research and results to senior managers, decision makers, land-use planners, and a host of other potential users and funders. Scientists are most skilled at communicating their work to their peer group by way of peer-reviewed articles, conference presentations, personal communications, etc. Unfortunately, the structure of the peer-reviewed article and abstract render the "newsworthiness" of their research into a nugget buried deep in the mine - hard to get at, if one is not a peer!

  • Dr. Alex Bielak, accompanied by Dr. Leah Brannen, led a science communications workshop in Whitehorse in late May to help scientists develop the kind of writing skills needed to communicate more effectively with the larger world of potential managers/users/funders. Based on experience gained through brokering water science knowledge to water policy makers and resource managers, the workshop gave scientists from wildlife, forestry, energy, water and other sectors practical experience in writing to communicate science in a succinct, attention-getting, readily accessible manner.

Papers and Reports

New Book on River Ice Breakup Will Assist Water Resource Managers

  • Breakup of the ice cover on rivers has many socio-economic and ecological impacts that can imperil nearby communities, infrastructure and aquatic ecosystems. Hydro-climatic factors play a major role in the severity of breakup events and largely determine their impacts; thus, concerns about effects of a changing climate are growing. Current scientific knowledge of breakup processes and related phenomena is incomplete and much of what is known is scattered in diverse journals, conference proceedings and technical reports, and therefore not readily accessible.

  • Dr. Spyros Beltaos led a group of eminent river ice researchers to carry out a comprehensive review and synthesis of the literature on river ice breakup, under the auspices of the Canadian Geophysical Union and the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. Their efforts were recently published as a book, intended for students, researchers, engineers and water resources managers who at one time or another may have to deal with related issues.

  • Beltaos, S. (ed.). 2008. River ice breakup. Water Resources Publications, Highlands Ranch, Co., USA. 462 p.

About this e-news

To forge better links between water science and water policy, this free newsletter provides timely information on the research activities of Environment Canada's Water Science and Technology Directorate to water professionals, policy and decision makers, governments, and other groups involved with managing water resources effectively.

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