Prince George - Four UNBC professors in the Integrated Water Research Group have secured $1 million worth of funding to explore important issues regarding the Nechako River basin over the next four years.
Integrated Water Research Group members. Download High Resolution image
The Nechako Environmental Enhancement Fund (NEEF) has approved a $500,000 grant from the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations through the NEEF Management Committee, with the other half of the research investment to be secured in the form of matching funds from other sources.
“The work of the Integrated Water Research Group will help us gain a better understanding of some of the important issues facing the Nechako River basin,” Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson said. “This grant will help the professors, research fellows, and students continue their research over the next four years.”
Canada Research Chair in Northern Hydrometeorology Dr. Stephen Déry, Forest Renewal BC Chairs in Landscape Ecology Dr. Philip Owens and Dr. Ellen Petticrew, and Canada Research Chair in Health, Ecosystems and Society Dr. Margot Parkes will use the funds to examine issues ranging from water security in a changing climate, riverine fine sediment sources and developing tools to help inform integrated understanding and decision-making in the watershed.
In addition to conducting and analyzing research, the group will use the funds to hire a project manager, and to train postdoctoral research fellows as well as undergraduate and graduate students. The results of the research will be made available through public workshops as well as academic conference presentations, posters, and publications.
Dr. Déry and his students will look at water security and climate change, Drs. Owens and Petticrew and their students will study sediment sources and dynamics and Dr. Parkes and her students will develop and trial new tools for sharing watershed information to foster integrated understanding and actions in the Nechako.
“Sediment source tracing in the watershed will identify areas of disturbance and erosion which contribute fine sediment to stream channels and the Nechako River,” Dr. Petticrew said. “The fine sediments are themselves a pollutant – for example turbidity and carrier of chemicals – but can also be deleterious to fish habitat.”
“An expected outcome of this work would be the prioritization of regions – which will require mitigation procedures to reduce soil and sediment contributions,” Dr. Owens added.
The four faculty members involved with the Integrated Water Research Group have been studying watershed-based issues for several years, with a focus on the Fraser River basin and other watersheds in Northern BC, including the Nechako River basin.
The Nechako Environmental Enhancement Fund was put together as a result of a 1997 agreement between the BC provincial government and Rio Tinto Alcan. In 2012 NEEF committed $1 million towards the study of integrated watershed research over the course of 10 years.
"Rio Tinto Alcan is pleased that the long standing BC-Rio Tinto Alcan commitment to use funds obligated in the 1997 Agreement to enhance the Nechako environment downstream, is being allocated to a UNBC research team,” Gaby Poirier, Rio Tinto Alcan's General Manager BC Operations, said. “We congratulate UNBC in their successful application to access funding that will allow important research to better understand dynamic impacts and changes related to sedimentation movement, climate change and river temperature."