WSRG member Alex Langlais-Bourassa spent the Fall of 2016 at the US EPA in Washington. Here he shares a few words about his experience…
This fall, I had the privilege (and pleasure!) to go to Washington D.C. as a visiting scientist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). This internship was part of the Ecolac NSERC CREATE training program scholarship I received for my Master’s project. I was under the supervision of Dr. Amina Pollard, Research Ecologist for the monitoring branch in the office of wetlands, oceans, and watersheds with USEPA. Myself and Dr. Pollard worked with data from the National Lake Assessment. This dataset encompass 1200 continental U.S lakes and was designed to assess their state. Sampled data included water quality, lake morphometry, as well as plankton community abundance. Using a subset of these lakes, we decided to explore changes in functional and taxonomic diversity of zooplankton and phytoplankton communities, to identify variables responsible for these changes and to extract ecoregional patterns in this dataset. The goal was to be able to predict a certain plankton community based on environmental variables and functional or taxonomic diversity.
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“The watershed provides a logical boundary system and conceptual unit for ecosystem management because it is based on the geographic characteristics of the ecosystem’s hydrology. It thus recognizes the dominant role that water plays in the biological relationships. In addition, a watershed is easily perceived and recognized. People understand it. From a legal perspective, watershed boundaries are more easily defined than many other boundaries in the natural environment.”
National Research Council (1999)
We are fascinated by WATER, as the flow of water plays such a dominant role in shaping the Earth’s surface and sustaining life on our planet.
But our fascination is also driven by concern. Few of the world’s river systems remain free of human impact (see here). Our vital need for freshwater – for drinking water, agriculture, hydropower, and industrial use – has in many places put us in conflict with ecosystem needs for water. Because we also depend on healthy ecosystems to provide us with the ecological goods and services that sustain our communities – this conflict is cause for concern.
Effectively managing the balance between societal and ecological needs for freshwater is one of humanity’s most pressing challenges.
Effective management requires knowledge.
This is where we come in. By improving our understanding of the flow of water and its interactions with physical (geomorphic) and biological (ecologic) processes we aim to contribute scientific knowledge for more effective freshwater management.
As I write this, a small group of dedicated young researchers are hard at work seeking to improve our understanding of the hydrology of permafrost environments, searching for better ways of mapping the soils through which water flows, and deciphering the impacts of urbanization and climate change on freshwater ecosystems.
Through this website and blog we will share our important discoveries and provide you with an insightful resource into all that is related to the flow of this most precious resource.
Jan Franssen, PhD
Watershed Science Research Group