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The NSERC Canadian Lake Pulse Network: Assessing lake health across Canada

August 10, 2017

This week we have a guest post by Yannick Huot and Catherine Brown from the NSERC Canadian Lake Pulse Network. Like MARS, their research network focuses on the impacts of mutiple stressors on the health of aquatic ecosystems – in this case on lakes across Canada. You can find out more about their work on their website.

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How do you combine a pan-Canadian assessment of lake health with innovative research, while also providing governmental partners and other stakeholders with new knowledge to spur evidence-based decision making? Put it all into an NSERC Strategic Partnership network grant, of course. The objectives of the NSERC Canadian Lake Pulse Network (we affectionately call it “Lake Pulse”) are ambitious to say the least!

Lake Pulse participants collaboratively explore many aspects of limnology, including paleolimnology, spatial modelling, remote sensing, genomics and contaminants, while determining how to best integrate these advances into lake management and provide accessible data for policymakers and decision making.

Our aim is to create an accessible web platform to promote a science-based understanding of lake health, which will help bring together stakeholders and facilitate informed and cooperative lake management. This 5-year research network, initiated in mid-2016, includes 18 university researchers and will train over 40 students. Our partners include federal, provincial and territorial government agencies as well as non-governmental organizations.

lake pulse

Many Lake Pulse participants are finding that a departure from their usual modus operandi is required. Enhanced cooperation is essential in this network, and many individuals are coming together to contribute to common goals.

For example, Lake Pulse students will be immersed in our multidisciplinary, collaborative field expeditions to sample 680 lakes across Canada over 3 summers. These students will collect data for the entire network and cannot focus only on their own individual projects. They will be trained in diverse limnological techniques; contribute to our large, shared database of lake variables; and help to refine our Lake Pulse field manual of protocols that will be consistently applied nationwide and aligned with the EPA’s National Lakes Assessment.

Lake Pulse researchers, unlike researchers working in many other NSERC Strategic Partnership networks, are not allocated funds to carry out specific research projects; instead, they are provided with partial stipends for students. Our partners are deeply embedded in all aspects of Lake Pulse from planning to analyses, including data collection and publication.

For this network to succeed, trust must be built amongst all participants; methods and guidelines must be put in place; and communication must be efficient and flow freely. Establishing this framework was some of the work cut out for us over the last few months, along with building the core team at our host institution, the Université de Sherbrooke.

To say that these months have been fast paced would be an understatement, and to claim that there were no challenges would by a lie. However, we are confidently on track to begin one of the most ambitious limnological field campaigns ever carried out in Canada. When our mobile labs set out in July 2017, you can follow their progress online.

We also welcome opportunities to work with new partners, collaborators and researchers who have the potential to enhance our Lake Pulse objectives. To learn more about us, visit our website… and subscribe to our blog!

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