In an effort to assess the future state of the Great Lakes Basin-St. Lawrence River Basin, the Transborder Research University Network has initiated the Great Lakes Futures Project.
“The Great Lakes Futures Project is a multi-disciplinary, bi-national initiative between Canada and the United States that has come to be as a result of concerned academics that are really worried about the sustainable governance of the Great Lakes Basin-St. Lawrence River Basin,” Katrina Laurent, a postdoctoral associate and project manager of the Great Lakes Futures Project, explained. “What this project will do is assess what the state of the basin could be in 50 years using a technique called scenario analysis.”
Laurent explained scenario analysis is a structured approach used to envision plausible futures that bring to surface hidden assumptions and risks.
“It’s really affective because it provides a context for evaluating the consequences of current and future management in policy decisions.”
Irena Creed, a professor in biology at Western, and the leader of the project, originally proposed the initiative in September 2010. Since then, the project has received support from 21 academic institutions in both Canada and the United States, including Western University, Guelph University, McMaster University and Queen’s University.
According to Laurent, eight different drivers or forces of change were identified at a workshop related to the project. In the coming months, students that have been selected to work on the project will be working with a mentor to develop these drivers. From there, they will develop driver synthesis papers and present them at a workshop in January.
Ryan Sorichetti, a PhD candidate in the department of biology, was one of the 20 students selected to work on the project from over 20 different universities and institutions in Canada and the United States.
“I’ll be working with a master’s student from the Université de Montréal, and another PhD candidate from Cornell University. We’re going to be looking at biological and chemical contaminants to do with the Great Lakes history, and then we’ll make predictions into the future,” Sorichetti explained. “It’s an extremely rewarding experience.”
Sorichetti believes Western’s investment into this project will help put it on the map for research it hasn’t traditionally been acknowledged for.
“The Great Lakes are an extremely valuable resource—they’re one of the single most important hydrological features in the world, so there is a lot vested in them,” he said. “When you’re conducting research on an ecosystem or environment where there’s a lot of interest drawn, it keeps you and your institution at the leading edge of research.”
“Hopefully, this project will influence the direction of Western’s research projects moving forward.”