Ecologist teams up with Japanese scientists to tackle water pollution

An aquatic ecologist has recently returned to Canada from meetings in Japan where he played an integral role in determining how both countries can better protect their water resources from a variety of pollutants.

Hugh MacIsaac, a professor in the University’s Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, spent three days in Tokyo with a delegation of 10 Canadian scientists and engineers meeting with colleagues with similar backgrounds from universities across Japan.

“We were there to deliberate about what the priority areas are,” said Dr. MacIsaac, who chaired the Canadian delegation, which was sponsored by  the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Japan Science and Technology Agency. “We wanted to identify aquatic research themes that were important for both countries.”

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), non-point sources like nutrient-rich agricultural runoff, and the resurgence of eutrophication – the process that results in algae blooms as a result of fertilizers and sewage – were identified as some of the top concerns, MacIsaac said.

“These PPCP compounds don’t just occur in isolation,” said MacIsaac, who is also director of the Canadian Aquatic Invasive Species Network. “You can have cardiac medications mixed in with birth control drugs, and their combined effects can range from antagonistic to synergistic.”

MacIsaac said he hopes the meetings will result in new research that will eventually lead to the establishment of larger, collaborative networks of scientists and engineers who will work together to find solutions to mitigating those problems in both countries. The two science and engineering agencies are expected to issue a call for proposals in the near future.

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