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Going global

Dean Strickland project manager of the Humber River Basin project gazes at a Turkish mosque on a tour of the Bosporus River in Istanbul.

By Pamela Gill

Seven representatives of the Humber River Basin project were in Istanbul, Turkey, July 5-9 to participate in the international Global Conference on Global Warming.

The conference brought together more than 400 experts and scientists who research global warming and climate change. The basin project, which is under the auspices of the Grenfell College Research Office, was invited by conference organizers to host a special session on river basin ecology.

The Humber River Basin Project is a collaborative initiative among local stake holders including the Canadian Forest Service/Natural Resources Canada and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The basin project addresses research in response to critical issues facing decision makers concerning the sustainability of the Humber River Basin and surroundings. The project’s session was among more than 300 submissions that were accepted for poster sessions and presentations from all around the globe.

Members of the basin project currently in Istanbul include Wade Bowers, ecologist and former associate vice-principal (research), Grenfell College; Dean Strickland, project manager for the basin project; Rainer Baehre, professor, historical studies, Nick Novakowski, associate professor, environmental studies and geography; and Joan Luther, research scientist, remote sensing, and Doug Piercey, geoinformatics analyst, both of Natural Resources Canada.

“The basin and its watersheds represent an excellent platform from which to develop and integrate science and policy,” said Dr. Bowers. “The research we’ve identified is considered an important prerequisite to developing a more scientifically sound and ecosystem-based strategy for management of the basin ecosystems.”

Newfoundland scientists and policy makers in Newfoundland and Labrador have recognized that our most vital natural resources are directly or indirectly linked to water in marine, fresh, and estuarine systems, he said.

“We are interested in collaborating at local and international levels to build a stronger network of researchers with an interest in basin ecology, integrated land management and related fields,” said Ms. Luther, Canadian Forest Service/NRCan. “Here in this international setting we hope to forge new partnerships so that we might all learn from each other best practices in the study of our local and global environments.”

Mr. Strickland and Dr. Bowers presented an overview of the basin project, followed by focused presentations on various components under the project. Dr. Baehre delivered a talk on his research, which documents the history of the area, specifically the changes effected by human interaction with the natural environment. Ms. Luther presented her research on monitoring changes in land cover and forest types using satellite imagery and GIS. Mr. Piercey shared his work on methods to manage and deliver geospatial data with respect to integrated land management within the basin. Finally, Dr. Novakowski discussed his research concerning environmental planning in the area.

“One of the great aspects of the Humber River Basin project is the interdisciplinary nature of our collaborations,” said Dr. Bowers. “We’re pleased to be able to partner with organizations like NRCan, as well as scientists and experts outside of Canada.”

The contingent from Grenfell also attended the opening session of the conference, which saw remarks and presentations from conference organizers as well as Turkey’s ministers of Environment and Forestry, and Energy and Natural Resources. Prof. Veysel Eroglu is minister of Environment and Forestry, while Mr. Taner Yildiz is minister of Energy and Natural Resources.

“The opening session was particularly important because of the recognition by political representatives at the conference that climate change is the most important issue of the 21st century,” said Dr. Bowers. “Climate change and global warming are on political agendas around the world. It was reassuring to hear representatives of the government of Turkey speak of climate change in terms of policy development.”

Turkey is becoming a leader in placing climate change on its agenda for global collaboration and policy development. Turkey has held several conferences over the last year: some 1,800 experts met last November for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and in March, Turkey hosted the fifth World Water Forum, which, incidentally, was attended by Grenfell environmental studies student Kim Olsen. Furthermore, Turkey has committed to implementing a national waste management plan for solid waste facilities by 2012.

“We’re pleased to have Grenfell College as part of our international community this week,” said Prof. Ibrahim Dincer, conference chair of the global warming conference. “The benefit of the college’s presence is twofold – as representatives of Canada, but also as experts sharing their research at this multidisciplinary conference. We have come together to share our knowledge and work together to find solutions to the climate change crisis.”