Research Report 2008

Fishing for facts

Every year salmon fishers from around the world head to the legendary Humber River. Its twists and turns parallel the routes for both the railway and the Trans-Canada Highway. All 153 kilometres of it are firmly entwined with the history of western Newfoundland. And now scientists are fishing it with a different lure.

This massive river is about to be the subject of many microscopic studies.

The Humber River Basin Project is an umbrella network of researchers working out of Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. From environmental studies focusing on the river’s potential as a drinking water source, to historical analysis of how the people have used this river to help them survive, the research is as fluid and deep as the river itself.

The Humber River Basin Project (HRBP) is an integrated approach to ecological assessment and long-term monitoring. Under the umbrella of Sir Wilfred Grenfell College’s Centre of Environmental Excellence, the project involves strong collaboration among local agencies. Through partnerships with InTRD, NR-Can, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Science and Sustainability and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Grenfell College has leveraged support to build local research capacity and a stronger research agenda.

Research began in 2007 around the bio-geophysical features of the basin and indicators of ecosystem health. For example, water quality studies will allow scientists to assess the condition of the river and detect any detrimental effects from activities on the river. Other studies are investigating issues such as spring drinking water quality and historical uses of the basin. The project has already been successful in mentoring local and visiting students. In addition to Grenfell students who are gaining research experience, international undergraduate and graduate students have worked on several studies.

Research is big business. The keepers of the basin project expect further opportunities in the future. A study has been completed for an aquatic research centre positioned in the Humber River system, offering increased space and accommodations for visiting researchers, storage for gear and boats, and a home for technical equipment used to monitor water temperature, pH, nitrogen levels and indicators of water quality and river health. “The project affords a tremendous number of opportunities in the form of building partnerships,” says Dean Strickland, project manager. “It represents a collaborative effort to ensure we sustain our environment.”

Copyright © 2008 Memorial University of Newfoundland