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11-08-2011

Clarkson University Professor Co-authors Joint Report on Environmental Status of St. Lawrence River

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/twiss.jpg .]

For the first time since the inception of the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference (SOLEC) in 1994, the current environmental status of the International Section of the St. Lawrence River was reported to the Great Lakes community.

Michael R. TwissThe status report was made at the recent State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference meeting in Erie, Pa., by Great Rivers Center at Clarkson University Director Michael R. Twiss and Jeff Ridal, executive director of the St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences at Cornwall, Ont.

The joint directors’ report summarized the main features of the river and focused on the impacts that tributaries have on this river’s shoreline.

“The near shore is an important region,” says Twiss. “It’s where many people come in contact with the river, for example, at bathing beaches, and it is where tributary waters meet the river.”

“Tributaries make up only three percent of the river’s flow, but are disproportionately important with respect to inputs of nutrients and other harmful additions such as fecal bacteria,” says Ridal.

Topics presented in the report included beach health, mercury contamination in fish, nutrient enrichments, and impact of the hydroelectric power production on eel populations and habitats in the river.

The SOLEC meetings, co-hosted by Environment Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are held every three years as a requirement of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the two respective nations.

As signatories to the agreement, each country is responsible for restoration of damaged environments in the Great Lakes and surveillance and monitoring of water, habitats, and wildlife health.

At these meetings, the ecosystem health of the Great Lakes is summarized on the basis of numerous recognizable ecosystem health indicators, such as the presence of invasive species, productivity of sport and commercial fisheries, and contaminant levels in water, to name a few.

The Great Lakes contain 20 percent of the world’s freshwater and are located in the industrial heartland of Canada and United States, where 40 million citizens reside. The St. Lawrence River, which flows from headwaters in Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean, is the natural outlet of the Great Lakes.

The border between Canada and the United States runs along the middle of St. Lawrence River for over 100 miles. This portion is referred to as the International Section of the St. Lawrence River and is an integral part of the Great Lakes ecosystem and regional commerce.

The Great Rivers Center at Clarkson University is committed to advancing understanding of the St. Lawrence in support of ecosystem-based management through research and educational and collaborative activities.

The St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences (SLRIES) is a non-government research organization dedicated to environmental research, education and community action on the St. Lawrence River basin and other large river ecosystems.

SLRIES will host the International Conference for Great Lakes Research in May 2012, which will bring more than 600 delegates to the region to report on recent research activity in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River system.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Great Rivers Center at Clarkson University Director Michael Twiss (above) co-authored a joint report on the environmental status of the St. Lawrence River for presentation to the Great Lakes community at the recent State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference meeting in Erie, Pa.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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