Rasmussen Research Chair renewed

The University of Lethbridge's Dr. Joe Rasmussen, a professor of biological sciences and a national leader in aquatic ecosystem research, has had his Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) funding as a Tier I Canada Research Chair renewed.

The need to provide dependable water supplies for agricultural, industrial and domestic uses without degrading natural processes is a major sustainability challenge. Rasmussen's research projects address this problem and many more.

"Joe and his team have made a vital contribution towards furthering the University's commitment in the area of water research, which is not only a key part of our strategic plan but is furthering our progress as we become a comprehensive research university," says Dr. Dan Weeks, the University of Lethbridge's vice-president research.

He adds that Rasmussen's award affirms the
U of L's place as a leader in water and aquatic ecosystems research.

"He has built up the University's presence in the aquatic research community to an unprecedented extent, and was recently the only Albertan appointed to a major review panel on the environmental state of the Athabasca River Basin surrounding the oil sands," says Weeks. "The U of L has become recognized as an important centre for research in fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, which would have been inconceivable a decade ago."

Rasmussen's research has made a significant contribution to the development of tracer approaches that are used to model energy flow in aquatic food webs. His research has provided fresh insights and technical inroads into important ecological problems such as the biomagnification of persistent contaminants and the impacts of heavy metals on environmental quality.

The good news came as part of a national announcement by Tony Clement, Federal Industry Minister, who confirmed $275.6 million to fund 310 new or renewed Canada Research Chairs at 53 Canadian universities.

Rasmussen will receive $1.4 million over the next seven years – funds that will allow him to focus on several diverse research projects and add doctoral and master's level researchers to his already-busy lab group.

He says his original and renewed funding, when combined with other aquatic researchers, played an important role in leveraging funds to build the Alberta Water and Environmental Science Building, which stands as a symbol of the University's strategic commitment to water research.

"In addition, the funds have helped leverage more than $3 million from Western Economic Diversification to equip the building and to build a state-of-the-art Aquatic Research Facility within this building," says Rasmussen. "I am really pleased to have the funding continue for another term, and am looking forward to a significant expansion of my research programming."

One of the new projects Rasmussen is working on involves an NSERC-supported strategic network called HydroNet, which partners with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the hydroelectric industry.

The aim of the project is to develop science-based criteria for assessing productive capacity of aquatic ecosystems where water flow and water levels are affected by hydroelectric dams.

"Our work on the effects of flow regulation is helping to inform policy regarding instream flow requirements for aquatic ecosystem health, which is part of the core mandate of the Alberta Water Research Institute," says Rasmussen.