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Emily Browne conducting field workScience student Emily Browne received the Youth Conservation Award from the Essex Region Conservation Authority at its annual general meeting Thursday. Photo by Shayenna Nolan.

Science UWindsor sweeps conservation awards

UWindsor science students, researchers, and research centres are at the top of their game for protecting species, habitats, and ecosystems – and they are proving it by winning three Conservation Awards from the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA).

The Freshwater Restoration Ecology Centre (FREC), run by integrative biology professor and Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER) researcher Trevor Pitcher, won the Conservation Award for Education. The integrated team includes undergraduate and graduate students as well as high school student volunteers.

FREC’s team has spearheaded many innovative Great Lakes biodiversity educational programs and research projects to better understand key stressors and threats to freshwater biodiversity.

The team is working with colleagues and students to help set up a similar centre at Walpole Island First Nation and rears endangered freshwater fish species for conservation purposes and education. In 2017, Dr. Pitcher received the Canada 150 Service Award recognizing his efforts to educate the public regarding Great Lakes environmental issues.

The centre began as a partnership between the Town of LaSalle and the University of Windsor in 2010. LaSalle mayor Marc Bondy says FREC and its team are well deserving of the award.

“On behalf of the Town of LaSalle, we congratulate Dr. Trevor Pitcher and the staff of the Freshwater Restoration Ecology Centre,” says Bondy. “We are proud to partner with the University of Windsor to house their centre in one of our facilities and look forward to continuing to work with them on future projects.”

School of the Environment student Emily Browne received the Youth Conservation Award. Her list of accomplishments includes being a member of ERCA’s Youth Environment Ambassador program and its How-To-Crew, where she advances the quality of community restoration projects across the region to ensure long-term growth and survival of native plants and trees.

As an outreach assistant intern with ERCA and the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup, Browne participated in planning, co-ordinating, and executing a number of events including ERCA's Conservation Awards celebration, the cleanup’s annual film screening, and the John R. Park Homestead's Maple Syrup Festival.

In her final year at UWindsor, Browne is completing her thesis research with Catherine Febria, Canada Research Chair in Freshwater Restoration Ecology, professor of integrative biology professor, and GLIER researcher. Browne is working in Dr. Febria’s Healthy Headwaters Lab in partnership with Nature Conservancy Canada to evaluate a wetland restoration on the Marianne Girling Nature Reserve in Essex.

“Winning an award with ERCA is an honour and demonstrates that I am making a difference in conservation and science,” says Browne. “They have given me so many amazing opportunities to learn and get involved with community-based conservation projects — which has played a significant role in my love and passion for the environment and our local ecosystems.”

The 2020 Environmental Achievement Conservation Award goes to Ken Drouillard for his significant contributions to conservation and stewardship, through two decades of work with Detroit River Canadian CleanUp committee.

A GLIER researcher and professor in the School of the Environment, Dr. Drouillard regularly advises on the status of beneficial uses within the Detroit River area of concern, including providing expertise on zooplankton populations, fish consumption advisories, and the health of the benthic invertebrate community.

Drouillard also collaborates on binational projects, lending his expertise to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to identify areas for sediment remediation within the Detroit River. Further, he is part of Friends of the Detroit River — a local group that tackles Detroit River issues.

Most recently, Drouillard worked with the Windsor-Essex Sewing Force and a team of UWindsor scientists in producing better homemade masks, using scientific equipment to identify fabrics most capable of keeping healthcare workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also provided his expertise to a GLIER research project in partnership with southwestern Ontario wastewater treatment plants to study viral loads of COVID-19 in sewage before and after processing.

The awards were presented at ERCA’s annual general meeting in an online ceremony Thursday, Jan. 21.

—Sara Elliott

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