Catherine FebriaCatherine Febria will take the expertise she has acquired globally and apply it to waterways that feed the Great Lakes.

Headwaters source of knowledge for Great Lakes researcher

Catherine Febria studies small streams to solve big problems.

She has done research on the Speed River watershed near Guelph, Ont., and streams and river systems in the Arctic, in the United States and in New Zealand.

As a researcher at the University of Windsor, Dr. Febria will take the expertise she has acquired globally and apply it to the waterways that feed the Great Lakes.

“I’m really grateful to be back in Canada,” said the newest faculty member at UWindsor’s Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research.

Since completing her PhD at the University of Toronto, Febria has travelled the world. Her career began with post-doctoral work at the University of Maryland with Margaret Palmer, the world’s most-cited stream ecosystems researcher.

Febria’s most recent post was at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand as the director of an innovative waterway restoration experiment called CAREX that brought together farmers, local governments, Maori tribes, schools, and members of the public to rehabilitate freshwater ecosystems.

Febria said she will bring that spirit of co-operation to her nascent Healthy Headwaters Lab at GLIER.

Headwaters are the streams that feed larger bodies of water. They are integral to an ecosystem’s health, and often, the degradation of larger bodies of water can be traced upstream to headwaters.

Febria integrates microbial, molecular, and ecosystem approaches to water quality and ecosystem health.

“I look at the small things with an eye to the big picture,” she says. “That knowledge is transferable — different place, same issues. I’m trying to pivot knowledge from and apply it to the Great Lakes.”

Her work dovetails nicely with the existing research underway at GLIER, she said: “I can’t wait to work with fellow GLIER academics, building on the legacy of GLIER. There’s so much we can do together.”

Febria remains an adjunct professor and science advisory panel member in New Zealand and fellow of a global science-policy panel on biodiversity and ecosystem services, offering opportunities to collaborate worldwide. While setting up her lab, she is hard at work applying for grants for Great Lakes-focused research.

This summer, she will co-teach UWindsor’s first Indigenous field ecology course on Walpole Island Territory/Bkejwanong. “Actionable science,” as she calls her research, requires partnerships.

“We need many different people and perspectives on this journey with us.”

─Sarah Sacheli

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