Algal blooms, toxic substances, invasive species, habitat loss, and land use changes are among the eight most pressing environmental problems that continue to plague the Detroit River and western Lake Erie, according to a binational report released Tuesday.
The State of the Strait Report, based on information collected by more than 40 organizations in Canada and the United States, said the Detroit River ecosystem needs additional clean-up and restoration despite gains in the recovery of plant and animal life since the 1960s.
“Western Lake Erie is now at risk of crossing several potential tipping points caused by the interactions of a variety of drivers and stresses,” said conservation scientist John Hartig, visiting scholar at UWindsor’s Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research and one of the experts who helped prepare the report.
“Addressing any of the eight environmental and natural resource challenges identified in the report is demanding, but mitigating them all at once and in the face of the climate change crisis is daunting,” Dr. Hartig said.
The State of the Strait is a collaboration of government managers, researchers, students, environmental and conservation organizations, and concerned citizens. They meet once every two years, producing a report on the status of the Detroit River and western Lake Erie ecosystem. This report is the product of the last conference, held at the University of Windsor in November 2019.
It identifies eight key environmental and natural resource challenges threating the health of the ecosystem:
The report calls climate change a “threat multiplier,” in which warmer, wetter, and wilder climatic conditions amplify the other threats.
“This report is an excellent example of synthesis of science to comprehensively assess ecosystem health and of strengthening science-policy linkages in support of ecosystem-based management,” said Mike McKay, GLIER’s executive director.
“This report showcases how the intellectual capital of this binational region can be leveraged to help understand and address the region’s most pressing environmental and natural resource challenges.”
The State of the Strait is sponsored by the University of Windsor, Eastern Michigan University, Wayne State University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn, the University of Michigan’s Environmental Interpretive Centre in Dearborn, the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup, the International Joint Commission, Friends of the Detroit River, the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, DTE Energy, and the government of Canada.
—Sarah SacheliJohn HartigMike McKayGreat Lakes Institute for Environmental ResearchStrategic Priority: Engage in community partnershipsPursue strengths in research and graduate educationAcademic Area: ResearchScience
The University’s stunning Essex Centre for Research needs your vote!
The building recently won an Ontario Association of Architects’ design excellence award and is in the running for its people’s choice award.
Hariri Pontarini Architects, the visionaries behind Essex CORe, said they were inspired by the design to merge and engage the dense work of science within the welcoming, collegial and natural environment of the University of Windsor.
Voting is done online and closes today at 4:30 p.m.
The winner will be announced on Oct. 1.Essex Centre for ResearchAcademic Area: Science
Research by UWindsor’s Drew Marquardt into how vaping injures the lungs has captured the attention of the chemistry world.
The paper is based on the research carried out at the National Institute of Standards and Technology Centre for Neutron Research in Maryland. Earlier this year, Marquardt’s research was featured by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee after scientists there selected his project for study.
Marquardt and his team have uncovered how vitamin E acetate contributes to EVALI— e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury. Marquardt’s research suggests vitamin E acetate, an oily substance found in some vaping liquids, interacts with the pulmonary surfactant— the liquid lining the alveoli in the lungs over which oxygen breathed in and carbon dioxide passes. The research suggests vitamin E acetate could increase the fluidity of the surfactant, causing the surfactant layer to collapse, resulting in inflammation and shortness and breath.
Vitamin E acetate has been found in the lungs of patients with EVALI. The number of patients with EVALI number in the thousands, the majority of them under the age of 35.
The paper that spawned the recent publicity is authored by Marquardt and his UWindsor research team of Mitchell DiPasquale, Omotayo Gbadamosi, Michael H. L. Nguyen, Stuart R. Castillo, and Brett W. Rickeard; and Elizabeth G. Kelley and Michihiro Nagao of the U.S.’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.
They note their experiments were done on models without protein components or actual alveoli, so more research is needed.
Their research is funded by the University of Windsor, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Ontario Graduate Scholarship program, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Center for High Resolution Neutron Scattering, the National Science Foundation, and the WE-SPARK Health Institute.
—Sarah SacheliDrew MarquardtMitchell DiPasqualeOmotayo GbadamosiAcademic Area: ScienceBiologyChemistry & Biochemistry
WE-Spark Health Institute has published its first quarterly report, entitled Achieving More, Together.
Executive director Lisa Porter said that title will set the direction for the year ahead.
“We are committed to transparency and accountability to our partners, and to our community and will be reporting our ongoing progress through quarterly impact reports,” she said.
The report highlights the key accomplishments for each of the institute’s goals for the first quarter of 2020-21, covering May to July 2020. Read the full report here.Lisa PorterStrategic Priority: Pursue strengths in research and graduate educationAcademic Area: ResearchScience
Just because the COVID-19 pandemic keeps students in the fourth-year course applied entomology away from campus doesn’t mean they have to miss out, says Patricia Okpara.
As the graduate assistant for biology professor Sherah Vanlaerhoven, Okpara has assembled and distributed kits that will enable the students to complete a full collection of insects.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure the students get the most out of the experience,” says Okpara, a doctoral candidate of integrative biology.
She has already distributed more than 30 kits, both by mail and by pick-up through the Leddy Library. Each contains collection vials, pins, brushes — a full set of apparatus for students to prepare and display what they capture.
The students are graded on the variety of orders and families represented by the specimens they collect by the end of the semester, and Okpara notes that diligence pays off.
“It takes some dedication, but you have to get moving early,” she says. “It gets a lot harder to find insects once November rolls around.”
She will be available each week for an online lab to help students identify their samples, and will narrate dissections over a web camera.
“At the end of the course, the students will understand insect anatomy and their importance in ecosystems,” says Okpara. “It’s a really cool course for people who are geeked out about insects.”Patricia OkparaSherah VanLaerhovenStrategic Priority: Provide an exceptional undergraduate experiencePursue strengths in research and graduate educationAcademic Area: ScienceBiology
A UWindsor student is designing a toolkit to help health researchers disseminate information about their work.
Ryan Palazzolo is working on knowledge translation, creating messaging that simplifies information to match the expertise of its target audience. His project will help researchers apply for grants, communicate with other experts, or explain their work to the general public.
“One of the most important things that you have to consider is how do you tailor your information for a diverse audience,” said Palazzolo, a recent graduate from the health and biomedical sciences program who is now taking additional courses in preparation for medical school.
An additional goal of the research is to create a network of students who can form a knowledge translation team experienced in organizing outreach events and putting out educational information about local health research.
Palazzolo’s research is being funded by the University. He is one of 107 UWindsor students receiving $6,000 grants as part of $642,000 in overall funding for research internships.
UWindsor is contributing an unprecedented $471,000 toward these research opportunities. The grants are going to undergraduate and graduate students from Canada and abroad, and are across all disciplines, said K.W. Michael Siu, UWindsor’s vice-president, research and innovation.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected research internships for students everywhere,” said Dr. Siu. “At the University of Windsor, we are trying to make sure our students continue to have exceptional research opportunities despite the current circumstances.”
The project is the first of its kind at the University of Windsor, said Dora Cavallo-Medved, the biomedical sciences professor who is supervising it.
Pointing to the recent spate of grants for local COVID-related research through the WE-Spark Health Institute, a research partnership involving the University of Windsor, Windsor Regional Hospital, Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, and St. Clair College, Dr. Cavallo-Medved said the project fills a need.
“It is apparent that health research teams require support to develop and implement knowledge translation plans to deliver the latest research findings to both the academic and clinical communities, as well as the general public,” she said.
Palazzo is building on volunteer work he has done in public outreach with the Windsor Cancer Research Group. The Windsor native said he hopes other students will be able to pick up where he leaves off.
“There’s not a lot of formal training in this in the sciences,” Palazzolo said. “It’s critical for funding and for community engagement.”
—Sarah SacheliRyan PalazzoloK.W. Michael SiuDora Cavallo-MedvedStrategic Priority: Provide an exceptional undergraduate experiencePursue strengths in research and graduate educationAcademic Area: Graduate StudiesResearchScienceBiology
Even in a virtual format, the Science Academy helped grade 12 students experience life as a UWindsor student.
Now in its seventh year but its first online, the outreach program featured presentations from departments across the Faculty of Science, engaging activities, a science-art challenge, chats with undergraduates, and a showcase of student experiences including undergraduate research.
Nida Almas, a secondary student entering her senior year at Vincent Massey Secondary School, said the experience helped her narrow down the options for post-secondary education.
“The virtual presentations, activities, and challenges were informative and allowed me to explore the departments, resources, and experiences offered at UWindsor,” said Almas. “Upon the completion of Science Academy, I had a better understanding of myself and my preferences in regard to my post-secondary education.”
Her schoolmate Sona Regonda agreed.
“The activities, discussions, and lessons truly enlightened me and opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities,” Regonda said.
She was part of a local team sponsored by the Faculty of Science that placed second at the Youreka Canada National Symposium. The resulting research is being published in the Canadian Science Fair Journal.
The Science Academy also introduced attendees to UWindsor projects on COVID-19 being undertaken by undergraduate and graduate student researchers.
“Science Academy provided me with the opportunity to teach and discuss COVID-19 related research with very engaging young people,” says Cory Coba, a doctoral student of chemistry who presented his research on the development of novel COVID-19 diagnostic tests. “I think initiatives such as this are critical to increasing scientific literacy and ultimately helping individuals make more informed, science-based decisions when appropriate.”
Science Academy participants earned a certificate of completion and had the opportunity to compete for one of 10 entrance scholarships to a Faculty of Science program.—Karthik BaskaranKarthik BaskaranCory CobaAcademic Area: Science
A new video series aimed at connecting students, professionals, and educators with the technology community in Windsor-Essex responds to the remote nature of education today, says Yvonne Pilon.
President of the regional technology hub WEtech Alliance, which sponsored the series, she hopes instructors at the secondary and post-secondary levels will share the videos with their students.
“Along with online learning comes a number of barriers, including isolation and disengagement,” Pilon says. “Knowing that connectedness is a key element of a thriving ecosystem, we wanted to provide a virtual way for first-year and existing students to learn how they can connect to tech amid COVID-19.”
UWindsor students Noah Campbell and Aislyn Laurent are featured in the videos, covering such topics as tech community groups, events, initiatives, news, employment, entrepreneurship, and mentorship opportunities.
“With the loss of in-person networking events due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it can be incredibly difficult for students and young professionals to learn how they can get involved with the many initiatives our tech community continues to champion,” Campbell says.
“The Tech Connect video series addresses this need by outlining opportunities available to community members in an easy-to-digest format.”
To learn more about the Tech Connect initiative and watch the video series at www.youtube.com/wetechalliance.Aislyn LaurentNoah CampbellYvonne PilonWEtech AllianceStrategic Priority: Engage in community partnershipsAcademic Area: Science
WE-Spark Health Institute is hosting a series of conversations during the month of September pairing healthcare executives with award-winning researchers, each bringing their unique perspectives and updates on local research.
Each event in the COVID Conversations series runs from 10 to 11 a.m.
Sept. 9, “Nurses: Health and Well-being in a Border City.” Hear frontline perspectives from Janice Kaffer, president and CEO of Hôtel Dieu Grace Healthcare, along with psychology professor Dana Ménard, a WE-Spark grant recipient who is conducting research in this area.
Sept. 16, “Environmental Monitoring.” Adam Dukelow, interim executive vice-president and chief medical officer of the London Health Sciences Centre, will speak about the public health perspective of environmental monitoring. Joining him is Mike McKay, executive director of the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, discussing his recently-funded NSERC project studying wastewater and COVID-19.
Sept. 23, “Screening and Detection.” David Musyj, president and CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital, will provide a hospital perspective on COVID-19 screening and WE-Spark grant recipient Simon Rondeau-Gagné, a professor of chemistry, will discuss his team’s “lab-on-a-chip” innovation, which aims to advance COVID-19 detection.
“Returning students will learn about the research and activities that have been happening in healthcare over the past several months in our region,” says Lisa Porter, WE-Spark executive director. “This is an exciting and unique opportunity for them to interact with our leaders in the research and healthcare fields.”
COVID Conversations is open to all students, faculty, and staff at its four partner organizations — the University of Windsor, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, St. Clair College, and Windsor Regional Hospital — as well as members of the public.
Register at https://www.wesparkhealth.com/speaker-series.Dana MénardMike McKaySimon Rondeau-GagnéLisa PorterGreat Lakes Institute for Environmental ResearchStrategic Priority: Engage in community partnershipsAcademic Area: Arts, Humanities and Social SciencesPsychologyScienceBiologyChemistry & Biochemistry
Campus flags will be lowered Wednesday, Sept. 2, in memory of retired secretary Helen Bunt, who died Aug. 25.
She joined the UWindsor staff in 1968 as secretary in the Department of Mathematics, a position she held until her retirement in 1996.
Funeral services were held Aug. 28. Find details in her obituary online.Academic Area: ScienceMathematics & Statistics
When Saghi Khani began working on computer algorithms to identify people most at risk of social isolation, little did she know the world would soon be in the throes of a pandemic making that condition more pronounced.
Khani is a Master’s student in computer science at the University of Windsor. She began working with professors Pooya Moradian Zadeh and Saeed Samet on the artificial intelligence project in January. She looks at networks of people and converts a given community into a social graph, the isolated individuals represented as “outlier nodes.”
“I like to work in this field because of its direct impact on society, improving the quality of life of our community members, reducing the chance of depression, heart diseases, diabetes, and mental illnesses such as dementia among older adults and young people who suffer from social isolation,” said Khani.
“I have always been interested in how computer science and A.I. can benefit healthcare systems.”
Khani's research is funded by the University of Windsor and Mitacs, a national not-for-profit organization that creates partnerships among Canadian academia, private industry, and government to provide research and training opportunities. She is one of 107 UWindsor students who are receiving $6,000 research training grants.
In all, the University of Windsor is contributing $471,000 to the $642,000 in research internships. The internships are across all faculties, ensuring students still get training opportunities despite the current pandemic.
Khani said she never imagined how timely her research would turn out to be.
“I was already working on it before COVID-19, and it is crucially relevant now,” she said.
Collaborating on the project is the Windsor-Essex Compassion Care Community, a coalition of people and agencies from all sectors of society looking to improve the quality of life for local citizens.
An international student born and raised in Iran, Khani completed her undergraduate degree in her home country.
“I heard of Canada's diverse and welcoming nature, and I wanted to experience a new life and have an education completely different from what I am accustomed to,” she said of how she decided to pursue her Master’s degree at the University of Windsor.
“It was my way of exploring more of what the world had to offer and, at the same time, expanding my horizon and opportunities.”
—Sarah SacheliSaghi KhaniPooya Moradian ZadehSaeed SametStrategic Priority: Pursue strengths in research and graduate educationAcademic Area: Graduate StudiesResearchScienceComputer Science
UWindsor researchers flew halfway around the world to sample the smallest known living organisms found in freshwater lakes.
Christopher Weisener, a professor in the School of the Environment and researcher at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER), along with Master’s student Emily Varga and doctoral candidate Nick Falk, joined a massive field research project called Lakes380 out of Cawthron Institute in New Zealand.
Lakes380 is a five-year initiative to create a natural archive of the environmental history of water quality by collecting lake sediment from 380 New Zealand freshwater lakes.
The UWindsor team collected samples of microbial communities in New Zealand with a plan to compare them to those found in stressed environments in the Great Lakes and the Detroit river — all in hopes better understanding their response to environmental stress and to try and create a universal tool for detecting when the health of a body of water may be tipping towards deterioration.
“Like the canary in the coal mine, the microbial communities are the first to tell us about stress in an ecosystem,” says Dr. Weisener. “Early on, these microbial communities can alert us to a potentially unhealthy situation, giving us time to react and hopefully reverse the stress or clean the waterbody before the rest of the ecosystem’s health is threatened.”
Weisener and his graduate students flew by helicopter to sample microbial communities in pristine lakes, then worked there way down to lakes adjacent to farmed land, where agricultural runoff is likely.
“Back in the lab, we’ll study their characteristics and gene expression to paint a picture of how microbes behave in healthy environments as well as in disturbed ones,” Weisener says.
His lab has been developing a unique process of tracking the health of an ecosystem by studying bacterial function and gene expression. Extracting functional messenger RNA (mRNA) from sediments and applying transcriptional profiling allows scientists to determine how key genes are expressed when microbes are living in pristine environments versus conditions that are damaged by agricultural practices.
Piggybacking on Lakes380’s field work will give GLIER a unique opportunity to potentially identify and develop universal bio-markers for geographically diverse ecosystems.
Creating bio signatures, Weisener’s team could help create an early warning detection system, a universal tool that monitors the health deterioration of lakes and rivers.
“This is really important as we expand in Canada’s northern communities because we are putting more stress on freshwater systems,” he says. “Microbiology is extremely sensitive because the communities replicate in hours and days vs. in months or years, so our detection method will see changes much earlier than the conventional approach of monitoring insects, birds, fish, and plants.”
Susie Wood, a senior scientist at Cawthron, says her team appreciates the collaboration with the UWindsor researchers.
“It was great to have them join us in the field and to sample some of News Zealand’s highland and remote alpine lakes with them,” says Dr. Wood. “We are very excited to work with them and explore how the metagenetic techniques they have been developing will advance knowledge on the role of microbial process in these unique systems.”
A scientist from the Cawthron Institute was set to visit the GLIER lab to get trained in the mRNA extraction technique, but that plan is on hold until the restoration of travel between the two countries.
—Sara ElliottChristopher WeisenerEmily VargaNick FalkGreat Lakes Institute for Environmental ResearchSchool of the EnvironmentStrategic Priority: Promote international engagementPursue strengths in research and graduate educationAcademic Area: Graduate StudiesResearchScienceEarth & Environmental Sciences
Despite headlines about high deficits caused by expensive COVID-19 programs, governments must avoid the knee-jerk reaction to drastically cut spending, says a UWindsor business and economics instructor.
“While deficits can be problematic if left unchecked and persistent for too long, history and context matter a great deal,” argues Imran Abdool in an article he co-authored with Hance Clarke, director of pain services at Toronto General Hospital.
Published in Policy Options, a magazine produced by the Montreal-based Institute for Research in Public Policy, their piece makes the case for Canada as a great opportunity for investors.
“Canada has the natural resources that the world will need for a very long time,” they write. “It has an educated, modern, and robust knowledge economy.”
They call for the creation of a sovereign wealth fund to invest in the country’s health care system.
Read the entire article, “A sovereign wealth fund for our health care system isn’t far-fetched,” online in Policy Options.Imran AbdoolAcademic Area: BusinessResearchScienceEconomics
WE-Spark Health Institute has launched a new research registry that brings research studies and participants together in a central location. Researchers can post their studies, and the public can learn about local health projects and choose to participate.
The institute’s executive director, biomedical science professor Lisa Porter, notes that local researchers conduct studies and clinical trials in a range of disciplines — from helping to predict organizational resilience and employee engagement to understanding the effects of a pandemic on the mental health of children.
“Whether registering a study, or participating in one, everyone can play a role in informing future health practices and decisions that will have a positive impact on our local community and around the world,” she says.
For more information, visit www.wesparkhealth.com/find-a-study.Lisa PorterStrategic Priority: Engage in community partnershipsPursue strengths in research and graduate educationAcademic Area: ResearchScience
A University of Windsor professor will join a relay along the north shore of Lake Erie to raise awareness and funds for the health of the freshwater ecosystem.
Dennis Higgs of the Department of Integrative Biology will swim the 14 km from Colchester to Cedar Beach during the Lake Erie Challenge on Saturday, Aug. 22.
A team of six other athletes will swim, kayak, or paddleboard the rest of the route from Amherstburg to Leamington, a total of about 50 km of open water. The event is a project of the Canadian Freshwater Alliance, which supports actions to protect the lake and the watershed that feeds it.
“The main push, at least from my perspective, is to highlight what a great recreational resource we have in our own backyard that folks often forget about,” says Dr. Higgs. “There is plenty of emphasis on it for fishing, but less on it as a sporting site.
“We want to highlight efforts to keep it healthy and get more folks to take ownership of it. Now I just gotta survive the 14 km swim!”
He will set out at about 6:30 a.m. and estimates the swim will take four or five hours, depending on weather conditions. The public can follow the progress of all the athletes live via social media:
For more information, or to make a charitable donation, visit LakeErieChallenge.ca.Dennis HiggsStrategic Priority: Engage in community partnershipsAcademic Area: ScienceBiology
An injection of nearly $4.3 million in federal and industry funding will spur University of Windsor next-gen electric vehicle research conducted in collaboration with the Canadian auto industry.
A multidisciplinary team of University of Windsor researchers led by the Faculty of Engineering’s Narayan Kar has received funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in the amount of $1.9 million with additional industry cash and in-kind investment of $2.4 million to develop lightweight, compact, aluminum-intensive induction motors for electric vehicles as well as motor testing technologies.
These high-efficiency, high-performance motors have the potential to significantly reduce costs and extend the driving range of electric cars to meet aggressive 2025 traction motor targets set by the U.S. government, automakers and energy companies.
Ford Motor Company of Canada, D&V Electronics, and Nemak are partnering on and providing funds toward the research project that includes UWindsor experts in materials, electrical, mechanical, thermal, and software engineering.
Recent trends show electric vehicle manufacturers adopting multi-motor, all-wheel drive systems to increase driving range and performance. However, to support mass market adoption of these technologies, Dr. Kar says there is a critical need to develop motors that are high-performing, compact, lighter, cost-effective, and easily manufacturable.
“This collaboration aims to directly address these needs by developing lightweight, multi-material, and high-efficient traction motors with improved thermal and structural integrity,” he adds.
Nemak will cast the developed motor components using its new proprietary, high-strength, electrically conductive aluminum alloy, and D&V Electronics will help assess the new motors using advanced testing technologies. The final result will then be integrated into next generation electric vehicles.
“Nemak is contributing the materials expertise that will guide opportunities for lightweighting and creating an aluminum-intensive electric motor solution,” says Glenn Byczynski, Nemak’s manager for research and development.
D&V Electronics will then step in by providing testing equipment and expertise to examine the motors.
“D&V’s test equipment and over 10 years of testing electric vehicle propulsion knowledge, competence, and experience will allow for quick, effective, and comprehensive evaluation,” says Will Clandfield, engineering manager at D&V.
In addition, the project will train approximately 40 students from undergraduate to post-doctoral fellows.
“Our students will acquire research expertise and capabilities by interacting with supporting organizations to advance induction motor and automated motor testing technologies and to help propel a paradigm shift in overall electric vehicle design,” says Kar, who leads UWindsor’s Centre for Hybrid Automotive Research and Green Energy.
Six UWindsor researchers will contribute to the project, including Xueyuan Nie, Henry Hu, and Ofelia Jianu from the Department of Mechanical, Automotive and Materials Engineering; dean Mehrdad Saif from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Nick Vukotic from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; and Ziad Kobti, director of the School of Computer Science.
The project is funded through an NSERC Alliance Grant, which encourages university researchers to collaborate with private, public, or not-for-profit sector organizations to generate new knowledge and accelerate the application of research results.
“I am absolutely delighted that NSERC has awarded Dr. Kar, his colleagues, and his industrial partners this Alliance Grant to pursue next-generation electric vehicle research,” says K. W. Michael Siu, UWindsor’s vice-president of research and innovation.
“I am confident that this industry-academia collaboration will result not only in crucial electric vehicle technological innovations of significant benefit to our private sector partners, but in eventual societal and economic gains to the Canadian public.”
—Kristie PearceNarayan KarXueyuan NieHenry HuOfelia JianuMehrdad SaifNick VukoticZiad KobtiK. W. Michael SiuStrategic Priority: Engage in community partnershipsPursue strengths in research and graduate educationAcademic Area: EngineeringElectrical and Computer EngineeringMechanical, Automotive & Materials EngineeringResearchScienceChemistry & BiochemistryComputer Science