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Water in lake splashing up

Funding will support three projects examining different aspects of Manitoba's water / Photo: Free Nature Stock

$13 million in new funding supporting research projects vital to Manitoba

May 7, 2015 — 

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the University of Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro announced new funding for three collaborative research teams on May 7. More than $13 million in direct and in-kind funding was awarded by NSERC and Manitoba Hydro to the University of Manitoba to three research teams.

The research teams will seek answers to: the impacts of climate change and hydro-electric activities in the Hudson Bay system; the complex processes affecting river ice formation on the Lower Nelson, Red and Assiniboine Rivers; and better ways to protect and sustain the endangered Lake Sturgeon.

David Barber, Distinguished Professor  in the department of environment & geography, and Canada Research Chair in Arctic System Science, receives $9.14 million over four years for the Collaborative Research and Development project entitled “BaySys – Contributions of climate change and hydro-electric regulation to the variability and change of freshwater-marine coupling in the Hudson Bay system,” with Manitoba Hydro, Hydro-Québec, and Ouranos Consortium.

Gary Anderson, associate head of the department of biological sciences, receives $2.15 million over five years for the NSERC/Manitoba Hydro Industrial Research Chair in Conservation Aquaculture of Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser Fulvescens).

Shawn Clark, associate professor in the department civil engineering, receives $2.15 million over five years for the NSERC/Manitoba Hydro Industrial Research Chair in River Ice Engineering, with Manitoba Hydro and Clarkson University.

Funding for the three projects from NSERC totaled $6.5 million.

“These new NSERC Industrial Research Chairs will enable Dr. Shawn Clark and Dr. Gary Anderson to work with industry partners to strengthen the knowledge base related to operation of Manitoba Hydro’s hydroelectric system. Dr. David Barber will also receive a Collaborative Research and Development grant to study freshwater in the Hudson Bay, to increase our understanding of the impacts of our warming climate on water supply and northern ecosystems,” said NSERC President Dr. B. Mario Pinto. “These investments give researchers the resources they need to further scientific discovery and improve the quality of life of Canadians.”

Manitoba Hydro’s contribution for the three projects totaled $4.27 million.

“We have a long-standing collaborative relationship with the University that we look forward to continuing and enhancing through these projects,” said Scott Thomson, President and CEO of Manitoba Hydro. “Hydro is pleased to partner with NSERC and the University to support research that enhances environmental protection and provides benefits to our customers and Canadians as a whole.”

“Manitoba Hydro’s ongoing support of the University of Manitoba is an excellent example of a relationship that will continue to produce mutually beneficial outcomes for both organizations,” said James Allum, Minister of Education and Advanced Learning.  “Working with leading researchers in partnership with NSERC will produce insights that will inform decision making, ultimately benefiting all Manitobans.”

“We are excited to embark upon this new partnership with Manitoba Hydro to find solutions to very difficult challenges affecting our aquatic and hydrological environments,” said Digvir S. Jayas, Vice-President (Research and International) and Distinguished Professor. “I congratulate the research teams on their success in obtaining these competitive funds.”


More on the projects

BaySys (Hudson Bay System)

The team led by Distinguished Professor David Barber (Canada Research Chair in Arctic System Science) will study the role that freshwater plays in the Hudson Bay marine and coastal systems. The team is made up of collaborators from Manitoba Hydro and the Universities of Manitoba, Laval, Québec à Rimouski, Calgary, Northern British Columbia, and Trent.

Their research will provide a scientific basis to separate the relative effects of climate change from those of hydroelectric regulation of freshwater on changing physical, biological and biogeochemical conditions in Hudson Bay. ‘Bay-wide’ work will be conducted aboard the research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen, where scientists will focus on contrasting the Churchill (low) and Nelson (high) outflows into estuaries. This research will provide the basis for decision making around existing infrastructure operations and core fieldwork components. In addition, it will enhance the quality and capacity of environmental science in the regions in which it operates, produce reliable assessment of impacts of climate change on water supply, and increase our understanding of the effects of climate change on northern ecosystems. More broadly, Nunavut and Canada will benefit from a better understanding of how season shifts in freshwater, sediment and nutrient delivery and climate change may affect primary and fisheries productivity, and transportation in Hudson Bay and how this may change under a future climate.

Industrial Research Chair (IRC) in River Ice Engineering

The IRC, Shawn Clark (civil engineering) will focus on the overarching objective of the research to significantly improve the understanding of river ice processes, and to incorporate this new knowledge into a comprehensive river ice simulation program. This will allow Manitoba Hydro to assess and mitigate the negative effects of river ice on their system. The team includes Clarkson University.

Existing methods used to model ice processes require site-specific calibration. Research is required to further advance the understanding of complex ice processes before they can be modelled accurately. The research team will undertake six projects that overlap three areas that will be studied: 1) River ice formation, 2) Ice hydraulics, and 3) Climate change effects. Results from each of these projects will be used to develop new and improved numerical subroutines that will be incorporated into a comprehensive river ice simulation program. This program will become one of the main mechanisms by which the results of this IRC program will be transferred to Manitoba Hydro as well as other industrial partners and municipalities throughout the country. This will result in better forecasting and help mitigate ice-related issues that affect operations.

Industrial Research Chair (IRC) in Conservation Aquaculture of Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser Fulvescens)

The IRC, Gary Anderson (biological sciences) will examine the effect of environmental parameters on the development of Lake Sturgeon in an aquaculture setting. Due to longevity, late age to sexual maturity, and intermittent spawning Lake Sturgeon are particularly vulnerable to human impacts such as over-fishing and hydroelectric generation. As a result, they are considered threatened or endangered across much of its North American range.

With the support of provincial, First Nations and federal bodies, Manitoba Hydro has used conservation aquaculture and stock enhancement as a mitigative strategy to protect and sustain the Lake Sturgeon populations throughout Manitoba. The research will improve rearing methods to produce fish that may be better suited to contribute to subsequent generations and thus sustain and enhance existing populations, thereby supporting responsible environmental stewardship as the need for hydroelectricity as a sustainable energy source continues.


Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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