Water Institute Seed Grant recipients announced

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Water Institute is pleased to announce that four research teams have been awarded funding in the Winter 2022 seed grant competition.

The Water Institute’s seed grant program was initiated in 2014 to stimulate interdisciplinary collaboration, international partnerships, and to encourage the development of new research areas that tackle increasingly complex global water issues. 

This year’s seed grant projects include diverse initiatives and unique collaborations, delivering much-needed inspiration and optimism moving into a post-pandemic season.

1. The role of community service organizations in addressing water security in low-income communities in middle to high-income countries: a case study from Brazil

Primary Applicant: 
Susan Elliott, Department of Geography and Environmental Management 

Warren Dodd, School of Public Health Sciences

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on existing inequalities around the globe. This is particularly so in the context of inadequate access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). Approximately 3 billion people currently lack basic handwashing facilities at home, mainly in developing countries. And while we those who have access assume that the problem is focused in the global south, further investigation reveals otherwise.

Water-rich nations like Canada, the US and Brazil experience substantial gaps in access to basic water-related services, with millions of people lacking access to safe water at home.

This team will investigate the socioecological barriers to access to safe WASH in water-rich countries. They will undertake both policy analysis and deliberate dialogue with key stakeholders in a case study in Brazil to inform a large-scale research initiative that entails both intervention and evaluation.

2. WAMPUM Lab: Reclaiming Indigenous Women's Water Governance

Primary Applicant: 
Kelsey Leonard, School of Environment, Resources, and Sustainability

Jennifer Liu, Department of Anthropology
Alex C. McAlvay, Institute of Economic Botany, New York Botanical Garden

This project aims to develop innovative research solutions for the reclamation of historical diplomatic arts – wampum aquaculture, fashioning and treatymaking, improving the capacity of Indigenous women to develop as leaders for climate action and water sustainability.

The project hopes to help reestablish traditional wampum trade networks from the eastern coastal regions to the Great Lakes of Turtle Island (North America). The seed grant will also provide Indigenous women with adequate resources, training, and a supportive community to define a new generation of wampum diplomacy for water governance. Lastly, the seed grant is meant to cultivate a network of Indigenous women HQP that connect across the lifecycle of wampum from harvest to production to diplomatic action to create, innovate, and make their ideas and solutions in response to climate change and water governance a reality.


3. Metabolic Risk on Islands: Water Security in the Caribbean (MetaRisk-Water)

Primary Applicant: 
Simron J. Singh, School of Environment, Enterprise and Development

Kumaraswamy Ponnambalam, Department of Systems Design Engineering
Brent Doberstein, Department of Geography and Environmental Management
Nidhi Nagabhatla, (UNU-CRIS) United Nations University – CRIS/McMaster University

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are at a tipping point from climate change impacts. They contribute less than 1 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but suffer disproportionally from the effects of global warming such as sea-level rise and extreme events as hurricanes, flooding, droughts and water-stress. They are increasingly vulnerable to water stress from the perspective of circulation, integrity, and availability of critical resources, and lack of groundwater protection legislation acts as a barrier for aquifer recharge to maintain the sustainability of water stocks.

The MetaRisk-Water team plans to:1. Conduct an environmental scan of literature related to water stress, risks and experienced impacts in the Caribbean. 2. Develop a common framework and definitions to aid understanding of systemic risks associated with water metabolism (stocks and flows) and related security. 3. Develop strategic partnerships in the Caribbean for a larger research proposal on establishing a Decision Support System (DSS) for enhancing water security and water management in the Caribbean, an area that receives more than 44 million tourists annually.

4. Modelling the transport and beaching of plastics and microplastics in the Great Lakes

Primary Applicant: 
Marek Stastna, Department of Applied Mathematics

Philippe Van Cappellen, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Michael Waite, Department of Applied Mathematics
Francis Poulin, Department of Applied Mathematics
Serghei Bocaniov, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

The transport and beaching of plastics and microplastics is a significant problem for the modelling community. Scientific questions include the role of the winds in systematically driving currents, seasonality including partial ice cover, the role of surface waves in both offshore and nearshore regions (i.e., for beaching of pollutants), and microplastic aggregation and sinking processes controlling the vertical distribution.

A recent Water Institute sponsored discussion with the University of Utrecht identified the modelling of microplastics transport as an important area for collaboration, particularly application of the OceanParcels package to the global oceans for the purpose of modelling the fate and transport of plastics and microplastics.

The proposed project aims to achieve the following goals:
1. Address whether strategies applied to modelling the global ocean transfer to the “inland seas” of the Laurentian Great Lakes (in particular, the roles of seasonality and the atmosphere).
2. Update the 2015 review to include modeling and more recent field work (e.g., that performed by
 participant Wells among others).

Congratulations to all of our research teams.

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