Water projects receive more than $7.5 million in federal funding

Friday, August 10, 2018

Five Water Institute members are among the 10 campus-wide to receive funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks and Projects to further their transformative water research.

Monica Emelko, Trevor CharlesJuewen Liu, Michael Power, and Michael Tam have received more than $7.5 million to increase research and training in targeted areas that could strongly enhance Canada’s economy, society and environment within the next 10 years.

“I am thrilled to see many interdisciplinary, water-related projects that have received funding from NSERC’s Strategic Partnership Grant,” said Roy Brouwer, executive director of the Water Institute and professor in Waterloo’s Department of Economics. “These projects are highly innovative, tackling some of our most complex water challenges.”

Projects lead by Water Institute members

Strategic Partnership Network Grant

Monica Emelko, Civil and Environmental Engineering – NSERC Network for Forested Drinking Water Source Protection Technologies

Received: $5,500,000

While forest management impacts on water have been well studied, little if any of that work has focused specifically on drinking water treatability, which will likely vary in regionally. The interdisciplinary forWater Network, that includes researchers from several Waterloo departments and across Canada, will provide new knowledge regarding the impacts of different forest management strategies on drinking water source quality and treatability to assess their suitability as source water protection technologies across the major ecological/forest regions of Canada.

Strategic Partnership Grant

Trevor Charles, Biology - Biodegradation of the most commonly used herbicide on earth
Received: $851,400

The most commonly used herbicide on Earth is glyphosate, which kills plants by inhibiting a key enzyme involved in aromatic amino acid synthesis. Charles has assembled a team with complementary expertise in biochemistry, microbiology, bacterial genetics and metagenomics to investigate glyphosate metabolism in agricultural soils by isolating and studying new strains of glyphosate degrading bacteria, searching for novel glyphosate degradation pathways, and detailed characterization of the pathway enzymes. They will also attempt to generate evolved strains with improved glyphosate degradation properties.

Juewen Liu, Chemistry - DNA-gated stimuli-responsive nanostructures for metal sensing and smart remediation

Received: $593,025

Water contamination by heavy metals is a growing problem with serious adverse health effects. Around 40% of the rivers and lakes in America are polluted, and this problem is much more serious in many developing countries. Liu’s project proposes a solution to this problem: a biomimetic device that releases sensing or remediation chemicals only in the presence of target contaminants, while stably flowing in water for long periods of time. Specifically, he will use DNAzyme-gated polymersomes for searching contaminants and remediation – a more efficient approach compared to alternatives such as using chemicals in water for remediation.

Michael Power, Biology- Functional, structural and biodiversity studies of Arctic freshwater watersheds: validating protocols for monitoring and cumulative impacts assessment

Received: $560,800

Power’s project is aimed at the development of an improved understanding of how human-induced changes in Arctic freshwater ecosystems, such as climate change and resource development, may impact the health of northern freshwater resources and the provision of ecosystem services such as sustainable fisheries. The work will establish baseline studies of the structure, function and diversity of the Lake Greiner watershed, Victoria Island Nunavut, from its lowest trophic levels (micros, algae, plankton) to its upper trophic levels (fish) to describe how the functioning and structure of aquatic ecosystems support the production of juvenile fishes and the diversity other resident organisms and the habitats upon which the health and sustainability of fisheries ultimately depend.

Michael Tam, Chemical Engineering - Development of magnetic nanoparticles for enhanced detection and removal of contaminants in waste and drinking water systems

Received: $456,000

Toxic contaminants from manufacturing operations (e.g. chemical plants) and human activities (e.g. detergents, shampoos, pesticides and fertilizers) continue to accumulate in surface and groundwater. Current technologies cannot remove trace amounts of pharmaceutical and personal home care ingredients due to their size and extremely low concentrations. Tam’s proposed research will develop functional magnetic nanoparticles (FMNPs) and a separation process that can be used to selectively remove and concentrate these organic aromatic compounds present in processed waste and drinking water systems.

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