Whether we like it or not, Canada's waters are under increasing pressure to support greater economic activity. Be it the energy sector, agriculture, mining or urbanization, our aquatic ecosystems face an uncertain future.
University of Lethbridge biological sciences professor Dr. Joe Rasmussen is a key component in helping people understand the adverse effects that economic activity can have on our waters. One of the country's most recognized water researchers, his peers recognized him when a Canadian professional organization of limnologists (aquatic ecosystem researchers who study lakes and rivers) awarded Rasmussen its highest honour.
Rasmussen, a Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Ecosystems, received the Frank H. Rigler Memorial Award at the joint annual meetings of the Society of Canadian Limnologists and the Canadian Conference for Fisheries Research.
The award recognizes and honours major achievements in the field of limnology by Canadians or those working in Canada. Emphasis in selection is given to established aquatic scientists whose work is recognized for its influence and importance.
Rasmussen teaches ecology, aquatic ecosystems and aquatic biology. He has served on a wide range of advisory panels across Canada dealing with water management issues ranging from in-stream flow to water quality criteria, and has done groundbreaking research in a number of key areas relating to the management of water and aquatic resources.
Canada's waters are a valuable resource and as pressure is exerted upon them economically, the role of the aquatic researcher becomes more essential.
"There is also the issue of 'regulated rivers,' which include both reservoirs and their downstream tailwaters. They are and will be an increasing part of the limnological landscape," says Rasmussen.
"Most recently, the research that my laboratory has been in engaged in crosses over from limnology to fisheries research, a process I am encouraging more researchers in both of these disciplines to do. For example, we are examining the scientific criteria used to assess fish habitats under the Fisheries Act, which has become a prominent component of environmental regulation in Canada following the Supreme Court decision on the Oldman River dam during the 1990s."
He says being recognized by his peers is humbling.
"The Rigler award means a great deal to me both personally and professionally. Personally, it is gratifying because so many colleagues and former students from all over Canada belong to the society, and to be honoured by friends with whom I have worked with throughout my career brings back many wonderful memories," says Rasmussen. "It is also very gratifying to receive an award that has been given to many excellent scientists over the years, and to have my name associated with that of professor Rigler, who had such a profound impact on limnology and aquatic science in general."
The award also reaps benefits for the University and could result in an influx of funding and research opportunities.
"I have already been contacted by a number of people who would like to come to Lethbridge and work in my laboratory," Rasmussen says. "The prestige associated with this award, and others like it, can also make it somewhat easier to obtain grants and other types of funding for research, and this helps keep the wheels turning."
For a look at Rasmussen's involvement with the Oilsands Advisory Panel, follow this link.