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Aquatic invasive species and the Bio-Web

(Prof. Anthony Ricciardi, McGill School of Environment & Redpath Museum)

The objective of our research project was to examine freshwater organisms being distributed by the online aquarium and biological supply house trade in order to identify those species that could potentially invade and pose a risk to Canada, both ecologically and economically. We compiled a random sample of 263 freshwater species (fish, invertebrates, mollusks) sold via online aquarium and biological supply houses. A risk assessment algorithm was developed to assess the risk of invasion and adverse impacts of these non-native aquatic species to Canada’s ecosystems based on climate tolerance, invasion history, and impact history. With this algorithm, we determined that between 4.9% and 7.6% of the species sampled were classified as high risk and posed a significant potential threat to Canadian ecosystems.

Based on these results a non-negligible proportion of aquatic organisms being imported into Canada have the potential to invade and are likely to have a negative effect on Canadian ecosystems. These results illuminate the risk posed by the online trading and importation of live organisms and the need for more research on the vector. We recommend the use of taxonomic serial numbers to ensure merchants are correctly identifying the species that they have for sale and that the importation of high-risk species be regulated. Proper education in the sale, handling, and disposal of these organisms is also essential among customers and merchants to minimize the risk of accidental or intentional release and the potential establishment of harmful non-native invaders in Canada’s ecosystems.

Canadian regulations concerning introduced species: A review

(Prof. Anthony Ricciardi, McGill School of Environment & Redpath Museum)

Not only do invasive species disrupt ecosystems, spread disease, reduce native biodiversity and affect the availability of natural resources, they also bear economic costs. This paper attempts to review all of the Canadian legislation that addresses this issue. In order to do so, a stock of the legislative tools was taken, followed by a comparison between provinces, territories, and other countries in order to determine where regulatory gaps existed. Upon review, we found heterogeneity in terms of how each piece of legislation framed the problem, as well as in terms of the capacity to manage. As it stands Canada lacks coordination and a complete legal framework to address the problem of invasive species effectively. This review attempts to provide a tool to facilitate the management of this threat to Canada.

Sustainability and curriculum at McGill

(Prof. George McCourt, McGill School of Environment)

Sustainability is a concept that encompasses environmental, economic and social concerns, and involves meeting the needs of current generations without hindering the ability of future generations to meet their needs (AASHE 2010). Over the past two decades, campus sustainability has become an important topic of discussion. In addition, the incorporation of sustainability into the higher education curriculum is gaining momentum for a variety of reasons, and integrating sustainability into the teaching of various disciplines can lead to the large-scale dissemination of sustainability values (Alshuwaikhat & Abubakar 2008).

Nevertheless, many institutions in North America do not adequately provide graduates with the skills, background, knowledge, and habits that will prepare them to meet sustainability-related challenges (AASHE 2010). At McGill, a lack of sustainability teaching was recognized in 2010, when students identified a desire for sustainability to be a greater part of the curriculum (Gray-Donald unpublished data). Incorporating the concept into teaching would be another important step towards fostering a culture of sustainability at the university.

Aquatic invasive species and the Bio-Web

(Prof. George McCourt, McGill School of Environment)

This research project focuses on the OBV for the Vaudreuil-Soulanges watershed, COBAVER-VS. COBAVER-VS's master plan for water outlines the consultation, planning and coordination steps that need to be taken in order for the organization to incorporate IWRM in the watershed region. COBAVER-VS is still in the initial phases of its consultation process. Our study fits in to this process since our objective is to determine the current level of stakeholder knowledge and perceptions of local water issues in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges area.

Pulse Check - promoting energy efficient practices at McGill University

(Prof. Fréderic Fabry, McGill School of Environment & Department of Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences)

In conjunction with Professor Frederic Fabry and the McGill Business Consulting Group, this study aims to address which methods could most effectively change student behaviour in order to promote energy conserving practices on the McGill University campus. After conducting the initial literature review, we hypothesized that feedback methods would be the most successful method of altering students’ energy conservation behaviour. With anthropogenic climate change on the forefront of global concern, it is imperative to establish energy-conscious behaviours amongst impressionable university students, as we are the future generation. With McGill University being both a center of knowledge and energy-use, beginning here seems like the natural choice. To answer our research question, we first conducted a comprehensive literature review to obtain a list of the most prominent methods of social marketing used to promote energy conservation. We looked specifically at universities comparable to McGill. Once these methods were determined, we narrowed down which methods would be successful at McGill in particular by interviewing student organizations on campus. Finally, we conducted a campus-wide student survey to analyze how the methods would be perceived by the student body. Using this threetiered research methodology we determined that material incentives/disincentives, along with education and awareness, as well as competition, are the best methods to reach McGill students, and subsequently alter their energy-consumption behavior. These methods are the basis for our recommendations to our clients, the McGill Business Consulting Group.

Geospatial data liberalization with Open Street Map (OSM) for rural environmental decision-making

(Prof. Renée Sieber, McGill School of Environment & Department of Geography)

Erosion is the most significant form of land degradation worldwide and poses a threat to agricultural production, water quality and infrastructure. Local governments and non-government organizations have begun to address this concern. The clients for this ENVR 401 project, the Municipalité régionale de comté (MRC) d’Acton and the Corporation du développement de la Rivière Noire (CDRN) are among this group. In 1994, responsibility for monitoring and conducting maintenance on riverbanks was transferred from municipalities to MRC in Quebec. Thus, the MRC d’Acton began to conduct maintenance and desired an assessment of the effectiveness of this maintenance in improving the quality of the riverbanks in the Duncan-Cressey watershed. .

Linking farm certification and consumer demand to facilitate sustainable food systems

(Prof. Pete Parker, former Faculty Lecturer, McGill School of Environment

This study identified the perceived barriers preventing Quebec farmers from adopting sustainable practices, and possible solutions to overcome them. Using purposive snowball sampling, a series of semi-structured interviews with 17 farmers in Quebec were conducted. Overall, increased costs of alternative techniques, lack of government subsidies, and difficulty finding information were identified as the top barriers. General government support, direct sale relationship with institutions, and government subsidies were identified as the top solutions. Opinions on certification were diverse but organic farmers generally agreed certification was beneficial. Sustainable certification may also prove useful if standards are established by the government. Creating a sustainable food system requires a collective commitment from all stakeholders.

Lac Ouareau, Québec: Identification of needs, priorities and solutions -- Lake Health

(Prof. Bruce Case, Associate Member, McGill School of Environment & Department of Pathology)

Human activity and development, including discharge from sewage treatment facilities, can lead to increased nutrient concentrations in lakes. Increased nutrient loading causes lake eutrophication, which has severe effects on the surrounding environment and on the quality of services provided to humans by lakes. We examined to what extent human development influenced the trophic state of 275 lakes in Quebec. We used 3 indicators of eutrophication (chlorophyll a, total phosphorous and transparency) and the trophic status index (TSI) to determine the level of eutrophication. We classified lakes into 5 Development Index (DI) categories, based on the abundance and density of homes on the shoreline or within a short distance (5 km) of the lake. Our results suggest that lakes bordered by small towns are more eutrophic than pristine or urban lakes. We hypothesize that sewage treatment systems used in small towns may be less effective and contributing to nutrient loading. We recommend improvements to one type of sewage treatment system used in small towns, facultative lagoons, to reduce nutrient loads and eutrophication in nearby lakes.