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Waterloo Quality

Science of streams flourishes at Waterloo

Biology professor Bill Taylor, Canada Research Chair in Limnology, studies human impacts on lakes and streams. Photo: Simon Wilson

“This is a place where applied and basic science can commingle without any artificial barriers. Waterloo is very supportive of collaborative endeavours.”

The Grand River flows for more than 300 kilometres, streaming right through the heart of Waterloo Region. More than 500,000 people rely on it for their drinking water, with many more using it to remove their sewage, and for athletic and recreational activities.

With water symbolizing one of our community’s most precious resources, it comes as little surprise that the University of Waterloo is renowned for its aquatic research, serving as an incubator for many scientific breakthroughs and discoveries.

Stream ecology is a discipline that Waterloo had a key role in developing. Noel Hynes, first chair in the Department of Biology, pioneered the field by studying streams and their associated drainage basins together as ecosystems.

Stream ecology looks at how stream ecosystems function by examining the biology of organisms that live in streams, and their relationships to each other, the stream environment, and the broader ecosystem.

Bill Taylor, professor in the Department of Biology, recalls the time when Hynes published a scientific paper that changed the way scientists studied stream communities.

“Noel published an important paper called ‘The Stream and its Valley’, based on an invited lecture that he presented to the International Society of Limnology,” Taylor says. “He got scientists thinking about how food webs in streams depend on the surrounding ecosystem, and how pollution and changes in land use can affect them.”

Today, stream ecology research at Waterloo continues to flourish. Professors in science and other faculties conduct research in areas such as groundwater, waste water treatment, fisheries management, the health assessment of streams, and environmental toxicology.

Taylor believes research is thriving at Waterloo because it is a good breeding ground for new ideas. “This is a place where applied and basic science can commingle without any artificial barriers,” he says. “Waterloo is very supportive of collaborative endeavours.” 

> Canada Research Chair in Limnology

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