Evaluation of Water Quality in the St. Lawrence River to Support Adaptive Management of Water Level Regulation
Mentor: Dr. Michael R. Twiss
Human environmental change influences freshwaters and the ecosystem services they provide. Water level regulation in the globally significant Saint Lawrence River, the natural outflow of the North American Great Lakes, has an impact on river ecology. Water levels in the St. Lawrence River have been tightly regulated since 1958 when the Moses-Saunders power dam was built for power generation, flood control, and navigational purposes. The field of focus of this project will be natural and human-influenced environmental gradients in the International Section of the St. Lawrence River. Due to the enormous volume of water that passes through the St. Lawrence River (8,000 m3/s), the water in the central main channel strongly represents the water chemistry of the headwaters (Lake Ontario) whereas nearer to shore the water quality is influenced by tributary inputs. Work in recent years has demonstrated the different water chemistry and ecology of nearshore versus offshore water masses. There is a pressing need for developing monitoring and modeling capability that can be used to guide adaptive management practices by the International Joint Commission St. Lawrence River Board of Control, which regulates water outflows from Lake Ontario for environmental sustainability. The student involved with this project will assist in the establishment of pilot water quality monitoring stations in the main channel and nearshore of the river in order to assess how water level regulation can impact the aquatic environment. Students will use a wide array of sophisticated electronic sensors and classical sampling methods and obtain expertise in limnological techniques that will be used test hypotheses regarding the optimal location for water quality sampling stations.