October 8, 2021 3:00am
University of Guelph researchers will be part of a team studying biodiversity conditions around a potential repository site in South Bruce.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization will start a joint environmental DNA research program in the spring of 2022.
Melissa Mayhew is the Senior Environmental Scientist at the NWMO and says the partnership is part of research transparency.
“So this partnership with a respected, higher learning institution, like the University of Guelph, is one of the ways that we are working hard to respond to the requests that local people told us was important in the program,” explained Mayhew.
As for the process itself, scientists will collect and analyze water samples to learn about aquatic species in the surrounding site in South Bruce.
“What they do is analyze water samples, to understand what species are utilizing habitats based on the DNA that they naturally shed into the environment,” said Mayhew. “Using innovative technologies like environmental DNA and more traditional research methods to get an understanding of what the aquatic eco-system is at the moment.”
Once collected, the samples will be taken to the University of Guelph for study.
“One of the big challenges of working with DNA is of course keeping it sterile,” said Mayhew. “So the water is pumped through a housing that traps the environmental DNA on its filter.”
The research program was co-designed with local communities, conservation authorities and experts through a series of workshops and once data collection is completed, the results will be released to the community to guide informed decision-making.
Similar research was conducted in the Ignace area in northern Ontario earlier this year.
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