(LaSALLE, ON) – On May 24, a joint initiative to study and protect the health of the Great Lakes was celebrated with the grand opening of the Freshwater Restoration Ecology Centre, in LaSalle. The centre, located at the foot of Laurier Drive and Front Road, is the only research facility of its kind in the Great Lakes Basin and provides students and trainees with state-of-the-art technology to study the restoration of damaged ecosystems, invasive species biology, and water quality.
“This project started because there was a need for consolidation of expertise around restoration ecology of the Great Lakes,” said FREC director Trevor Pitcher, an associate professor at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research and department of biological sciences. “This centre will allow students and faculty to conduct cutting-edge research on questions about how we restore the environment back to the state it was prior to contamination and prior to industrial use in the area.”
The Town of LaSalle donated riverfront property and financial support for the FREC building and was instrumental in getting the project up and running. The initiative also received funding from the Ontario Research Foundation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
“LaSalle has a huge stake in Great Lakes health and the protection of its fish populations,” said the town’s mayor Ken Antaya. “Much of our community is located on the waterfront and this collaboration with the University of Windsor has allowed our citizens to participate as stewards of the environment in a real and meaningful way.”
Anchored on the shores of the Detroit River, the facility provides ideal access to ongoing restoration efforts in the area, including improving water quality to combat harmful algal blooms, reversing environmental damage caused by sediment contamination, and working to recover species at risk like the lake sturgeon.
As well, the FREC will serve as an educational facility for the community with programs aimed at primary and secondary students already in the works.
“This initiative is an ideal partnership between the University and the community,” said UWindsor’s vice-president of research and innovation, KW Michael Siu. “Great Lakes health impacts everyone and it is encouraging to know that the research taking place at the Freshwater Restoration Ecology Centre will have a direct and lasting impact on the community that helped fund it.”