The Great Lakes continue to face complex challenges that demand comprehensive science and policy solutions. With fresh leadership and new experts, the IJC’s advisory boards continue to work to prevent and resolve many challenges facing the lakes, including managing the threat of radionuclide pollution in nuclear facility decommissioning, developing common frameworks for fish consumption advisories affecting indigenous populations, and developing an early warning system for anticipating emerging water quality threats.
The boards recently welcomed several new members.
Great Lakes Water Quality Board
For the first time since its reorganization in 2014, there is new leadership at the helm of the Great Lakes Water Quality Board, the IJC’s principal advisor on matters pertaining to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
The IJC appointed Gayle Wood, a retired Conservation Authority chief administrative officer, to replace outgoing Canadian Co-chair Dr. Rob de Loë, a University of Waterloo professor. With nearly three decades of experience in managing Conservation Authorities around Ontario and six years of experience as a Water Quality Board member, Wood brings extensive environmental, governance and operational experience to the board’s Canadian leadership position.
Commissioners also approved Jon Allan, senior advisor at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, to replace outgoing US Co-chair David Ullrich, advisor to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. Allan’s professional background includes three decades of leadership in environmental and energy policy in the private sector and in state government, and four years of experience as a Water Quality Board member.
"I look forward to expanding upon the strong foundation David and Rob built over the past six years,” Wood said. “Our board is growing into a cohesive team that will coalesce around our priorities for Great Lakes policy research.”
In addition, the Commission recently appointed two new Canadian and two new US members to the board:
- Dr. Chris Paci, chair of the School of Engineering Technology at Confederation College
- Dr. Carolyn Johns, professor of politics and public administration at Ryerson University
- Sara Hudson, Ashland, Wisconsin parks and recreation department director
- George Elmaraghy, federal commissioner for the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation District.
Health Professionals Advisory Board
There is also new leadership guiding the IJC’s Health Professionals Advisory Board. Earlier this year, the IJC approved the appointment of Dr. Laurie Hing Man Chan, professor and Canada research chair in toxicology and environmental health at the University of Ottawa, to replace outgoing Health Professionals Advisory Board Canadian Co-chair Dr. Tim Takaro, associate dean for research and a professor at Simon Fraser University. Chan has served on the board for six years, and his expertise working on issues related to exposure to environmental contaminants, particularly on the health of Indigenous populations, continues to inform the board’s research priorities.
“Under Dr. Takaro’s leadership, the Health Professionals Advisory Board was very successful identifying public health threats that affect riparian communities and developing solutions,” Chan said. “With my co-chair Dr. Faustman and our energetic board, I am proud to help lead the board as we move toward answering many new and challenging transboundary issues, with a focus on addressing the concerns of our most vulnerable communities and Indigenous populations.”
Dr. Elaine Faustman, professor and director of the Institute for Risk Analysis and Risk Communication in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington, continues her tenure as the board’s US co-chair.
“Our board continues to ensure our membership reflects our mandate to investigate water quality impacts on human health across the Canadian-US border,” Faustman said. Our members exemplify the breadth of experience as well as a depth of seasoned professional expertise needed.”
New board members include: Dr. Christopher Stamler, a Wawa, Ontario-based family physician and member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, and Dr. Sharon Nappier, senior microbiologist at the US Environmental Protection Agency Office of Science and Technology Human and Ecological Criteria Division’s Human Health Risk Assessment Branch.
The board’s latest project to launch is a collaboration with the IJC’s Great Lakes Science Advisory Board and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne’s Environmental Program to develop a framework for multiple jurisdictions to develop advisories for fish consumption that considers the latest scientific knowledge and addresses the concerns of fishers and indigenous communities living on the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes.
Great Lakes Science Advisory Board
The Research Coordination Committee of the Great Lakes Science Advisory Board consists predominantly of government research managers and includes some nongovernment research managers. This spring, the Commission appointed two members to the committee:
Marty Blake, acting assistant deputy minister of the Regional Operations Division at Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources, and Dr. Ram Yerubandi, research manager for watershed hydrology and ecology at the Research Division of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Canada Centre for Inland Waters.
“The water quality challenges facing the Great Lakes are getting more sophisticated, and so is the science and scientific expertise of our board members who dedicate their careers to finding the solutions,” said Dr. Carol Miller, US co-chair of the board’s Science Priorities Committee and director of Healthy Urban Waters at Wayne State University. Later this month, the IJC will be considering the appointments of new SPC members.
Among the various projects the Research Coordination and Science Priorities committees are completing and continuing in 2020 include collaborating to flesh out the management and data components of a “Great Lakes Early Warning System” to anticipate and respond to emerging water quality threats. The first part of the study, wrapping up soon, looks at the feasibility of operationalizing such a system, while the second part, just getting underway, looks to pilot the risk management approach and analytical process such an early warning system might use.
Allison Voglesong Zejnati is video-communications specialist at the IJC’s Great Lakes Regional Office in Windsor, Ontario.