Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

June 07, 1999

Metals research network receives $3.5 million from NSERC

New multi-million-dollar funding for a research network investigating the impact of metals on ecosystems in Canada was announced today at the University of Guelph.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) will contribute $3.5 million over the next five years to the Metals in the Environment (MITE) Research Network.

NSERC's support for the MITE Research Network over the next five years will be enhanced by $1.5 million from the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) and Ontario Power Generation Inc. (formerly Ontario Hydro). Funding for research into metals in the environment will now total $6.7 million.

Brenda Chamberlain (MP, Guelph-Wellington) announced the federal government's investment on behalf of Dr. Ron Duhamel, Secretary of State (Science, Research and Development and Western Economic Diversification). "This is a bold interdisciplinary research initiative that will study metals in our environment on a scale never seen in Canada," said Mrs. Chamberlain. "The information produced by this network will be very useful in the formulation of environmentally-responsible policies for the federal government and its partners."

The new funding from NSERC comes in addition to $1.5 million from industry partners, and $1.2 million from three federal departments - Environment Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Natural Resources Canada - making the total investment to date in the MITE Research Network $6.2 million.

The total $6.7 million in metals research funding includes an additional $100,000 MAC will provide annually over five years to support related research in government laboratories.

"This is research critical to our understanding of metals and to improving the environmental quality of our ecosystems," said University of Guelph president Mordechai Rozanski. "Government, industry and university researchers are to be applauded for this multi-disciplinary initiative. The University of Guelph is proud to be home to MITE through the Canadian Network of Toxicology Centres."

The Network's research partners include Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and 12 universities.

Research within the MITE Research Network is structured along three interacting domains:

-- sources of metals in the environment

-- processes by which metals move and transform within the environment

-- impact of metals on ecosystems.

"This research effort is an impressive undertaking that will allow researchers from industry, government and twelve Canadian universities to focus their energies to better understand how metals behave in the environment," said Dr. Tom Brzustowski, president of NSERC. "I'm convinced that students, too, will benefit greatly from working with the network and industry partners."

The NSERC award will help answer critical research questions being asked by scientists and policy makers. The MITE Research Network brings together scientists from universities, industry, and government to establish a framework for managing metals in the environment. Established in 1998, the Network is managed by the Canadian Network of Toxicology Centres (CNTC), which is headquartered at the University of Guelph.

"These research domains are essential for assessing the risk metals may pose and determining how to reduce that risk," said Prof. Peter Campbell, research director and principal investigator for the MITE Research Network.

Professor Campbell, from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique, Université du Québec, is also leader of the research domain looking at the environmental impacts of metals. Other domain leaders looking at processes and sources of metals respectively are Prof. Beverley Hale, Department of Land Resource Science, University of Guelph and Prof. Grant Edwards, School of Engineering, University of Guelph.

A steering committee and a board of directors composed of senior government representatives and industry leaders will oversee the MITE Research Network. An expert advisory panel will conduct an annual peer review. This external peer review panel will ensure that the most relevant research issues are being addressed, and a system for risk management of metals is established in Canada, said Prof. Len Ritter, executive director of the CNTC and MITE Research Network co-ordinator.

"We need to ensure that the research issues being addressed are relevant and that results are communicated as quickly as possible to decision makers," said Ritter.

Current MITE Research Network projects include studies of the distribution of metals in the atmosphere, their deposition and cycling in the terrestrial environment, and their effects on a variety of aquatic organisms.

The funding will allow the Network to establish research teams across Canada to strengthen its scientific investigations and ensure that a range of issues are represented. The funds will be allocated to support metals research in Canada at 12 participating universities: Institut national de la recherche scientifique (UQ-INRS), Carleton, Waterloo, Toronto, McMaster, Université du Québec à Montréal, Université de Montréal, Western, Dalhousie, St. Mary's, McGill and Guelph. Support for graduate students is a key component of the project.

The web site for the MITE Research Network is

NSERC is the national instrument for making strategic investments in Canada's capability in science and technology. NSERC supports both basic university research through research grants and project research through partnerships of universities with industry, as well as the advanced training of highly qualified people in both areas.

For information, contact Communications and Public Affairs, University of Guelph at (519) 824-4120, Ext. 6982.

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