Laurentian University in Sudbury is teaming up with 10 other Canadian universities to study wetlands, lakes and rivers across the country.

Laurentian University professor Daniel Campbell said his university's research will focus on watersheds in northern Ontario — especially in the Far North, near Hudson Bay and James Bay.

"It's an area that's in development now, mining development," he said.

"It's also an area where we're expecting to have relatively larger changes in climate in the next 50 years … It's also an area that's relatively poorly understood as far as ecosystems or ecology."

Campbell said he hopes the research will lead to better resource development.

'Tremendous move forward'

The universities received $4.4 million from the federal government through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council to create the NSERC Canadian Network for Aquatic Ecosystem Services (CNAES).

Participants in the CNAES include University of British Columbia, University of Guelph, Laurentian University, McGill University, University of New Brunswick, Nipissing University, Université du Québec à Montréal, University of Toronto, Trent University, University of Waterloo and Western University.

"This is a tremendous move forward for those of us working in freshwater ecology and related fields," said John Gunn, Canada research chair for Stressed Aquatic Systems and director of the Vale Living with Lakes Centre at Laurentian University.

"The CNAES represents our foremost researchers nationwide, working in the academic, governmental and industrial sectors to improve the long-term health of our waterways and wilderness areas."

Gunn said the funding will help researchers "continue our fieldwork and our partnerships with First Nations in the Attawapiskat watershed and other regions of northern Ontario."

Gunn is one of six CNAES principal investigators based at Laurentian University, which includes Campbell, Tom Johnston, Bill Keller, John Bailey and David Pearson.