A $10,000 reward is being offered to the person who returns a stolen computer filled with invaluable and irreplaceable aquatic research data.

Someone took a laptop from within a car owned by a graduate student at the Great Lakes Institute at the University of Windsor.

The car was parked outside Jade restaurant Wednesday night. That is when the laptop filled with a vast amount of experimental data collected from acoustic tracking devices that had been implanted in fish in an area pond went missing.

"Whoever stole it can keep the computer," said Aaron Fisk, head of the Great Lakes Institute. "We won’t even press any charges. It’s just really important that we get the data back."

Fisk is an ecologist who studies the migratory patterns of a wide variety of aquatic species.

"Unfortunately none of the data had been backed up yet," Fisk said. "If we don’t get this laptop back, that data is lost forever."

Fisk called the two-month study "very involved" and the loss of the computer "catastrophic."

"It may not seem like a lot but it was a very involved project. We spent $50,000 on it, to buy the tags we put on the fish and rent some of the receivers we used. The amount of money and time and effort that went into it can’t be duplicated."

Fisk said his group was the first in the world to test the equipment and collect this data.

"We have small pieces of data and it was incredibly successful. This will have a big impact on fish movement research," Fisk said.

Federal funds were used to pay for the project. The work can be duplicated but Fisk now needs to find an additional $50,000 if the data is lost.

The laptop is a silver Apple Macbook Pro, with a 15.4-inch screen. It has a circular red and white sticker with a yin and yang symbol and Chinese writing over the Apple logo. It also has  a long dent down the back of it.

"Quite frankly, I’d give the computer to the person and give them the reward to get that data," Fisk said. "I’m not going to pursue any legal action."

Fisk also fears the grad student will struggle to finish their work without the data.

Anyone with information, or the computer, can call Fisk at 519-253-3000, ext. 4740 or email him at afisk@uwindsor.ca.

"No questions asked," Fisk said.