McMaster team tackles Great Lakes conservation

The fate of the Great Lakes lies in the hands of a McMaster PhD student—at least in some small part.

The fate of the Great Lakes lies in the hands of a McMaster PhD student—at least in some small part.

Savitri Jetto, a second year civil engineering PhD candidate, has been selected to contribute a paper to the Great Lakes Futures Project. She was one of 16 students selected from over 20 universities to take part.

The project is a two-year undertaking of the Transborder Research University Network—a group of universities from Canada and the United States—that aims to find solutions to ensure a sustainable future for the water in our Great Lakes.

"The ultimate purpose is to get a group of Great Lakes experts together to imagine what the future looks like in 50 years," Gail Krantzberg, a McMaster professor and one of two Canadian co-leads for the project, said. She’ll be helping to organize the structure of the program and research.

Over the next few weeks, Jetto and her peers will be crafting papers that highlight eight specific drivers influencing the future of the Great Lakes, including the economy and water quantity.

In January, participants and invited guests such as policy makers will meet for a workshop at the University of Michigan to present the papers and look at what needs to be done to achieve the best possible future for the Great Lakes.

"We want to find out what policies are going to get us to that happy place of resilient Great Lakes," Krantzberg explained.

"Right now, we don’t have any strategic understanding of the policy we need to get there. We tend to plan policies for the next two to five years, but this is a much bigger problem."

Young people needed for Great Lakes conservation

The project has already garnered attention from the Provincial Ministry of the Environment, according to Krantzberg but she said she’s most proud of the number of students who are participating.

"We need the youth to be stewards," she said. "You look around Great Lakes meetings and you don’t see anyone much younger than 40. It’s important to get youth involved."

If invited to attend the workshop in January, Emma Lui, the water campaigner for the Council of Canadians, said her group would "certainly consider it."

But she stressed the project needs to focus on governance above all else in order to be successful.

"It’s important they look at different governance frameworks because our current governance framework is essentially failing the Great Lakes right now," Lui said.

"If we don’t look at that now, we’re sealing the fate of the Great Lakes."