posted on Jan. 15: McMaster is only Canadian member of university consortium for new metals research


McMaster is the only Canadian university involved in a consortium of eight North American academic institutions that will collaborate on a new metals research centre.

The Centre for Metals in the Environment will conduct applied research focusing on the fate and effects of metals in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. According to the International Lead Zinc Research Organization (ILZRO), which made the announcement in December, research conducted by the centre's scientists and engineers is expected to lead to the creation of reliable predictive models that will assist in the conduct of hazard and risk assessment.

Each of the institutions was selected for its expertise in certain areas. The three participating McMaster faculty are professors Gordon McDonald and Chris Wood, and associate professor Pat Chow-Fraser,all in the Department of Biology. They bring to the centre over 20 years' of knowledge and expertise in the fields of the physiology of aquatic organisms, and the mechanisms of metal uptake and toxicity.

“The point of the research is to come up with more scientifically defensible regulations for the environment,” says McDonald. The focus is on the aquatic environment because that is where most metals end up, he adds.

There are literally thousands of chemicals and it is unrealistic to expect scientists to test them all independently. Rather, the researchers will attempt to group them into classes, and then try to understand how the various groups react on the environment, he explains.

Completing the multi-institutional consortium are: the Universities of Delaware, Missouri-Rolla, and Wyoming, Manhattan College, Oklahoma State University, Colorado School of Mines and HydroQual.

The centre will focus its research activities on three areas: the fate and effects of metals in aquatic systems, the fate and effects of metals in terrestrial systems, and the exposure of metals in the environment. These initiatives will have direct applications to ongoing regulatory issues such as water quality criteria, and issues related to the persistence, bio-accumulation and toxicity of metals.

The centre will have a first-year budget of $500,000, rising to $2 million annually.