River Institute Planning for Growth

September 29, 2016
By Bob Peters

Cornwall Ontario – Cornwall was founded on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, and over 150 years later, that great waterway remains the lifeblood of the community. Fortunately, the scientists and staff at the River Institute are leading the charge to ensure the River remains a healthy part of the local environment for future generations.

The St. Lawence River Institute of Environmental Sciences was founded over 20 years with a mandate of environmental research and education. Its efforts to date have been successful, and if things continue has they have in recent months, significant growth in the scope of the Institute’s activities is likely.

“We have seen increases in demand for our services, which coincides with a general rise in interest about environmental issues from the general public,” says Dr. Jeff Ridal, Executive Director of the River Institute. “We’re excited about the future, and see opportunities to extend the impact of our efforts and expertise.”

To manage this growth, the River Institute has adopted a new strategic plan to guide its efforts for the next 5 years. The main goals of the strategic plan are:

  • Diversify research and innovation
  • Broaden opportunities for education
  • Enhance financial stability and growth
  • Build capacity in the community

“It is important for our staff, partners and the community to have a clear understanding of where we are heading,” says Walter Oeggerli, Chair of the Institute’s Board of Governors. “The Strategic Plan provides a blueprint to guide future initiatives.”

The strategic plan identifies the need for new research staff and technology to support expanding collaborations with universities, colleges and other research institutes – both here in Canada and around the world. The River Institute is looking to build on recent work that uses drones to track fish movements and satellites to monitor water quality.  The River Institute is also looking to expand and enhance its Environmental Technician program that it offers in conjunction with St. Lawrence College in Cornwall.

One key component of the strategic plan is the ongoing work to connect with the community. The Institute is continuing its popular series of workshops that provides insights into the complex biosphere that makes up the St. Lawrence River.

“We are very pleased with the response of the community whenever we hold an event,” says Karen Cooper, Communications Manager with the Institute. “Our scientists and staff enjoy speaking with local residents and helping them understand some of the science within nature.”

One very successful community collaboration was the recent Great St. Lawrence River Clean Up which saw over 400 volunteers from Canada, Akwesasne and the USA work together to locate and remove over 11.5 tonnes of debris from the St. Lawrence River.

“Throughout its history, the St. Lawrence River has provided sustenance, transportation and recreational opportunities for the communities that dot its shorelines,” says Dr. Ridal. “Yet, we also share the river with a long list of fish, eels and other flora and fauna, and we have a responsibility to leave to protect and nurture this wonderful resource.”

About the St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences

The River Institute was established in 1994 as a unique community partnership involving government, education, business and industry, and the Mohawks of Akwesasne. Its mandate is environmental research and education with a focus on the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence River ecosystem. It has earned an international reputation for its fresh water ecosystem research projects. In 2013, the Institute launched a new Applied Research and Technical Services Branch. Find out more here:

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