Laurier opens Centre for Cold Regions and Water Science

On Oct. 11, Wilfrid Laurier University and partners celebrated the opening of the Centre for Cold Regions and Water Science, located on Laurier’s Waterloo campus. Research within the centre will involve scientists from across Canada and will focus on some of the country’s most pressing questions about water, environmental and resource issues in cold regions, with implications for policy development and resource management.

The opening began with a traditional Aboriginal welcome from Jean Becker, Laurier’s senior advisor: Aboriginal initiatives, followed by words from Max Blouw, Laurier’s president and vice-chancellor.

“It really is a special day, and I think by the buzz in this room everyone is excited to see the building come to completion,” said Blouw. “This will be the home of leading-edge research from scientists all across Canada and, in fact, internationally.”

The two-storey facility will house Laurier’s Canadian Aquatic Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Boreal Ecosystem Research (CALIBER); Laurier’s Cold Regions Research Centre (CRRC); and the Laurier Institute for Water Science (LIWS). It will also house the ecotoxicology activities of the Southern Ontario Water Consortium (SOWC), including equipment and labs, sample preparation and staging areas for mobile trailers.

The facility and the research it houses represent a partnership between Laurier, the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, and SOWC.

Minister Michael Miltenberger of the Government of the Northwest Territories spoke to the partnership between the university and the territory.

“The relationship we have with Laurier is a very important one to us,” said Miltenberger. “As an indication of how important … we have come 4,900 km to be here to share this moment with you.

“The physical structure is beautiful, but we are very, very interested in what’s going to happen in here when it’s operational. This building is symbolic of the relationship we have, and the importance of the work you’re doing and going to continue to do.”

Peter Braid, MP for Kitchener-Waterloo, said the centre is integral to training the next generation of scientists.

“The construction of the Centre for Cold Regions and Water Science would not have been possible without the cooperation of many partners, including the governments of the Northwest Territories and Ontario,” said Braid. “This new centre will integrate the expertise of the university’s research groups and centres already studying various aspects of water management, and it will improve our understanding and preservation of the Canadian boreal forest as one of the largest natural sources of freshwater in the world.”

After the opening speeches, an art installation by Patrick Mahon was unveiled. His work, titled Water Movements/Multiple States, was produced specifically for the Centre for Cold Regions and Water Science building. Mahon utilized layers of sem-transparent coloured resin on plexiglass, as well as frosting techniques that modulate the clarity of the surfaces, to develop an arrangement of fluid forms that emphasize mobility and change. The piece emphasizes physical change as a constant, inferring the importance of attempts to know and control a fluid that is central to human and planetary life, while also acknowledging it as both vulnerable and uncontrollable.

The event ended with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by tours of the building that showcased some of its many features, including four bio-chambers for plants and invertebrates, deep freezers (capable of temperatures as low as -80°C) and aquatic tanks.

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