To fully understand any natural ecosystem there must be a comprehension of how the various aspects of this system work together. This requires an understanding of the organisms present and the physical environment they live in. The classic discipline based science programs, ie. biology, earth science and chemistry, supply a base of knowledge in one particular area and this background is good for working on certain types of problems, but to understand how natural systems operate much broader knowledge from a range of disciplines is needed. The Water Resource Science program is designed to fill this need. Courses concerned with the biological, physical and chemical aspects of aqueous systems are combined to provide the students with a comprehensive understanding of how these systems operate and the interdependence between the organisms and their physical environment.
From the introductory courses in biology, earth science, geography and chemistry taken in first year the student moves on to do courses such as wetland ecology, environmental geochemistry, limnology (the study of lakes), groundwater and water resource management. This mix of courses gives students the opportunity to look at aqueous systems through the eyes of specialists who work on the different aspects of these systems.
Graduating students have the skills necessary to work on a wide variety of problems incorporating our current knowledge of the biology, chemistry and physical processes active in natural wetland, lake, river and groundwater systems.
This is the only under-graduate program in Canada specializing in Water Resources, and northwestern Ontario is the best place in the country for such a program to be run. We are on the shore of the largest lake in the world, with pristine water quality. Immense tracts of the woodlands, lakes and rivers constituting the boreal forest lie to the immediate north. Either of these can be accessed within minutes from the campus of Lakehead University. In fact, though the university is within the city of Thunder Bay it is in a forested setting with a river running through it. This setting provides a natural laboratory for our students where they can collect samples and within a few minutes be in the lab running analytical procedures on the freshly collected material. Compare this to other universities where students study often badly preserved specimens that the university has brought from some company in the U.S. who collected them months ago.
Weekend field trips are run for students in the program as well as field trips provided by individual courses. The river flowing through campus is used instead of lecture theatres for some classes meeting in the fall. Here ideas can be discussed right in the natural environment being studied, sometimes with most of us right in the river. This type of learning experience is rare at other Canadian universities which are often located far from primordial forest with undisturbed natural systems.
This program's interdisciplinary nature, strong component of hands-on, field-based learning and firm base in science sets it apart from other environmental studies and environmental science programs across Canada.
It is a unique program in a perfect setting for learning about this branch of science.