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Home » Environment » Our Water » The Canadian Rivers Institute Celebrates 20 Years Advancing the Health of River Ecosystems
Michelle Gray CRI Director

Michelle Gray

Director, Canadian Rivers Institute

The Canadian Rivers Institute is a community of aquatic science experts that practices solution-oriented science to achieve their mission to make every river a healthy river.

Establishing a community of passionate experts

Founded in 2001, the Canadian Rivers Institute (CRI) began its journey to make every river a healthy river. Leading this mission was a group of passionate aquatic science experts from various disciplines at the University of New Brunswick’s Fredericton and Saint John campuses.

Operating as a bi-campus initiative benefited CRI by allowing access to study diverse water bodies within proximity of each other. This included rivers emptying into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Bay of Fundy and the associated coastal waters, with a particular focus on the Saint John River. The strategic location and sharing of resources fostered a rich environment for multidisciplinary research in fisheries, ecology, river science, estuarine science, and ecotoxicology.

Establishing their roots at a single university also provided CRI with the autonomy to make decisions that have helped fulfill their vision of becoming a national and international leader in aquatic science research and education.


CRI growth and milestones

Over the past twenty years, CRI steadily grew its network to include fellows and associates from universities, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations to champion its mission across Canada and beyond.

These partnerships allowed CRI to develop a broader science-based framework to assess the health of lakes, rivers, and estuarine ecosystems, and formulate effective solutions to manage societal demands for water without compromising aquatic ecosystems.

In 2005, CRI was a co-recipient of the Synergy Award for Innovation from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), which brought national recognition to their work. Their reputation of quality research opened opportunities to advisory roles with regulatory agencies such as Environment and Climate Change Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

canada river institute infographic

One of their major projects included The Saint John River: A State of the Environment Report in 2011. Through partnerships with federal and provincial agencies, industry, and funding from various non-profit organizations, CRI published a comprehensive synthesis of the river’s condition that covered socioeconomic conditions, river habitats, water quality, primary production, fish, and traditional ecological knowledge.

Over time, CRI built credibility for their expertise, which led to the request of their service for the Mactaquac Aquatic Ecosystem Study (MAES). Starting in 2014, this ongoing two-phased project, amounting to an $8 million dollar investment from the New Brunswick Power Corporation, Grand Lake Meadows Fund, NSERC, New Brunswick Environmental Trust Fund, and New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund supports the development of best practices for hydro facilities to mitigate environmental impacts.

Alongside CRI’s consultative accolades, they celebrate their students and graduates across 16 institutions in Canada and internationally that champion their mission and cement their legacy.

Future focus of CRI

CRI will continuously strive to achieve their vision of making every river a healthy river by investing in training and education, solving complex challenges such as the impacts of and adaptation to climate change, incorporating Indigenous ways-of-knowing into research, improving the understanding of scientific knowledge to promote science-based decision making across industries, and growing their network to broaden their capacity for interdisciplinary research.

The success of CRI is possible because of the collaborative and authentically collegial community established twenty years ago. The depth and breadth of expertise within its membership make it capable of taking on large projects throughout the country and building international partnerships. Their dedication to solution-oriented science produces work that sets a precedence for research institutes, government agencies, and industries nationally and internationally to follow.

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