Seminar topics

Remember that you’re presenting these topics to people from both China and Canada, encompassing a range of academic backgrounds as well. Please provide a geographic context (e.g. put a map in your presentation showing the area you’re talking about in relation to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans) as well as sufficient background information to provide relevant context in terms broader environmental and conservation issues.

The article citations and links provided are to get you started on the topics, and are not the only sources of information that you should use.


The seminar ideas are to help you focus your presentations (you do not have to cover all of these), as some of the topics are very broad. Such focus is critical to keeping seminars within the allotted time. If you have questions in regards to the outline of your talks, please feel free to contact one of us.


Enjoy, and don’t forget to check out the link “Seminar Details” for details on expectations for your seminar and presentation tips! Click |here| to access a pdf version of slides Lougheed uses for a talk on giving a good presentation.

Assigned articles:

1. Species richness naturally varies over time and space, and understanding how humans alter natural assemblages requires understanding the factors implicated in these natural patterns. What are the major determinants of fish diversity within and among watersheds in North America?


Presenter: Erin Worndl


Some Useful Readings:


Some seminar ideas:

-      What is the latitudinal gradient and does it apply to freshwater fishes?

-      How does species richness vary with area (e.g. lake or watershed size)?

-      What role do local and regional factors play in determining fish species richness?

-      How important are historical events in shaping contemporary patterns of diversity?

-      What environmental/ecological factors best predict fish species richness?


2.    What are the ecological consequences of invasive species in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River (e.g. lamprey, zebra mussels, and round goby)?


Presenter: Scott MacIntyre


Some Useful Readings:


Some seminar ideas:

-      What is the definition of invasive species (and do invasive species always have exclusively negative impacts on native fauna and habitat structure)?

-      What of the geographic sources of various invasive species and what was the means of transport?

-      What are the current issues related to the presence of invasive species (list some examples like the lamprey, zebra mussels, or Phragmites)?

-      Are all foreign species introduced destined to be successful (generalists vs. specialists high vs. low fecundity)?

-      How did construction of the Erie Canal and St. Lawrence Seaway impact the spread of invasive species?

-      Can you propose some means to control or mitigate the spread of invasives in the Great Lakes?


3. Social and biological impacts of flooding of terrestrial habitats in the James Bay area in the 1970s by Hydro Quebec.


Presenter: Myroslava Mykytyn


Some Useful Readings:


·     Sierra Club


·     Berkes. 1981. Some environmental and social impacts of the James Bay hydro electric project Canada. J. Env. Manage. 12: 157 -172.

·     Duchemin, Lucotte, Canuel et al. 1995. Production of the greenhouse gases CH-4 and CO-2 by hydroelectric reservoirs of the boreal region. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 9: 529-540.

·     Horning, James F. (ed.) 1999. Social and environmental impacts of the James Bay hydroelectric project. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press.


Some seminar ideas:

-      What was the political, cultural and social context surrounding the development of the James Bay hydroelectric project?

-      What were the pros and cons initially presented in the context of this large hydroelectric project; and who were opposed the project and why?

-      Who were and are the stakeholders?

-      What environmental impacts have been felt as a consequence of this development: Gas emissions? Aquatic contaminants? Human health?

-      What implications are there for future projects (brief)?


4.   Damming of natural migration routes, fish ladders etc. Dams in Canada


Presenter: Jessica Holdcroft


Some Useful Readings:




·     Waples, Zabel, Scheuerell et al. 2008. Evolutionary responses by native species to major anthropogenic changes to their ecosystems: Pacific salmon in the Columbia River hydropower system. Molecular Ecology 17: 84-96.

·     Jager. 2006. Chutes and ladders and other games we play with rivers. I. Simulated effects of upstream passage on white sturgeon. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 63: 165-175.


Some seminar Ideas:

-      What are the major biological issues associated with dams and fish ladders (fish and other migratory animals)?

-      There are relatively few dams on the Fraser River, none on the main trunk of the river. One blockage did occur during the building of the transcontinental railway, where a whole cohort of fish was almost lost. This is an interesting story, the effects of which are still seen today.

-      The Columbia River system is the real story for dams. There are 8 plus dams on this system. You could draw parallel to damming issues in the Three Gorges and other Chinese river systems.

-      What are the evolutionary effects of dams on native fish species? What impacts do dams have on metapopulation dynamics? Can ladders surmount these issues?


5. Loss, degradation and conservation of North American Great Lakes wetland habitats.


Presenter: Matthew Ponsford


Some Useful Readings:

·     Great Lake wetland economic values:

·     Great Lakes wetland conservation:

·     Hamilton Harbour – Case Study:

·     Beeton. 2002. Large freshwater lakes: present state, trends, and future. Env. Cons. 29: 21-

·     Loftus, Smardon & Potter. 2004. Strategies for the stewardship and conservation of Great Lakes coastal wetlands. Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management 7: 305-330.

·     Houlahan et al. 2006. The effects of adjacent land use on wetland species richness and community composition. Wetlands 26: 79-96.


Some seminar ideas:

-      What do we mean by term “wetlands” (i.e. list wetland types) and what is their functional importance in hydrology and in housing biodiversity?

-      How and why are wetlands being destroyed in the Great Lakes Basin?

-      What are the benefits of maintaining wetlands (or even in facilitating their recovery)? See article on putting an economic value to wetlands

-      Can you propose some measures that would mitigate or reverse the negative impact of wetland destruction?


6.  The effects of deforestation on aquatic diversity and river hydrology in Canada.


Presenter: Emily Jibb


Some Useful Readings:

·     Consequence of deforestation

·     Smith et al. 2003. The Forest Watershed and Riparian Disturbance study: A multi-discipline initiative to evaluate and manage watershed disturbance on the Boreal Plain of Canada. Journal of Environmental Engineering and Science 2 Suppl. 1: S1-S13.

·     Chanasyk et al. 2003. The impacts of forest harvest and wildfire on soils and hydrology in temperate forests: A baseline to develop hypotheses for the Boreal Plain. Journal of Environmental Engineering and Science. 2: 51-62.

·     Tonn et al. 2003. Effects of forest harvesting and fire on fish assemblages in Boreal Plains lakes: A reference condition approach. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. 132: 514-523.


Some seminar ideas:

-      How are terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems connected? How are watersheds described and circumscribed?

-      How can logging and fire alter hydrology and water quality (and how might their impacts differ)?

-      How might deforestation alter aquatic diversity?

-      What are some specific examples of the impact of deforestation on eastern, western or interior watersheds?

-      What can be done to mitigate these impacts?


7.   Relationship between agricultural practices and aquatic ecosystems: nutrient loading (N& P), eutrophication induced by fertilizer use and livestock.


Presenter: Larissa Ho


Some Helpful Readings:





·     Little, Saffran & Fent. 2003. Land use and water quality relationships in the lower little Bow River Watershed, Alberta, Canada. Water Quality Research Journal of Canada. 38: 563-584.

·     Schindler, Dillon & Schreier . 2006. A review of anthropogenic sources of nitrogen and their effects on Canadian aquatic ecosystems. Biogeochemistry 79: 25-44.


Some seminar ideas:

-   What is agricultural run-off and how does it affect aquatic ecosystems (be sure to itemize the impacts of different components of run-off)?

-   What other sources of N and P that end up in into aquatic ecosystems?

-   What causes eutrophication and how does it alter community structure and function?

-   What are some measures that can be taken to both reduce agricultural run-off and its effects?

-   How do we quantitatively assess the impacts of agricultural run-off?

-   Can we reverse these impacts? Is all agricultural run-off always bad?


8. The impact of acid rain on aquatic diversity and ecosystem function (Sudbury area and Canadian Shield).


Presenter: Michael Tredree


Some Helpful Readings:

·     Definition of acid rain:

·     Environment Canada site:

·     Portal for case studies:

·     Petrin, Englund & Malmqvist. 2008. Contrasting effects of anthropogenic and natural acidity in streams: a meta-analysis. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences. 275: 1143-1148.

·     Doka et al. 2003. Assessing potential for recovery of biotic richness and indicator species due to changes in acidic deposition and lake pH in five areas of southeastern Canada. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 88: 53-101. 


Some seminar ideas:

-   What is acid rain and what activities produce it?

-   What are its effects on local diversity and the characteristics of aquatic ecosystems?

-   How does physical geochemistry affect an ecosystem’s buffering capacity towards environmental change?

-   What measures can mitigate and/or remedy acidified water bodies (coordinate with seminar presenter 12)?


9. Influence of pesticides, herbicides and urban and industrial xenobiotics on aquatic vertebrate diversity (e.g. fish and frogs).


Presenter: Jordan Bowman


Some Helpful Readings:



Some seminar ideas:

-   What are the various sources of xenobiotics in aquatic environments?

-   What different classes of compounds are released into the environment, and what effects (generally) do they have on aquatic vertebrates like fish and amphibians?

-   How might different compounds interact synergistically with other compounds? Other non-chemical anthropogenic environmental changes?

-    What dangers are posed to human health?


10. Status and environmental impacts of aquaculture in the North America.


Presenter: Ian Miron


Some Helpful Readings:

·    Great Lakes Fisheries Commission (many publications from the GLFC):

·    OMNR:

·    Great Lakes United:

·    Oldenburg, Stapanian, Ryan et al. 2007. Potential strategies for recovery of lake whitefish and lake herring stocks in eastern Lake Erie. Journal of Great Lakes Research 33 Suppl. 1: 46-58  

·    Hilborn. 2006. Salmon-farming impacts on wild salmon. PNAS 103: 15277.

·    Liu et al. 2008.Can farmed salmon production keep growing? Marine Policy 32: 497-501.


Some seminar ideas:

- What changes have occurred to fish species composition over the last century?

- What are the major causes of species loss and community compositional shifts?

- How economically important is the Great Lakes fishery to surrounding states and provinces?

- How economically important are farmed fish to the North American populace and economy?

- What means can be deployed to enhance stock recovery of various economically important fish species?

- Can these fisheries be managed sustainably? Can aquaculture alone meet the protein desires/needs of a burgeoning human population?


11. Wildlife effects of oil contamination in Canadian waters.


Presenter: Patricia Larocca (make sure to coordinate with seminar 12 presenter)


Some Helpful Readings:

·        Bay of Fundy:

·        Global spill sites:

·        List of references:

·        US EPA:

·        Brannon, Maki, Moulton & Parker. 2006. Results from a sixteen year study on the effects of oiling from the Exxon Valdez on adult pink salmon returns. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 52: 892-899.

·        Parker & Weins. 2005. Assessing recovery following environmental accidents: Environmental variation, ecological assumptions, and strategies. Ecological Applications 15: 2037-2051.


Some seminar ideas:

- What damage is inflicted upon aquatic ecosystems by oil-spills?

- What factors can exacerbate the impact of oil spills?

- What is the route of hydrocarbon uptake route in biota?

- What strategies can be used for post-spill clean-up, based on our understanding of toxin uptake from oil (e.g., Exxon Valdez case)?

- What negative impacts (if any) might there be for use of oil dispersants?


12. The use of bioremediation in reducing aquatic contamination - A Canadian perspective.


Presenter: Jillian Lalor (make sure to coordinate with seminar 11and 7 presenter)


Some Helpful Readings:

·    Government site:




·    Wang & Mulligan 2006. Occurrence of arsenic contamination in Canada: Sources, behavior and distribution. Science of the Total Environment 366: 701-721.

·    Armstrong, Headley, Peru et al. 2008. Phytotoxicity of oil sands naphthenic acids and dissipation from systems planted with emergent aquatic macrophytes. Journal of Environmental Science and Health Part A-Toxic/Hazardous Substances & Environmental Engineering. 43: 36-42.


Some seminar ideas:

-      What is bioremediation? Phytoremediation?

-      What are the different forms of bioremediation, and what organisms/techniques may be used?

-      What are the pros and cons of using phytoremediation?

-      What contaminants can be removed using such techniques and what pitfalls are there?


13. Effect of human population density on aquatic environments (especially ecopolitics). Populations around the Great Lakes, lying alongside major shipping routes.


Presenter: Amanda Xuereb


Some Helpful Readings:

·     EPA essay on Great Lakes diversity and human impacts:

·     USGS:

·     International Joint Commission Twelfth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality PHYSICAL INTEGRITY: THE IMPACT OF URBAN AREAS ON GREAT LAKES WATER QUALITY. September 2004:

·     The Great Lakes. An Environmental Atlas and Resource Book:

·     Urban, Skelly, Burchsted et al. 2006. Stream communities across a rural-urban landscape gradient Diversity and Distributions 12: 337-350.

·     Olden, Poff & McKinney. 2006. Forecasting faunal and floral homogenization associated with human population geography in North America. Biological Conservation 127: 261-271.

·     Seilheimer et al. 2007. Impact of urbanization on the water quality, fish habitat, and fish community of a Lake Ontario marsh, Frenchman's Bay. Urban Ecosystems10: 299-319.


Some seminar ideas:

-      How many people live in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway catchment?

-      Keeping in mind the myriad connections to other presenters’ topics, briefly … what are the environmental issues associated with massive urbanization and industrialization around the Great Lakes?

-      What are the largest urban centres?

-      How many political jurisdictions are involved?

-      What is the economic importance of shipping to Canada? What environmental impacts are associated with it?


     Here one could relate the Canada/US example to China explicitly. For example the interaction between large-scale human activities and aquatic ecosystems has only endured for a few centuries in North America, whereas it has been going on for millennia in China.


14. Environmental impacts of fish farming in Canada.


Presenter: Harleigh-Anne Hesse


Some Helpful Readings:

·     WWF on fish farming:

·     Economic importance of aquaculture:

·     Escape (fugitive) fish:

·     Competition and introgression with wild populations: Garant et al. 2003. Alternative male life-history tactics as potential vehicles for speeding introgression of farm salmon traits into wild populations. Ecology Letters 6, 541–549


Some seminar ideas:

-      Why has fish farming become so popular? What species are now farmed in Canada (freshwater, marine)?

-      What proportion of fish in Canadian supermarkets is farmed vs. wild-caught?

-      What pollutants might result from intensive aquaculture?

-      What are the implications of escaped fish? (interbreeding and introgression with wild populations; will there be a decrease genetic diversity? Extinction?)


15. Using bioindicator species in assessing environmental contamination. Ecological integrity?


Presenter: Ravichandran Umaibalan


Some Helpful Readings:


Some seminar ideas:

-  What is a bioindicator species?

-  What are the ecological characteristics of good indicator species?

-  How many bioindicators are sufficient to assess “ecosystem health”?

-  How useful are single species as indicators of environmental decline? Provide some specific examples. How about whole groups or guilds of species (e.g. freshwater salmonids, anurans)?