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Clarkson University's Twiss appointed to Great Lakes Science Advisory Board

Clarkson University Professor of Biology Michael Twiss has been appointed as a member of the Great Lakes Science Advisory Board’s Research Coordination Committee for a three-year period.

Clarkson University Professor Michael Twiss on board the U.S. EPA research vessel R/V Lake GuardianThe Science Advisory Board was established to assist the International Joint Commission (IJC) in the exercise of the powers and responsibilities assigned to it under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The board is comprised of an equal number of members from Canada and the United States, who serve at the pleasure of the commission. Members of the Science Advisory Board are expected to serve in an impartial manner, performing their duties for the common good of both countries.

Twiss has 25 years of research experience on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River and has published numerous research articles providing insight into biogeochemical processes in these waters. He says that as a Yankee raised in Ontario on the north shore of Lake Huron, where his Ojibway father-in-law lived, he has a genuine tri-national attitude towards this remarkable globally significant freshwater ecosystem.

Twiss says that Canada and the United States created the International Joint Commission because they recognized that each country is affected by the other's actions in lake and river systems along their shared border; and that the two countries cooperate to manage these waters wisely and to protect them for the benefit of today's citizens and future generations.

The IJC is guided by the Boundary Waters Treaty, signed by Canada and the United States in 1909. The treaty provides general principles, rather than detailed prescriptions, for preventing and resolving disputes over waters shared between the two countries and for settling other transboundary issues. The specific application of these principles is decided on a case-by-case basis.

The IJC has two main responsibilities: regulating shared water uses and investigating transboundary issues and recommending solutions.

The IJC's recommendations and decisions take into account the needs of a wide range of water uses, including drinking water, commercial shipping, hydroelectric power generation, agriculture, industry, fishing, recreational boating and shoreline property.

In the Boundary Waters Treaty, Canada and the United States agreed that neither country will pollute boundary waters, or waters that flow across the boundary, to an extent that would cause injury to health or property in the other country. When asked by governments, the IJC investigates, monitors and recommends actions regarding the quality of water in lakes and rivers along the Canada-United States border. Much of the commission's work focuses on helping governments clean up the Great Lakes and prevent further pollution, such as at the local St. Lawrence River at Massena Area of Concern.

References to the IJC have focused mostly on water and air quality and on the development and use of shared water resources. For example, one reference led to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (1972), in which the two countries agreed to control pollution and to clean up wastewater from industries and communities.

The recently ratified Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (2012) continues the commitment to rid the Great Lakes of persistent toxic substances, which remain in the environment for a long time and can poison food sources for animals and people. Although IJC reference recommendations are not binding, they are usually accepted by the Canadian and United States governments.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park, and a half hour south of the Saint Lawrence River, the natural outflow of the entire Great Lakes, in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University Professor Michael Twiss on board the U.S. EPA research vessel R/V Lake Guardian in June 2013, investigating the role of phytoplankton in the ongoing increase of nitrate in Lake Ontario. (Photo credit: Anthony Chappaz)

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[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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