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MWC 2013 - Plenary 2013

Video of the 2013 Plenary session is now available online.

Craig Williamson
Miami University, Oxford, OH

Managing Water Resources in a Changing Climate: Deciphering the Sentinel Responses of Lakes In a Warmer and Wetter World
The world is getting warmer and wetter, and lakes and reservoirs are some of the most responsive ecosystems. As the lowest point in the landscape these inland waters provide signals of change that we have yet to fully decipher. Understanding these signals is critical to the effective management of surface water resources. Lakes respond in opposite ways to these two components of climate change. Warmer temperatures may increase water clarity but also aggravate harmful algal blooms. Wetter conditions may pose an even more severe challenge by decreasing water clarity due to an increase in dissolved organic matter. Consequences include reduction in UV transparency in particular and the potential for natural and artificial UV disinfection of surface water supplies, and increases in the production of carcinogenic disinfection byproducts. Decreasing UV transparency may also open up invasion windows for undesirable invasive species, while increasing UV transparency may reduce the spawning success of commercially important fish. Extreme events are becoming more common and are aggravating these changes. The question is, can we decipher the meaning of the sentinel responses of lakes and reservoirs in time to improve our ability to manage our water resources effectively in a changing climate?

Craig Williamson leads the Global Change Limnology Laboratory in the Department of Zoology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He received his PhD from Dartmouth College and was a faculty member in limnology and aquatic ecology at Lehigh University for over two decades. In 2005 he moved to his current position as the Ohio Eminent Scholar of Ecosystem Ecology at Miami. Williamson’s expertise is in the ecology of ultraviolet radiation, and his current interests are centered on understanding the value of lakes as sentinels of climate change. As the lowest point in the landscape lakes provide signals of change in local, regional, and global climate conditions. His research focuses on a variety of questions ranging from the effects of UV and climate change on the ecology of infectious diseases to developing and deploying mobile as well as profiling buoy systems with advanced sensors. The lakes on which he works range from inland reservoirs in highly disturbed agricultural landscapes to heavily forested glacial lakes and high elevation alpine lakes. Williamson serves on the United Nations Environment Programme Environmental Effects Assessment Panel which reports to the United Nations annually on the status of UV effects related to ozone depletion, under the auspices of the Montreal Protocol. He also serves on the Freshwater Indicators Technical Team for the United States Global Change Research Program that prepares the National Climate Assessment for the president and congress. He and his students do comparative lakes research in collaboration with the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON), National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), and marine scientists as well. For more details, see the text, photos, and videos at:

Timothy Ford
Dean of Graduate Studies and Public Health and Interim Dean of the Westbrook College of Health Professions, University of New England

Global Studies in Water and Health: Implications for Maine

Waterborne disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, yet we continue to struggle to effectively make the epidemiological link between exposure and disease.  This is critical if we are to influence policies for positive change. In this talk, examples will be used from studies in Russia and India, and the difficulties of sustaining interventions to reduce the burden of waterborne disease discussed. Key questions are: how are we so different in the US, and particularly in rural Maine?  and; does climate change place water supplies at significant risk, and what opportunities are there to improve surveillance for waterborne disease?

Tim Ford obtained his PhD in aquatic microbiology from the University College of North Wales. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, he joined the faculty of the Harvard School of Public Health where he both founded and directed the School’s Program in Water and Health. After 17 years at Harvard, he joined the faculty of Montana State University (MSU) as Professor and Department Head of Microbiology. At MSU, he became program director of Montana’s NIH-funded Idea Networks for Biomedical Research Excellence. The program was designed to support projects at four-year institutions and tribal colleges throughout the State, and was focused on both infectious disease and environmental health research. 

Ford’s research interests have focused on source and drinking water microbiology, and the epidemiology of waterborne disease. He has both directed and participated in water quality related projects in the US, Canada, the UK, Mexico, India, Russia and the Philippines, and is currently building collaborations with colleagues in Hong Kong and China. He is widely published in water and public health related fields and was the 2006 recipient of the Gen-Probe Joseph Award for “exemplary leadership and service in the field of public health.” His current work in environmental health is focused on exposure assessment to both chemical and microbiological contaminants on American Indian Reservations in Montana, where he continues to advise doctoral students. In addition to a number of international initiatives, he anticipates developing new research areas on health disparities in Northern New England.

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