The Cooperative Freshwater Ecology Unit (Co-op Unit), housed within the Vale Living With Lakes Centre, was established in 1989 and is a unique and successful partnership between Laurentian University, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) with collaborators from the mining industry (Vale and Xstrata Nickel), Canadian Forest Services, Natural Resources Canada, several other universities (York, Queens, Nipissing, Norwegian University of Life Sciences) and the City of Greater Sudbury.
It was established as the first resource management co-op unit in Ontario to share resources and create closer, more effective working relationships between government, industry and universities to effectively address important, applied, environmental research questions.
From an initial focus on restoration ecology of acid and metal damaged waters of northeastern Ontario, the Co-op Unit has broadened its research to address multiple stressors that may affect the health of aquatic ecosystems throughout the north. These include climate change, invasive species, urban development, trace contaminants, loss of biodiversity and excessive exploitation. New research is focused on understanding the vulnerable ecosystems in Far North Ontario, which are under increasing pressures from resource extraction industries and climate change. Science is desperately needed in this area so that development can happen in a responsible way to benefit Aboriginal communities and all Canadians.