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Andrea Kirkwood - University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Oshawa, ON, CA

Andrea Kirkwood

Associate Professor | University of Ontario Institute of Technology

Oshawa, ON, CANADA

Aquatic Ecology | Algae | Water Research | Water Quality | Water Pollution | Invasive Species | Environmental Microbiology





Dr. Andrea Kirkwood 1/4 PIR Live Event - Aquatic Ecosystems Urban Surface Waters as Dynamic and Functional Ecosystems in Urbanizing Landscapes Science Scoop- Episode 12 - Aquatic Ecology




Andrea Kirkwood completed a joint-honours degree in Environment and Resource Studies & Biology (Co-op) at the University of Waterloo, and a Master's degree in Aquatic Ecology at McMaster University. Andrea's Master's work investigated mercury in aquatic foodwebs and the effects of whole-lake fish biomanipulation. Andrea's doctoral work at the University of Toronto focused on the role of cyanobacteria in waste-treatment systems. Postdoctoral work involved diverse research projects on microbial extremophiles (Oklahoma State University) and invasive species (University of Calgary). Currently, Andrea is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Science at UOIT, where she has established a research program in aquatic ecology and algal biotechnology.

Industry Expertise (5)


Environmental Services


Renewables and Environmental

Laboratory Services

Areas of Expertise (13)

Aquatic Ecology

Aquatic Invasive Species


Algal Blooms

blue-green algae

Lake Ecosystems

river ecosystems

Urban Ecosystems

Water Quality


environmental microbiology

Biofuels and Combustion Emissions

Great Lakes

Education (3)

University of Waterloo: Bachelor of Environmental Studies (B.E.S.) (Co-op), Environmental Studies and Biology 1994

McMaster University: Master of Science (M.Sc.), Aquatic Ecology 1996

University of Toronto: Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D), Environmental Microbiology 2003

Affiliations (2)

  • Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Calgary (2005 - 2008)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Oklahoma State University (2002 - 2004)

Languages (1)

  • English

Media Appearances (13)

University of Ontario Institute of Technology biologist Andrea Kirkwood to advise on Great Lakes water quality

Oshawa This Week (Metroland Media)  print


DURHAM -- A University of Ontario Institute of Technology biologist will advise the International Joint Commission on the current quality of the water in the Great Lakes. Andrea Kirkwood, an associate professor at the UOIT faculty of science, will join the commission in Washington, D.C. for a semi-annual meeting this April. “I am honoured to be included with a select group of scientists from Canada and the United States to serve as scientific advisor to the IJC, which in turn will inform their management and policy decisions for the Great Lakes,” Ms. Kirkwood says. She will be a part of the science priority committee which investigates emerging issues on the Great Lakes. The scientific research leads to the development of policies to protect the lakes from further harm. The IJC has been protecting many lake and river systems along Canada’s border, including the Great Lakes, for more than a century. This is the first time the commission has picked a faculty member from UOIT to be on its advising committee.

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UOIT biologist to advise IJC on Great Lakes water quality Dr. Andrea Kirkwood appointed by International Joint Commission

University of Ontario Institute of Technology  online


For more than a century, the International Joint Commission (IJC) has been responsible for the stewardship of the many lake and river systems along Canada’s border with the United States. Now for the first time, the IJC will have a connection to University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). The IJC’s Great Lakes Science Advisory Board has appointed leading aquatic ecologist Andrea Kirkwood, PhD, to its Science Priority Committee (SPC). The Associate Professor with UOIT’s Faculty of Science will attend her first semi-annual IJC meeting in Washington, D.C. in mid-April. The SPC provides scientific advice to the IJC on emerging issues in the Great Lakes that require scientific research and policy development. Quotes: “I am honored to be included with a select group of scientists from Canada and the United States to serve as scientific advisor to the IJC, which in turn will inform their management and policy decisions for the Great Lakes.” - Andrea Kirkwood, PhD, Associate Professor, UOIT Faculty of Science "We are very proud to have the International Joint Commission recognize Dr. Kirkwood’s excellent track record and collaborative reputation in this way. I am sure she will bring a great deal of insight and thoughtfulness to the Science Advisory Board’s efforts on behalf of the IJC." - Greg Crawford, PhD, Dean, UOIT Faculty of Science

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Study looks to protect Oshawa’s waterways as city continues to grow

Oshawa Express  print


The city’s north end is booming, but with the construction and the urbanization comes the possibility for contamination. As for how badly Oshawa’s waterways are being impacted, the answer is yet to be determined. One thing is certain – as the development continues, the City of Oshawa will need to keep an eye on the quality of water in its creeks and streams if it wishes to save the beaches of Lake Ontario from consistent closures....

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Scugog Lake Stewards launch research project to document aquatic plants in Lake Scugog Four-year program with UOIT, Natural Resources, Kawartha Conservation aims to show what lurks beneath the water

Port Perry Star  print


SCUGOG -- An ambitious plan to map and document the aquatic plants that live under the surface of Lake Scugog -- and sometimes float on it -- has set sail. A research and monitoring project spearheaded by Dr. Ron Porter of the Scugog Lake Stewards officially hit the water on May 26 when a small crew set out on a half-day expedition of Lake Scugog to examine the contents of the township’s crown jewel. The idea has evolved into a planned four-year project that will see supporters of the lake combine their enthusiasm with academics to better understand what lurks below the lake surface and the impact those aquatic plants have on underwater life. Dr. Porter’s interest in the health of the lake spiked about a year ago when the Scugog Lake Stewards began carrying out regular ‘Pontoon Patrols’ on the lake, which saw four to eight volunteers venture out each month to monitor weed conditions. “We were very surprised to find major changes in the aquatic plants from just a year before,” recalled Dr. Porter of the initial findings. In 2015, it appeared that Lake Scugog had been essentially taken over by chara, a non-invasive annual algae that had established a foothold in the lake years ago. “The only problem is that it had displaced almost all the other lake plants,” said Dr. Porter. After consulting with Dr. Eric Sager at Trent University, however, it was determined that the mystery plant was actually starry stonewort, a grass-like form of algae. “All of a sudden, there was nothing else in the lake but this highly invasive, nasty algae called starry stonewort,” said Dr. Porter. Starry stonewort first appeared in the St. Lawrence River about three decades ago and since then has slowly been invading lakes. Typically, it takes starry stonewort three or four years to completely infiltrate a lake; in Lake Scugog, it settled in just a month or two, taking hold. “Here, it took over right away and everything else disappeared, including Eurasian water milfoil,” which had been Lake Scugog’s nemesis for years, said Dr. Porter. “We had absolutely no idea what it was,” he said. That prompted him to delve into the academic world where he connected with Dr. Andrea Kirkwood and Annette Tavares from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa. “They’ve been phenomenal,” he said. “They were instantly attracted to this challenge in Lake Scugog, in particular what it means to fishing and the health of Lake Scugog in general.”...

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UOIT Experts Are Tackling a Variety of Ecotoxicology Issues With Help From SOWC

Southern Ontario Water Consortium  online


The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) is small but mighty when it comes to its researchers studying a variety of areas within ecotoxicology. “We are smaller than most universities but we have boutique expertise in water research,” says Alison Burgess, Partnerships Officer in the Office of Research Services. “While we don’t have a large research centre, we have individuals who are excelling in their own areas of water research and are making a difference locally, nationally and internationally.” ...Another UOIT biology professor examining ecotoxicology is Prof. Andrea Kirkwood, who works both in the field and lab. Along with her six-person research team, Kirkwood performs applied aquatic ecology research in ponds, wetlands, rivers, lakes and stormwater ponds. Conducting research on impacted aquatic systems has also opened up opportunities to isolate and characterize algae for industrial applications. One of the projects currently underway is isolating and characterizing algal strains from wastewater and degraded systems to determine their potential in algal biofuel reproduction as well as carbon sequestration. These strains are targeted for use in wastewater-fed bioreactor systems. The Kirkwood lab is also investigating how algal communities can be used to determine the impact of various land-use activities on water quality in Ontario surface waters. Algal communities can respond rapidly to changing conditions and therefore have the potential to be sensitive bioindicators of changing landscapes and watersheds. Researchers are currently conducting field studies on the Nottawasaga and Vermillion Rivers in Ontario as well as tributaries in the Lake Simcoe and Lake Ontario basins to see what impact activities, such as urban development and mining, are having on the water quality and algal communities. Finally the team of researchers has also examined urban wetlands to assess how their ecological function is impacted by urbanization. In one study, Kirkwood and her colleagues found that urban wetlands have a limited capacity to degrade chlorinated organic contaminants, such as pesticides. These findings suggest that urban wetlands may not be providing the important ecosystem service of water purification typically associated with wetlands. “This points to the need to be aware of these chemicals and the potential of them getting into urban wetlands and creating a toxic environment,” says Burgess.

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Kirkwood Lab participates in largest crowd-sourced field study

University of Ontario Institute of Technology  online


A social media call for collaborators has a UOIT professor and her lab collaborating with over 170 researchers from more than 50 countries. Dr. Andrea Kirkwood, Associate Professor of Biology in the Faculty of Science, and researchers in the Kirkwood Lab are participating in the Cellulose Decomposition Experiment (CELLDEX), a global study conducted in the banks of streams and rivers across the globe. Spearheaded by Dr. Scott Tiegs, Associate Professor at Oakland University, the study uses cotton strips placed adjacent to streams to determine the decomposition rate across different biomes in the world and how environmental factors can influence them, including climate change. All ecosystems depend on decomposition to remove waste and recycle nutrients back into the ecosystem to sustain life, so the research provides an important baseline. “It’s been interesting to hear about some of the challenges collaborators have encountered in the field,” said Dr. Kirkwood “From snow covering the strips in Argentina making them difficult to find to mischievous children in Amazonia borrowing temperature loggers and rodents eating the strips in Kenya. Although frustrating, the diversity of these problems illustrates the wide-ranging environmental conditions everyone is working in, and the decomposition data will reflect this.” Eight cotton strips per stream, and four temperature loggers in four headwater streams across Durham Region were deployed for their part of the experiment. Dr. Kirkwood and her team then retrieved the samples 30 days later and shipped them to the UK and USA for analysis. “Unlike many partners who participated in this project, the CELLDEX study is closely aligned with the research that we do in the lab. Not only does this add to our research repertoire, but it opens up new opportunities to collaborate with other scientists around the world on future projects,” said Dr. Kirkwood. “To be part of such a novel and highly impactful study is very exciting not only for my lab, but for the university, especially for national and international name recognition. My students were certainly excited to be part of it.”

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The Blue-Green Belt

Cottage Life Magazine  print


Waterfront residents and ecologists alike were shocked when a blue-green algae bloom was confirmed in February on Ella Lake, south-west of Sudbury. Ice anglers reported floating scum when they drilled holes on this cottage lake on the Vermilion River. It was tested and confirmed by the Ministry of Environment. Typically, the blooms occur in warm, late-summer water, says Andrea Kirkwood, an aquatic ecologist at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa. "This goes against everything we know about them". Analyzing a sample of Ella Lake algae led her to believe it could be traces of an autumn bloom concentrated just beneath the ice. Yet, it was still viable. "The situation isn't good" she adds. Kirkwood hypothesizes that prolonged ice-free seasons and altered precipitation patterns due to climate change are setting the stage for more blue-green algae blooms throughout cottage country, including outbreaks late in the season. Lakes are warming faster, retaining heat longer, and not cooling until later in the fall, maintaining the stable water column that's necessary for algal blooms to occur. Combined with more frequent freak rain events that flush elevated concentrations of nutrients and phosphorus from farmers' fields, golf courses, sewage treatment facilities, and septic fields into waterways, this creates an optimal environment for algae to thrive. In 2011, out of 32 toxic blooms confirmed in Ontario, nine were in Sudbury area lakes. Last year, the ministry recorded six blooms. It's normal for the number to vary from year to year, explains Kirkwood; however, "the trend is for increased bloom frequency over time". Lobbying for better sewage treatment, maintaining septic systems, avoiding fertilizers, and never soaping up in the lake are among the ways cottagers can reduce blooms.

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Earth Day Oshawa Creek walk guided by UOIT professor

University of Ontario Institute of Technology  online


Nature lovers in Oshawa spent a cloudy Earth Day 2012 taking an informative guided walk along Oshawa Creek. Hosted by the City of Oshawa, the creek walk was led by UOIT biology professor Dr. Andrea Kirkwood. Attendees gathered at Oshawa City Hall to listen to the short presentation about urban creeks. Dr. Kirkwood explained what stresses can be placed on the creeks, why waterways are important to protect and how that goal can be achieved. Around 30 people attended the walk, which Dr. Kirkwood says was the perfect size as everyone was able to hear, see and learn along the way. The walk followed the creek northward from City Hall to Oshawa Valley Botanical Gardens, with Dr. Kirkwood pointing out the difference between the natural riverbank zone and artificial channelization. She also pointed out where fish liked to spend time and spawn, including what type of riverbed was most suitable for spawning. Once the group arrived at the Botanical Gardens, Dr. Kirkwood and UOIT graduate student Jordan Anderson jumped right into the thick of things by putting on hip-waders and walking into the creek to collect bug samples. “The type of aquatic bugs you find in a creek is a good indication of the health of the creek,” said Dr. Kirkwood. “All the participants had a chance to see leeches, worms and fish eggs from our sample. They were able to look at their water quality handout and determine that the water quality wasn’t very good along that stretch of the Oshawa Creek.” Dr. Kirkwood hopes that this type of educational event will help the community understand how to care for their local environment.

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Rock Snot

Living on Earth (National Public Radio, USA)  radio


Algae often prefer waters that are warm, nutrient-filled and slow moving. But the algae called didymo, also known as rock snot, thrive in cold, clear rivers. The invasive rock snot is infesting trout and salmon streams up and down the east. As producer Murray Carpenter reports, scientists are trying to understand the unusual behavior of this invader.

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Rock Snot Hitches Ride on Fishing Gear

Morning Edition (National Public Radio, USA)  radio


Serious fly fishermen may remember 2007 as the year that the invasive species known as "rock snot" turned into a national problem. For at a least decade, nasty carpets of this algae have been fouling up pristine fishing streams in the western United States. Then, last summer, it turned up in fishing streams in several eastern states. Angler Paul Doscher of New Hampshire says it's useless to cast fishing lines into these sometimes giant blooms. "You try to reel it back in, and you end up with a giant gooey cottony wad (on your hook)," he said. "There is nothing like that that I have experienced. It makes streams essentially unfishable." Isolated Nuisance to Uncontrollable Monster Twenty years ago, a mild version of the one-celled diatom that pumps out rock-snot blooms was found only in isolated mountain streams in western Canada. But in the 1980s, these blooms started getting larger and spreading into other streams. "Something changed the diatoms in ways that made them more aggressive," said researcher Andrea Kirkwood of the University of Calgary. She says the change may have taken place when a European version of the rock snot diatom was accidentally brought to Canada. Kirkwood says it's also possible that the native version of this algae evolved in ways that created much more massive and more frequent blooms.

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Alberta algae seems to thrive and spread in clear water

Vancouver Sun  print


It can't be good when something called "rock snot"...

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Hydropower Legislation Inquiry: Will instream flow needs play a central role?

Water Matters  online


Once a dam is introduced to a river system, river health and electricity generation become inseparable. Our ability to secure instream flow needs — the amount of water to keep rivers healthy — becomes inextricably linked to the operation of dams and other hydro operations. Therefore, identifying instream flow protection requirements is an essential component for any valid hydropower approval framework... Dams can affect the quality and quantity of water in a river, and this in turn affects aquatic habitat and banks that sustain the forests surrounding rivers. Furthermore, changing a river's flow can make rivers prone to invasive species. Research done by Andrea Kirkwood et al. (2007) indicates that a change in flow by dams in Alberta led to the increase of an invasive species known commonly as Rock Snot or Didymo...

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Women in Science Series: Meet Dr. Andrea Kirkwood

Canadian Science Publishing  online


This post is the first in a series by Sarah Boon, featuring Canadian women in science. While the topic of women in science receives a lot of theoretical attention, stories from actual women in science can be few and far between. There are studies on why women leave academic science, how we can recruit more women to STEM fields, what we need to do at different stages along the ‘pipeline’ to keep it from ‘leaking’….but it seems as though little is done, and we remain bound to the societal norms that are so clearly explained in Virgina Valian’s Why So Slow?, a book that can make thoughts of systemic change seem futile. For this Women-in-Science post, I wanted to talk to a woman in science about her own personal experiences. While this is by no means representative of the experience of all women in science, it provides a glimpse into one personal story and career trajectory, and gives us a window into potential ways in which we help – or hinder – women in science. For girls and women interested in science, this post is intended to help them better understand what that career path might look like. Our interviewee is Dr. Andrea Kirkwood, an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of the Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) in Oshawa. Andrea has a BES in Environment & Resource Studies and Biology from the University of Waterloo, an MSc in Aquatic Ecology from McMaster, and a PhD in Environmental Microbiology from the University of Toronto. She spent five years as a postdoctoral fellow at Oklahoma State University and then the University of Calgary. It was in Calgary that she first got involved in research on didymo (Didymosphenia geminata, or toilet paper algae), a nuisance alga in the Bow River near Banff and Canmore, Alberta. She has published in Canadian Science Publishing’s Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences (CJFAS) and Canadian Journal of Microbiology (CJM), among other peer-reviewed journals. In an unflinching look at her career path and choices, Dr. Kirkwood feels she hasn’t experienced overt discrimination during her career. She attributes this to being single much of the time and therefore not having to make tough family choices – choices for which she may have been judged by colleagues and/or the academic system as not being a ‘serious’ scientist...

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Event Appearances (1)

Scientist Table Host

Royal Canadian Institute for Science Gala Dinner  MaRS Building, Toronto, ON