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U of R research to be featured on Al Jazeera

By Costa Maragos Posted: November 30, 2015 6:00 a.m.

Dr. Kerri Finlay at Katepwa Lake in September, interviewed by Daniel Lak, Canada correspondent for the international all-news network Al Jazeera.
Dr. Kerri Finlay at Katepwa Lake in September, interviewed by Daniel Lak, Canada correspondent for the international all-news network Al Jazeera. Photo courtesy of Heather Haig.

As the World Climate Summit in Paris gets started, related research from the University of Regina is about to find an international audience.

The influential news network, Al Jazeera, will feature a U of R research project relating to climate change. The project is led by Dr. Kerri Finlay from the department of Biology. Finlay was interviewed by Daniel Lak, Canada correspondent for Al Jazeera.

"My experience being interviewed by Daniel was a lot of fun,”says Finlay. “Right from the first phone call I got from him, I was impressed by his enthusiasm for the project and story.”

Al Jazeera, a 24-hour all-news TV network, has assigned reporters from around the world to tell stories about climate change that will air during the Paris talks.

“The network wants everything and anything that is unique and interesting and impactful in any way, in countries around the world. This is a story that makes you take notice,” says Lak, who is based in Toronto and has been the Canada correspondent for Al Jazeera since January 2012. Previously, he was a BBC correspondent in South Asia from 1992 to 2004.

Finlay’s research was done with U of R colleagues Drs. Bjorn Wissel, Peter Leavitt, Gavin Simpson, Matthew Bogard, and Richard Vogt, in collaboration with University of Minnesota PhD student Benjamin Tutolo.

The research shows that decades of global warming have changed the chemistry of Canadian prairie lakes, allowing them to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. While most lakes emit carbon dioxide, the study shows this is not always the case. The research was published in the influential British-based academic journal Nature.

When Lak read about this, he jumped at the opportunity to do the story.

“It is fascinating research. Salt lakes in the prairies have peculiar qualities in chemistry and biology,” says Lak who lived in Saskatchewan in the 1980s and remembers his visits to the salty waters of Manitou Lake.

“I had become slightly obsessed with the idea of the ‘dead sea in Canada.’ It’s a general awareness, that some nuisance phenomenon to many people, lakes you can’t fish in, have a role to play in dealing with carbon quality in the atmosphere.”

“The kicker is, Finlay says there’s evidence of this going on in the Caspian Sea. The northern Caspian Sea has similar conditions to Southern Saskatchewan. So I just thought this would give her research a boost. Get her stuff out there more widely, and really cover a story that I happen to be interested in,” says Lak.

This U of R research is certainly being exposed to a wide audience. Al Jazeera broadcasts in 220 million households, to more than 100 countries, including Canada.

“Overall, I’m very pleased that the research we are doing is getting international attention,” says Finlay, “Hopefully the audience will appreciate both the attractiveness of this region of the world, as well as its climate change significance.”

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