Musseling in on award

This video was created to illustrate Mark Lewis' groundbreaking research after he
won Canada's top mathematics prize in 2011 for his models of animal movement
and the spread of invasive species.

(Edmonton) The tide has begun to turn in the fight against invasive water-borne creatures.

University of Alberta researcher Mark Lewis, a leader in the field of mathematical modeling, received one of seven national 2012 Killam Research Fellowships, which will allow him to focus on the ongoing war in the water against harmful invasive animals like the zebra mussel.

The prestigious recognition comes with a prize of $70,000 a year for two years that enables recipients to dedicate all their time to research.

“It’s a great honour, and it gives me time to focus on my research,” said Lewis. His specialty is making mathematical models that account for every step in an invasive species’ takeover of a body of water. “We assign numerical values to everything from the tainted ballast water in a ship that carries an invasive species, to the cost of fighting the problem,” said Lewis.

Lewis cited the zebra mussel that spread from Europe to Canada’s Great Lakes as a costly invasive species. Zebra mussels were introduced to the lakes, likely by commercial vessels, and quickly edged out native species in those lakes to the extent that they were blanketing open surfaces and even clogging drainage pipes.

Lewis will be working closely with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and says he looks forward to the challenge. “We’re hoping to come up with a predictive model for invasive species that will give us the ability to respond quickly when a new invasive species is found in a Canadian waterway,” said Lewis. “Speedy decision-making is vital to controlling an invasive species, and we need to build that capacity even before we know who the next invader is.”