Lakehead students field research update
Posted on: August 4, 2016

Lakehead undergraduate researcher Brent Straughn brings you a research update from along the north shore of Lake Superior. Under the supervision of graduate researcher Nathan Wilson and LU staffers Dr. Rob Stewart and Jason Freeburn, Brent has been learning the ins-and-outs of field research in tandem with the Superior Streams project. The objective of this project is to collect data on water quality, fish species and abundance data, information about barriers to fish passage which may impact spawning and other information related to fish populations and overall stream ecosystem health. The project is a cooperative venture between Lakehead University’s Department of Geography and Environmental Science and Superior Streams, a group started by local volunteers.  This group is interested in stream ecosystem health, including the health of fish populations. This data collection project is supported by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry through funds of the Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (COA), also by Lakehead University

July 29, 2016

For the past two weeks Nathan and I have been camping at provincial parks along the north shore while we’re assessing streams far east of Thunder Bay. Baseline environmental information for several streams flowing to Superior is being collected as part of our project.

From the 18th to the 22nd we spent our evenings and nights at Neys Provincial Park, and from the 25th to the 27th we were at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park. During these days, we assessed streams from Marathon to Black Bay by driving to road crossings and often walking from the road to railway crossings. Driving along the north shore of Lake Superior to each stream was a great way to get familiar with the local environment. We experienced first hand the importance of small streams as shelter for juvenile fish, and how barriers such as road and railway crossings affect streams and the fish that use them.

Assessing the streams during the day was very informative and fun. The information that we collected from physically walking the streams themselves and the surrounding area helps the project and gives me great work and life experience, as well as learning the fish species in the streams.

When the work day finished, we would head back to the campsite. Camping for those weeks was a great experience. I was able to perfect my overnight camping practices to accommodate for my first week long trip, and was able to enjoy the evenings in the woods and on the lake. With the campsites being right next to the lake, I was also able to cross swimming in Lake Superior off my bucket list.

On our way back from Neys, Nathan and I saw a young black bear on the side of the highway. At first the bear was poking its head out from some tall grasses, but then it got curious. It walked onto the gravel shoulder of the highway to take a closer look at the passing vehicles. Fortunately, the bear got spooked or lost interest and ran back to the safety of the grasses to hopefully continued its search for berries.

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