Month: March 2017

April 10 Webinar – Lake Superior: A Warming Ecosystem


Participation: To participate, please register at: https://attendee.gotowebin 37986. Once registered, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

The seminar is presented through the efforts of:
Presenter: Dr. Robert Sterner, University of Minnesota-Duluth Large Lakes Observatory

Title: Lake Superior: A Warming Ecosystem

Abstract: Dramatic physical changes to the seasonal mixing regime of Lake Superior have been described: the summer stratified season is lengthening and summer surface temperatures are increasing. At the same time, there are less prevalent anthropogentic forcings affecting Lake Superior than most other large lakes, including most of the Laurentian Great Lakes. This means Lake Superior may provide important clues about how climate affects large lake ecosystems. Dr. Sterner’s seminar will draw from almost twenty years of study of the offshore Lake Superior ecosystem, with an emphasis on nutrients and the lower food web. Changes to primary production and primary producers have been observed, though the complex interconnections of “physics to fish” are still poorly resolved.
Bio:  Dr. Sterner’s research combines biological with chemical approaches to understand lake ecosystems, with particular focus on understanding the linkages among the cycles of carbon and nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Dr. Sterner received a B.S. in Biology from the University of Illinois in 1980 and a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Minnesota in 1986, working with David Tilman. Dr. Sterner has published more than 90 papers and books that together have been cited > 12,000 times. He is one of the founders of the field of Ecological Stochiometry, which seeks to understand how elemental balances and ratios affect organism success, community structure, ecosystem dynamics, and other topics. He has focused mainly on freshwater plankton, but through work with colleagues and students, he has contributed to the literature on microbes, fish, terrestrial plants, and other organisms. Dr. Sterner has spent most of his career at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, serving as the Head of the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. He also spent 2+ years working at the National Science Foundation in senior management as the Director of the Division of Environmental Biology, where he contributed to the shaping of the NSF funding portfolio and acted as a national spokesperson for environmental research in the U.S. He has done research on the Great Lakes since ~1996 and in 2014, he moved to the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he became the Director of the Large Lakes Observatory, the only institution in the U.S. dedicated to the scientific study of all the large lakes on Earth.
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Wisconsin Mayor to Lead Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative has announced selection of John Dickert as the organization’s next President and Chief Administrative Officer. Dickert will succeed David Ullrich, who will step down from his position this summer as Executive Director after fourteen years and will continue as a Senior Advisor to the Cities Initiative. Currently serving as the Mayor of Racine, Wisconsin, Dickert brings decades of experience in local, state and federal government relations, strategy, fundraising, and coalition building.

John Dickert
Racine, Wisconsin Mayor John Dickert has been selected to become CAO of the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

“The work of the Cities Initiative is vital to the health and protection of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River,” says Dickert. “I am thrilled to step into this position with the Cities Initiative and work with a dynamic coalition of 128 other mayors to ensure the voice of local government is a part of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence decision making.” Ullrich added, “Mayor Dickert has been a strong force in our organization for years, and I am confident the positive presence of the Cities Initiative will continue under his leadership.”

Dickert brings a breadth of experience in real estate, consulting, development, and lobbying to the Cities Initiative, including Government Affairs Director of Wisconsin Credit Union League and real estate agent for First Weber Group. Mayor Dickert also worked for Congressional offices at the federal and state level, including Congressman Les Aspin, State Representative Dale Bolle, State Representative Jeannette Bell and Congressman Peter Barca. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science and communications from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse in 1986.

Since his election as Mayor in 2009, Dickert has been actively engaged with the Cities Initiative as a director on the board since 2010 and chair from 2014 to 2015. As Mayor, Dickert has been involved in numerous water resource-related organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors Water Council and the Wisconsin Coastal Management Commission, and overseen the revitalization of Racine’s waterfront areas, most notably North Beach and the Root River.

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is a coalition of 128 cities from the United States and Canada representing over 17 million people who work together for the long term protection and restoration of the resource. The mayors work closely with state, provincial, federal, tribal, first nation, and non-government organizations from across the basin to protect, restore, and sustain one of the largest freshwater resources in the world.

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Nipigon Conversation About Climate & Weather – March 29

Kelsey Jones-Casey is a Fulbright Fellow at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. She will be guiding discussions about climate change in Nipigon on March 29th. (Nipigon Bay, Lake Superior in the background.)

Join Kelsey Jones-Casey, a Fullbright Fellow at Lakehead University, for a conversation about climate and weather variability in our region, and how it is impacting our well-being. The session takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. on March 29th at the Township of Nipigon Office, 52 Front St, Nipigon, Ontario.

Kelsey will be guiding group discussions about our connections to the land, our observations of changing weather patterns, and the impact of these changes on our well-being. This is the first of three community conversations that will be held on the Canadian north shore of Lake Superior.

Infosuperior will be posting information about similar events in Lake Superior North Shore communities, as it becomes available. Everyone is welcome to the Nipigon event which is free of charge.

For more information about this project, visit

Listen to a February 2nd CBC interview about the project.

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New 3′ Video Highlights St. Marys River Restoration

A new 3′ video about St. Marys River restoration was released on March 13th by The Great Lakes Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The rich history of the St. Marys River includes developments like locks for shipping, hydro-electric power generation, “compensating works” which assist in managing Lake Superior water levels, also industry including steel and pulp and paper mills. These developments cover a brief span of time. Historical perspective is needed to achieve a deeper understanding of the waterway.

Many people might not realize that at one time, fish were so abundant in the rapids that this outlet to Lake Superior became the site of huge regional gatherings of Anishinaabe – Ojibway. Now, the entire river flows through some kind of man-made structure and it is difficult to realize the importance of this area as both a sustainable source for food and a cultural meeting point.

For many years, work has been ongoing to restore benefits associated with the river. This is not limited to activities like fishing but also includes work to clean up industrial pollution. The St. Marys River flows between two nations so these efforts have been “Binational”, coordinated through the St. Marys River Remedial Action Plan, or cleanup plan.  An attendent public committee has advocated for and achieved progress on cleanup over almost three decades and is comprised of residents of both Michigan and Ontario. Environment Canada, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, also Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Lake Superior State University and Algoma University are all strong supporters of river cleanup.

A new video produced by Michigan’s Issue Media Group and released March 13th by the Great Lakes Commission (GLC) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) highlights efforts to make the St. Marys River swimmable, fishable and drinkable. The video centres on The Little Rapids Restoration Project, reestablishing flow to the Little Rapids section of the river for the first time in more than 50 years. This work is expected to lead to both environmental and economic benefits such as improved habitat for native fish populations, revitalized tourism and sport fishing opportunities on the river, and better community access via a new pedestrian walkway at Sugar Island.

Mike Ripley represents the Chippewa-Ottawa Resource Authority and is featured in the St. Marys video. “This area, the area where Lake Superior flowed into the St. Marys River over the Big Rapids [further upstream near the outlet of Superior], was a very important place to the Native people of the area because of the incredible abundance of fish and wildlife that was available,” Ripley said. “Thanks to the restoration work here, we hope to see more opportunities for fishing for all people and for future generations. Restoration of the Little Rapids is something people can truly be proud of.”

The GLC implements its restoration work through a regional partnership with NOAA, in close coordination with local, state and federal partners.

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Roundtable Discussions: What Can we Do About Mercury in Our Water?

Judy Da Silva, environmental activist from the Grassy Narrows First Nation discussing the impacts of mercury on her community (LEFT: Brian Branfireun, Canada Research Chair in Environment and Sustainability)

On Monday, March 7th Lakehead University hosted a roundtable discussion at Thunder Bay Art Gallery entitled “What Can We Do About Mercury In Our Water?”

The event was held as part of Lakehead University’s Research and Innovation Week. The focus of this year’s event was sustainability. The talk was well-attended by people genuinely concerned with mercury as a contaminant and the potential impact the substance has on our environment and our health.

Lakehead University interim vice-provost Peggy Smith served as moderator for the roundtable that included Lakehead University’s Canada Research Chair in Freshwater Ecology and Fisheries Michael Rennie, University of Western Ontario’s Canada Research Chair in Environment and Sustainability Brian Branfireun, Lakehead University biology professor Peter Lee, who works on mercury issues with Seine River First Nation, and Judy Da Silva, an internationally-recognized environmental activist and member of Grassy Narrows First Nation.

The roundtable discussion was particularly timely due to ongoing concerns about mercury at Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong (Whitedog) First Nation in Northwestern Ontario. In addition, Thunder Bay is also struggling to deal with mercury-contaminated sediment in its harbour on Lake Superior.

During the roundtable, Dr. Lee explained that mercury issues in the Seine River situation were not well known to the public and were associated with man-made reservoirs. He pointed out that methylmercury (MeHg) is a more toxic form of mercury. He said the presence of higher MeHg concentrations in dam reservoirs in comparison to reference lakes is well documented. He also explained that as mercury makes its way up the food chain, fish consumption becomes a major source of mercury ingestion by humans.

Dr. Lee went on to say that during work to better understand mercury in the environment, residents of Seine River First Nation collected their own fish samples. He said there was a very high level of expertise among some of the Seine River Band members in collecting and dealing with fish utilized in the scientific process to determine contaminant levels.

Dr. Brian Branfireun pointed out that understanding mercury in the environment, along with its impacts, was far from a linear process, involving many factors. He said the process of “methylation”, whereby “methylating bacteria” in aquatic ecosystems transforms inorganic mercury into methylmercury, is dependent on many environmental factors. He stressed the importance of understanding that rates of methylation vary widely and are dependent on factors unique to individual ecosystems and locations. He emphasized the importance of additional research about environmental factors affecting methylation.

At times during the roundtable, all of the academics deferred to Judy Da Silva, not only on matters related to the impacts of mercury on the health and well-being of Grassy Narrows residents, but also on scientific matters. She was asked about early fish sampling protocols; the size of these samples; what year sampling had begun; in which years sampling had been carried out and who were the scientists involved? Judy answered all of these questions and pointed out, that over several decades, a very robust scientific team had evolved and was still working towards positive resolution of the English-Wabigoon mercury situation.

She said that research scientist Dr. John Rudd, lead author of a recent paper examining cleanup options, was part of this team. Judy displayed in-depth knowledge of all aspects of the mercury situation, including impacts on the communities of Grassy Narrows and Whitedog.

When asked about the recent Ontario government announcement to carry out mercury cleanup in the English-Wabigoon, Judy expressed sincere appreciation. She also expressed reservation, saying it had been a long road and community members told her, “we will believe it when we see it.”

Read more…(the latter part of this linked article contains further background information about mercury).

Learn how Lakehead University Northern Environments and Cultures Masters level student Samuel Pegg is researching risk communication associated with mercury contamination in Thunder Bay Harbour (3′ video).

Copies of the report on English-Wabigoon River cleanup options are available from riverrun2010 at gmail dot com.

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Risk Communication Research & Thunder Bay Harbour Mercury

Communicating risk: Lakehead University masters student Samuel Pegg outlines research associated with mercury contamination in Thunder Bay Harbour (3′).

Lakehead University graduate student Samuel Pegg (Masters of Northern Environments and Cultures) will be researching how various risks are currently understood and communicated in the Thunder Bay Area of Concern. Four hundred thousand cubic meters of mercury-contaminated sediment and pulp-like material lie within the northern portion of Thunder Bay Harbour. Dealing with this contaminated sediment will require a complex solution that includes a multitude of voices.

Under the direction of Dr. Rob Stewart, Department of Geography and the Environment, Samuel will be getting a better understanding of how risks associated with this contaminated site are currently perceived. Samuel will also developing a set of recommendations to better enhance public understanding of this risk.

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Great Lakes Watershed Field Course for Teachers


Watershed Field Course
The Inland Seas Education Association is offering a four day Watershed Field Course for teachers from Great Lakes Areas of Concern. The course is designed to help students learn about invasive species, nutrient runoff and habitat restoration.

Priority is given to schools in  Great Lakes Areas of Concern, but teachers everywhere in the Great Lakes region are encouraged to apply for the 4 day (June 26 – 29) Watershed Field Course outlined below. The course is offered by the Inland Seas Education Association.

Do you want your students to learn how to be active in their communities and take steps to improve our environment?
This free professional development opportunity gives you the skills and background to empower your students while fulfilling Michigan education standards. Over four-days you will visit projects in the Grand Traverse region that address invasive species, nutrient runoff, and habitat restoration, and meet with the professionals who design and implement the work. You’ll meet teachers from around Michigan, develop a plan for implementing a stewardship action project with your students, and have time to enjoy beautiful northern Michigan.

Thirty 4th-12th grade teachers will be accepted for the program. Priority is given to schools in the Great Lakes Areas of Concern, but teachers everywhere in the Great Lakes region are encouraged to apply.
  • Support will be provided throughout the school year with check-in calls and additional training.
  • Lodging, transportation to field sites, meals, and a $300 project stipend are included.
  • Bring your students on the schoolship this fall – a free program for your class! ($825 value)
  • SCECHs and graduate credit through Ferris State University are available.
Apply by filling out the Application Form.
Find out more by reading the Application packet.
Visit the website for links and updates:

Contact Jeanie Williams with questions:, 231-271-3077

Applications are reviewed as they come in, space is limited!
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March 6 & 7 Mercury Round Table/Student Presentation

Fish consumption advisories
Province of Ontario fish consumption advisories are in place for most lakes in Northwestern Ontario, mainly due to mercury.

The public is welcome to a round table discussion entitled, “What Can We Do About Mercury in our Water,” which will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. on March 6th at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, 1080 Keewatin Street, on the Confederation College campus.

“It’s not just a local area or a local source that’s causing the contamination,” says Peggy Smith, Lakehead University’s interim vice-provost (Aboriginal initiatives) and an associate professor in Natural Resources Management.

The impact of high levels of mercury contamination will be discussed at the round table as part of Lakehead University’s 2017 Research and Innovation Week. Michael Rennie, a panel member, assistant professor in Lakehead University’s Department of Biology, also Canada Research Chair in Freshwater Ecology and Fisheries, says that mercury is a, “persistent issue that we’ve known about since the 1960’s. What do we need to do about that? Should we be concerned and how much should we be concerned?”

Round Table Participants

  •  Elder Beatrice Twance-Hynes will do an opening including the Water Song.
  •  Dr. Michael Rennie, Canada Research Chair in Freshwater Ecology and Fisheries (Biology, formerly with Experimental Lakes Area).
  • Dr. Brian Branfireun, Canada Research Chair in Environment and Sustainability, cross-appointed with Earth Sciences and Geography at Western University.
  • Judy Da Silva (Environmentalist and member of Grassy Narrows First Nation).
  • Dr. Peter Lee (Biology, works with Seine River First Nation).
  • Dr. Peggy Smith Interim Vice-Provost, Aboriginal Initiatives, and Associate Professor in Natural Resources Management (Moderator).

Some people may recall mercury, a silver, liquid metal, as the substance they rolled around in their hand in high school chemistry class. Since that time, the toxicity of mercury has been extremely well documented. Mercury is an element which can neither be created nor destroyed, although it can “speciate” or “cycle” between various forms. In fact, mercury is a natural constituent in many substances, including soil, vegetation like trees, and coal. When coal is combusted, in power plants for example, mercury is a by-product of the combustion process. Mercury moves up the smokestack and is then transported through the atmosphere, falling out on land, rivers and lakes. Atmospheric deposition of mercury is by far the largest source of mercury in the environment and the leading contributor to consumption advisories for fish in Ontario’s lakes. Almost every lake within the Lake Superior watershed, including Superior itself, has consumption advisories for mercury, mainly due to atmospheric deposition.

Additionally, work carried out in the Experimental Lakes Area, east of Kenora, Ontario, demonstrates that flooding as a result of reservoir creation results in the microbial breakdown of dead plants and organic soils leading to methylation of mercury already present in the system. Methyl mercury is a more toxic form of mercury.

Spills of mercury are another concern. In Northwestern Ontario, many of these spills are the legacy of the pulp and paper industry. Chlor-Alkali plants producing chlorine-dioxide used in the bleaching process for paper were often located near pulp and paper mills. These facilities utilized mercury in the production process and spills have resulted. Mercury in the English-Wabigoon River system and orginating at the Dryden, Ontario mill site is a well-known example. Other examples are the mercury contamination in Peninsula Harbour, the main harbour in Marathon, Ontario. Contamination in Marathon’s harbour was addressed in 2012 through the Peninsula Harbour Remedial Action Plan. Cleanup involved an innovative thin-layer cap, put in place with contributions from the federal government, the provincial government and industry, at a cost of approximately $7 million dollars.

Another site contaminated with mercury lies within the waters of Thunder Bay Harbour, adjacent to the mouth of the Current River and a former mill site. Cleanup method for this 350,000 cubic meters of contaminated pulpy material, some of it up to three meters thick and covering an area the size of several football fields, has not been determined.

Three-Minute Thesis Presentations –
Starting at 10:00am Tuesday, March 7 – Faculty Lounge Lakehead University

In addition to the round table talks, Samuel Pegg will be presenting about his thesis titled Acquiring Minds in an Uncertain World: Risk Communication in the Thunder Bay Area of Concern.  Supervised by Dr. Rob Stewart, Samuel’s research works within the context of the Remedial Action Plan program and seeks to understand how the risks of the mercury-contaminated sediment in the Thunder Bay North Harbour can be effectively understood and communicated.

What began as a simple completion at the University of Queensland, the three-minute thesis competition has grown into a multi-national event that sees a variety of graduate students attempt to concisely explain their research to a non-specialist audience within the space of three minutes.

The presentations are open to the public and will begin at 10:00am, Tuesday March 7 in the Faculty Lounge, Lakehead University.


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Watershed Webcasts

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be hosting a webcast on the new tool “Model My Watershed” on Thursday, March 9 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. EDT.

“Model My Watershed” is a user friendly, online watershed modeling application that allows users to learn how land use and soil together determine whether rainfall infiltrates into the soil, runs off into streams, or is evaporated and transpired by plants. This web tool is intended to provide an easy-to-use professional-grade modeling package to inform land-use decisions, support conservation practices, and enhance watershed education.

The webcast will provide an overview and a demonstration of the application and will highlight how the tool is being used by several states for their total maximum daily load, nonpoint source, and municipal stormwater programs.

Webcast participants are eligible to receive a certificate for documenting their attendance.

Learn More:

Watershed Webcasts Flyer

Flyer for March 9th Model My Watershed Webcast


More information about the Watershed Webcasts from U.S. EPA.


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March 8/9: Low Impact Development Workshop

Memorial Ave. Low Impact Development
This low impact development site on Memorial Avenue in Thunder Bay, Ontario assists in stormwater management and also acts as a beautiful, green urban oasis.

Please join EcoSuperior, the City of Thunder Bay, Confederation College and Lakehead University on March 8th & 9th for an informative 2-day training workshop on Low Impact Development (LID) Stormwater Management.

Training will be provided by Credit Valley Conservation, a leader in Low Impact Development in Ontario.

The workshop will take place at Confederation College from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. Registration is $175.00/day or $315/2 days payable in advance to EcoSuperior, 562 Red River Road, Thunder Bay, ON.

Contact or 807-624-2658 or register at the following link.

Want to find out more about Low Impact Development. Check out this guide from Credit Valley Conservation.

See more pictures of the Memorial Avenue Low Impact Development site for stormwater management here.


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