Lappe area residents of Surprise and Trout Lakes, just north of Thunder Bay, gathered at Gorham & Ware School on April 18th to learn about factors affecting water quality. Lakehead University Geography and Environmental Science graduate student Nathan Wilson presented information gleaned while collecting water quality data at Cloud Lake, just south of Thunder Bay during summer 2015.
Nathan’s research at Cloud Lake centered on factors affecting growth of algae blooms as well as changes in fish populations. Phosphorous levels in water, sediment and run-off into the lake were key aspects of Nathan’s data collection, as was “community index netting” conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to determine fish abundance and diversity of species.
Nathan told Surprise and Cloud Lake residents that while background levels of phosphorous were a major contributor to nutrients encouraging algae growth, all residents should be taking steps to prevent man-made contributions of nutrients leading to algae blooms. He outlined steps like leaving a vegetation buffer along the shoreline so that plants take up phosphorous before it enters the lake, ensuring septic systems are in good condition, making sure downspouts do not drain onto a septic field, thereby super-saturating the field and overwhelming it’s capacity, and dispensing with use of lawn fertilizer, a major contributor of nitrogen to nearby waters.
Residents of both Surprise and Trout Lakes said that, so far, they had not noticed algae blooms on their lakes and hoped all residents would take steps to prevent such conditions from developing. They said they felt public education was central to these efforts.
Nathan’s talk was organized by Gorham and Ware local services board representative Ralph Bullough. Nathan studies are directed and assisted by Dr. Rob Stewart, Associate Professor and Jason Freeburn, Technician, in Lakehead University’s Geography and Environmental Science Department. InfoSuperior is a developing research and information network aimed at Lake Superior watershed restoration, protection and public engagement.
A quick primer on algae and water quality: