Month: October 2020

Building a surfing community – continuing the conversation

Eva and Adam

Back in March I sat down with Adam who is one of the cofounders of the Lakehead University Great Lakes Surfing Club. This time around I sat down with Adam and one of the other cofounders Eva to continue the conversation on surfing.

What got you into surfing (Eva)?

I started in grade 12 when I went to Tofino, BC for the first time. When I came to school, I heard that you could lake surf, but I didn’t get into surfing on the lake until last year. Simon had boards so I went out with them. Adam, Margarita and I developed the club.

What are you most excited about for the upcoming surfing season?

Just getting out. We haven’t been out on the lake yet. For 4 or 5 days straight before we came back up there was lots of wave action, but it went dead flat once we got up here. Margarita stopped in Wawa on the way up by Lake Superior Provincial park. Last year we only had a couple of random boards, but this summer we all accumulated some more boards and suits. So we’re excited to bring people out.

Margarita, another cofounder of the club

How many boards and suits do you guys have?

For the moment, we have 3 or 4 boards collectively to bring people out on. We are going to apply to LUSU to get some funding. We are planning to rent learning.

Do you have any outings planned for the upcoming season?

Hopefully if Waasaashkaa is happening we can get people out. There are always people who have never been surfing that want to come out. We want to get people out, but we’re just trying to figure out ride situations since we have a lot of equipment that takes up room. If we can get waves closer to Thunder Bay we want to have a meet up where we can get people from the club to come out and pass boards around. Last year we were planning on having fundraisers which will probably be hard to do right now. We have some prizes from Surf Ontario to hand out so we just need to figure some fundraisers out.

How has coronavirus affected surfing on the lake?

I know us personally, our club got messed up. We had to reapply and start over this September. Luckily the process went through quickly, but other than it I don’t think it’s effected much. Legislations have had rules that don’t allow beach loitering but allow water use.

Are there regulations from LUSU that will impair you from getting out on the water?

For the most part we aren’t allowed to travel as a club. Transportation is going to be the biggest obstacle. It will be easy to have people out on the water, but it’s getting there. There will also be limited wetsuit sharing. We heard the Rec department has suits, but we’re not sure if it’s open, but that’s an option.

With regards to demographics in surfing, do you see an equal distribution of men and women?

It’s fairly equal. Lake Superior can be a bit of a boys scene, but southern Ontario has a lot of women that come up. Lake Superior is having more women getting out. There is a group of women who regularly go out in Terrace Bay that Waasaashkaa posted about. There is no sexism involved in surfing, anyone can do it. It is encouraging for women.

Do you feel that surfing on the lake has brought a greater appreciation for water?

Oh yea! It has definitely been really nice to be out there. We are so lucky to have Lake Superior and to get out into these areas that not a lot of people get to experience. You go to Lake Ontario or Lake Erie and they are typically more polluted and there’s more garbage as well as overcrowding. I definitely feel lucky for what we have.

Have you noticed pollution when you’ve been out?

Not really. You can see nurdles when you walk along the beach, but when I’m in the water I don’t notice much. I think down south in places like Grand Bend or Sauble beach you can tell the water is dirtier. It may be because of the sand, but you can tell Lake Superior is a lot more fresh. Every once in a while we’ll find something floating in the lake, but we usally toss it onto the board and throw it out once we get to the beach. We encourage “leave no trace” and leaving the beach as nice or nicer as we found it.

Do you have any plans for a beach cleanup?

The Parks Canada Club did a beach cleanup last year so it would be cool to collaborate with them. Our members use the beach so it would be nice to clean it up. Also setting a standard for everybody. If you see garbage, pick it up and bring it in even if you have to stop what you’re doing it’s better than letting it be because it will just accumulate. Going to Waasaashkaa, Chris makes it very clear that we leave this beach the way we found it if not better. The last thing we need is the parks crew blaming the surfers for making a mess we don’t need that stigma. We are using the beaches, we don’t want to be coming back to a mess.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to get into surfing?

Reach out! We have a lot of people reaching out right now and showing interest. They maybe have been to Tofino, or have a wetsuit but no board, or a board but no wetsuit. We definitely don’t have a lot of gear, but we’re working on making gear more accessible. We’re talking to the rec depo to see if they’ll rent out suits and trying to get more boards. The best thing you can do is reach out. It is definitely just a matter networking even if it’s outside of the club. If you see someone on Instagram surfing and want to know the spot or to see if they have extra equipment it’s best to reach out. It’s better than not knowing, asking people to help out is really important.

Do you have any final remarks?

Another good thing to check out is to check out the Facebook page “North Shore Lake Superior Surf Crew”. If you go to Terrace Bay there are 4 or 5 different spots with 100m to 200m long beaches. There is no overcrowding, everyone wants to get more people into it and spread the love. I have seen people coming from Minnesota or southern Ontario driving through and say “hey, I’m going through Marathon, I see waves where can I go?’. Within minutes people are reaching out with different spots or ways they can help you out. There is also an Instagram page called @greatlakessurfersjournal and they post a lot of pictures of people surfing and they will say the general area and you can ask for the spot and hopefully, they are nice enough to give it to you.

Where do you want to see surfing go?

The only time we’ve ever really seen other surfers out was at Waasaashkaa. There was probably 40 or 50 people out that and there was still plenty of room. There were different types of boards and people having fun, firing each other. Every other time we go we will maybe see 1 or 2 other people, but they’re usually way on the other side of the beach. It’s a different kind of vibe. There’s something nice about being the only ones out there. But there is so much room out there, there are such big beach breaks, you could easily fit 50-100 people out there and still have room. It’s a fairly new sport, that is surfing on the lake specifically. It would be sad to see it die out if people don’t start getting into it now. I think it’s important to introduce it to other people so it can keep going and never spot. Even in this area it can be tough to get into despite Lake Superior being the best lake for surfing. There is so much more surfing on Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, and Lake Michigan because there are shops and rental spots all over southern Ontario, Michigan, and Wisconsin. But in Thunder Bay I think the closest thing is a guy selling boards out of his garage, or a paddle store in Winnipeg. Whenever we’re in Southern Ontario we always try to check out stores.

Have you surfed on any of the other Great Lakes?

Adam: Personally I haven’t had the chance because all my stuff is up here.

Eva: Over the summer I worked at surf shop in Sauble beach on Lake Huron, and I went out once. It was very different than Lake Superior, still had the same concepts, but you can tell the difference between lakes when you’re surfing on them.

The biggest area for surfing in southern Ontario would be Sault Ste. Marie on Lake Superior, or the north shore of Georgian bay or Kincardine area on Lake Huron. One club member, Josh, sent us some photos on the lake in Kincardine and it was super cool to see him out there. Simon has surfed on Lake Erie, Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, Lake Ontario. All the lakes are surfable, but it’s a shame that the biggest lake with the biggest swells and most consistent waves has so little support. We almost feel forgotten about. There’s not quite the resources up here. We are trying to create an outlet for people to get into it. We’re hoping that if someone comes out a couple times rents a board, that eventually they might get their own equipment and join the hype and community. They might lend their stuff to people and it will just keep on growing and growing. Maybe in 10-15 years someone will set up a surf shop in Thunder Bay. Maybe in the future some of the local outdoor shops in Thunder Bay will take on a surf section. I know as soon as we started posting stuff everyone became interested. People that don’t go to Lakehead message us and ask if they can join, they can join but we need to make sure at least 50% of our club are Lakehead students.

Do you feel more people will get out with the current pandemic rules?

It’s a good way to get away from the crowds. The water is pretty cold, and it requires a certain breed to get out there. We were just in Tofino and the water is warming here. Everyone coming back for the start of the surf season has created some hype around it. A lot of people go to school away from home to try something new and this is the perfect time to do. It’s outside and different so it’s a great opportunity.

How do you out when the big swells are coming in?

The waves on Superior are solely dependent on the wind. We use NOAA and check their weather charts. If you look up NOAA wave report for Superior. There are different colours for different wave heights. You need to pay attention to the wind direction. You can look at a map of Lake Superior and find where you want to surf and once the waves are going in that direction then you’re good to get out there. We have experimented with different spots and different wind directions. We had a really northern swell and went to Chippewa, but when we got there it was totally flat. We could see that out past Isle Royale and see waves going straight across. You learn the hard way, you showed up at the wrong spot and got skunked. Eventually, you get familiar with the directions and the spots. When we get westerly wind, we know it’s good for Chippewa or Minnesota when the borders are open. When we get the northern swells, we head to Terrace Bay. The best time to go out is the day after a storm or right before a storm. It’s a lot of trial and error. You’ll show up and get nothing or decide not to go out and you’ll hear from your buddy that there were awesome waves.

How far in advanced can you plan?

It’s either 72 or 100 hours that the app reports, but as you get closer it gets more accurate. You can get an idea of when and where there will be waves a couple days out. The closer you get it turns into we’re going. Once it’s saying tomorrow there will be waves, that’s when you decide where you’re going to go. Waasaashkaa will set a window over about 3 weeks and as it comes in they will pick the date based off of when their waves are. Last year we had waves and it was awesome, but a couple years ago they thought there was going to be waves and there wasn’t, but they still had the festival. People were playing in the water, doing yoga and still getting the community factor.

undefined
It's only fair to share...Share on Facebook
Facebook
0Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Share on Tumblr
Tumblr
0Print this page
Print
Email this to someone
email

Paige’s Pick – A Life Without Limits – A world champion’s journey

A Life Without Limits – A World Champion’s Journey

Hello and welcome. My name is Paige and I am undergraduate student working for InfoSuperior. Every month I will be doing a “Paige’s Pick” where I share a book I’ve read that has impacted me.

This month the book I’m sharing is “A Life Without Limits – A World Champions Journey” by Chrissie Wellington. Although this book may not sound topical at first, there are some underlying messages that really resonated with me.

I am a varsity runner for Lakehead University and I’m in my fourth year of Water Resource Science. Although running is my main sport, I am also an aspiring triathlete. This book inspires me to be a better athlete and to protect the sport I have grown to love.

Photo of Paige winning the Xterra Triathlon at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Triathlon is a sport that incorporates swimming, biking, and running. But fewer and fewer triathlons are happening because of issues with water quality. There is a section in the book that talks about the water quality of the swim leg in Bangkok Thailand. It says “The day before, I looked down into the water. The toxicity of it, the sh*t, the dead animals, a huge chemical factory on the other bank – these were the first things that struck me.”

Those water conditions are not unique to Thailand. I grew up in Toronto and was surrounded by bodies of water that were not swimmable. Coming to Thunder Bay I was amazed that I could swim in the river that runs through centennial park. Although there are still areas of concern and areas with subpar water quality, the surrounding Thunder Bay area has many great swimming spots.

Being a water resource science student and an aspiring triathlete, I immediately found interest in the connection between triathlons and water quality. My conversations with Madison and Chris this month highlighted the importance of finding a passion that personally connects you to water.

Maybe you’ve heard of triathlon, maybe you haven’t, but this book is an excellent read for those who love adventure, nature, and hard work. Chrissie is a hard-worker that is passionate about everything she does. I hope to move forward with her same energy and charisma to tackle both sport and environmental activism.This book is a moving memoir of one of the best triathletes in the world. It inspires me to improve my skills and protect the sport for future generations by protecting our waters.

Protecting and cleaning up our bodies of water is critical for ecosystem services, but our waters also play a huge role in our recreational activities. Whether it be surfing, sailing, kayaking, or triathlon, water is an important asset. Water is an entity that needs to be advocated for. Although it lacks a literal voice, those of us who have a deep connection to water can be the voice to protect it.

It's only fair to share...Share on Facebook
Facebook
0Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Share on Tumblr
Tumblr
0Print this page
Print
Email this to someone
email

Connecting to Lake Superior through surfing

Photo of Chris Dube surfing in Terrace Bay by Richard Main

I called up Chris Dube, founder of the Waasaashkaa festival for an interview about surfing on the lake.

Do you want to give a background about who you are?

My name is Chris Dube, and I am a teacher at the high school here in town at Lake Superior High School. I teach an outdoor environmental science. It’s an experiential learning program. I also teach chemistry and biology and the sciences. I’ve been here in Terrace Bay, for close to 15 years. When I moved here, I heard that there was surfing here and I met up with a guy named Jaako who sells surfboards in Thunder Bay. There was also one other guy here in Terrace Bay. The scene was pretty small, but I got to know them pretty well. I quickly became the guy here in Terrace Bay because I live here. There are great waves that happen here. If you know anything about the Lake, you know that in the fall we get a lot of south winds. Being on the north shore of Lake Superior, and especially in Terrace Bay, we have a straight shot north so we have a pretty good fetch with the winds. The last couple of days we’ve had surf, which is awesome, and probably the best start to the surfing season I’ve seen in years. It seems with social media and everyone doing staycations that the surf event has got a lot of attention.

We are really fortunate where Terrace Bay is located because we have beautiful sand beaches and old boulder beaches that collect southeast, straight south, and southwest wind and wave directions. We have sustained wind long enough and fetch far enough that we can actually get decent waves. Two nights ago, I was out surfing, and we had 4 footers. There’s been 4-6 footers for the past couple of days. A lot of our beaches are really accessible. We have a beach right here in town called pumphouse, which is obviously where our pump house is located. You can drive right to the beach. There is also hydro bay and another surf spot out at Jackfish. We hit these various locations depending on the wind speed and direction. Over time you get to understand which beaches collect it best. If it’s bigger you go to certain areas, and if it’s too big then areas get too dangerous or washed out so we’ll go to other areas that are more tucked in. There is a solid group of people who have been surfing for years and that’s why we started the festival.

Photo by Richard Main

The festival is called Waasaashkaa. I wanted to pay homage to the land and the First Nations peoples. I wanted an older word. This is not a surfing competition, so I wanted an old word to really pay homage to talk about the land and water. For me, when I thinking about what Waasaashkaa, it means the lake has white caps. And for me, I love that word. We have people that have trouble saying it, but there’s humor in everything. A lot of people have trouble pronouncing it. Ojibwe words are hard for people who aren’t used to speaking Ojibwe. I always like to say that it’s a syllabic word. I find that Ojibwe words work in triplets, it goes WAA-SAASH-KAA. That is what we call it and it’s a gathering of the lake surfers. We have had people come from all over. We’ve had people from Duluth, people from Manitoba, people from Toronto. I have a buddy of mine from Winnipeg who sells stand up paddle boards on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. Those guys do down-winding which is surfing paddleboards on the waves. It’s a shallow lake so it can pick up pretty good in the summer. I have guys that come from Toronto. There are a few companies in Toronto that have supported us since day one with swag, like Surf Ontario. Jaako in Thunder Bay has been huge in the scene. He has been selling boards for like 20-25 years. There is a solid group of people. The reason I started it was because people get busy, we have kids, we get older, how do we set aside time to celebrate the lake and celebrate the season? Waasaashkaa came out of that. The township of Terrace Bay has been really great. We worked with the golf course and have been holding it out of the golf course. That way we are right at main beach and close to town. The township has been really open to new ideas like this and bringing surfers to the town. They have been great to deal with. The surf event itself is amazing. The scene we’ve tried to create is very open and accepting. I know other places such as in Chicago on Lake Michigan, might be more protective because you live in a place with millions of people. For us here, being relatively isolated in the north, we are open and accepting. The last Waasaashkaa we had kite surfers, kayakers, canoers, we’ve had boogie boarders and surfers. The festival is about celebrating the land and celebrating the lake. People come out who really loves the lake and has a connection to water.

Photo by Richard Main

One thing for me is that is a magical day. When in your life do you have a connection to nature and the connection to people and to each other? These sorts of things happen very infrequently in life so when we are able to celebrate the lake as a gathering, we are gathered here to appreciate the lake and what it has offered us. We get to play with Lake Superior and it’s an amazing feeling. We get to watch the leaves change and feel the wind blow. A lot of people bunker down in the fall especially when it’s windy or rainy. But those are the days that we’re out there playing with the lake and having that connection.

Do you feel that the festival gets more people out than a competition?

Competition is about who’s better, and frankly, I don’t even care. I have a 9-year-old and a 2-year old and I want them out there doing cool things. This year is a magical year, my fiancé and a whole bunch of ladies have decided to get involved and they’re all relatively new to Terrace Bay. They call themselves “the women who surf Superior”. There is a girl in grade 8, a girl from my grade 12 class, a yoga teacher, a dog groomer, a nurse, a paramedic, all these women around here have all come together to get out on the lake and have these experiences together.

The women who surf Superior – photo by Heidi

It can be a little intimidating when you see a group of guys that have been going out for years, as opening as we are to people coming, I think the festival has opened eyes. People go “hey I’m just going to go check this out”. The festival allows people to take the next step and get people into the water. Now there is a great support network of women who all message each other and go out together and support each other. I think that is a really cool offshoot of our gathering, that it’s brought people out. We had a guy last year who heard about us who moved to Thunder Bay the year before and only knew a couple of people and he’s like “ya I just heard about it so I just drove here”. Another guy came who had heard about it and wanted to come to check it out, so I lent him my old suit and he borrowed my board, and now he’s a great friend of mine. I’m not in charge of the community, I promote a certain kind of theme. It’s all about inclusivity and that love to surround yourself with people who are stoked to be out on the water. We had EcoSuperior come two years ago and they did a beach clean-up activity. We have had four therapists come. We have a guest speaker series. I like to have two people talk whether it be surf travel or my buddy Hopper who runs the stand-up paddleboard shop in Winnipeg to talk about down winding. I’ve been talking to Darrel Henkins to bring Parks Canada out. We have talked the last few years to have them be more of a partner. They are there as a partner, but really, we are you, and you are us, and we are just an extension of them. We want to have that education piece and work on that in the future. When people come out surfing to Terrace Bay it’s also to appreciate the land and this area in general. Maybe someone from Toronto comes up and they bring something from out scene back to their scene about conservation or environmentalism. It’s not an explicit part of our event, but it’s there.

My interview with Madison talked about the connection being out on water and being a steward for water.

As an environmental educator, I am outdoors 99% of my day. In my opinion, in order to conserve the land, you must spend time on the land, and feel part of the land, and feel that deep connection to the land. If you’re learning about the land through a book, you’re going to lacking that deep connection. If you’re sharing and liking stuff on Facebook and just seeing it through a post you’re not going to have that deep connection. Madison is right, you need to feel and become invested and connected to the land personally in order to elicit a change. That deep connection to the land becomes part of you and by conserving the land you’re also conserving part of yourself. What I’ve tried to create here and sustain through the creation of the event, is the community. We talk about online communities a lot, but I don’t think we talk much about the person-to-person community and what our surf scene is. In my opinion, it’s a really awesome community of people. We are there for each other and we enjoy spending time with each other. It’s a really cool community. And that’s what I hear when people come out and I meet new people.

photo by Richard Main

How do you see the community growing in the future?

I did a podcast the other day, and the host mentioned that we had 900 followers. I don’t necessarily pay attention to it, but it’s cool. He was like “I don’t even know 900 lake surfers; you have this like cult following”. It is gaining momentum, but it’s these type 2 activities and fringe sports that make their way to the surface whether it be ice climbing, or white water canoeing or kayaking. It’s these type 2 activities that get momentum. How about getting on these big rollers. Nobody believes that there’s surfable waves on the lake, but I tell you I have seen days with overhead barrels. It’s unreal. In October and November you’ve got these huge southwinds. I’ve snow shoed and snowmobiled into surfing spots. I am not even kidding. We have ratchet straps with surfboards on a sleigh and snowmobiled into surf spots. Where does that happen anywhere in the world. It’s unique. For me I love being able to see all the different seasons and play with the lake. I’ve talked to people in Costa Rica and they’re like “if that’s what surfing was I wouldn’t surf because I like being in board shorts in the sun”. But for us it’s like we’re out in -20 with ice beards braving the elements. There are guys like that with the ice beards, but not everyone at Waasaashkaa is like that. A lot of the time, I have buddies with kids and dogs that show up and set up a blanket. We have a fire and enjoy the day. This is where the connections are made. If someone catches a wave, everyone is stoked. But I think there is just as much stoke for the 8 year old who rides the board in on their belly for their first time. That stoke is even across the board. That is what I really about what we created, that acceptance and stoke.

Composite photo by Richard Main

How do you see climate change effecting surfing on the lake?

It’s interesting, when I first started surfing here it was when the lake was low. It was about 10 years ago and everyone was worried that it was historic lows for Lake Superior, but now it seems that we are in historic highs for Lake Superior. I am a scientist and I follow climate change and I see it, but quite honestly I don’t have enough data to have a really strong opinion on it. There is too much local variation from year to year. Was the low water because of climate change? Is the high level because of climate change? Or is just natural variations within the weaher ycles and we’re going to have ups and down. I’m only looking at a 15 year snap shot and I can’t make a really good call on it. All I notice is that just like life, every year the lake changes. One year there is a little creek coming out on the beach. It is different every year. We have high years of snow, low years for snow. Some beaches are deeper now. I’ve watched the Jackfish pebble beach almost entirely wash away. Our pumphouse beach used to be 30-40 feet in the low water years, but now it’s only got about 10 feet of beach. There is a lot of local variation from year to year. When you’re looking at predicting waves and surf, the depth of your becah breaks are extremely important factors to take into count. If you have a foot more or a foot less of water, you’re going to have a different break at different beaches. Every year you go out and watch your waves and adapt and learn with the changes of the lake.

When you’re surfing do you notice pollution, algae, or contamination?

At our spot by Jackfish, I haven’t seen much despite it once being an area of concern. I’ve gone to check it out Blackbird creek and see where it comes out, but quite honestly, our beaches are pristine. Our beaches in town, and at Hydro Bay have a lot of people who hike the trail and they are all “leave no trace”. We still have some nurdles at the one beach in town, and at jackfish, there may be a broken bleach bottle that someone was using as a buoy. The beaches that aren’t walked or combed much, might have the odd piece of garbage that washed up. I find relative to other beaches that I visit in southern Ontario, our beaches are very pristine, Quite frankly I just put my head in the water and drink it. Face into the lake, big gulp, let’s go, and I’m not sick. I think we’re one of the last places that you can do this. We are super lucky and that is something that we celebrate and that is to be celebrated. We are aware of it and we want to keep it that way. What is the mill pumping out into the blackbird and what does that look like. It’s something that everyone in the surfing community is aware of.

Any final remarks?

There is no official event this year, but people are welcome to come but just need to be smart. People can come and check out the lake. Go check out the waves and be a part of it. In future events, everyone is welcome whether you are surfing or just checking out the waves. The town of Terrace Bay is a beautiful little town and the people are very welcoming. If COVID allows there will be an event next year and we welcome everyone.

photo by Richard Main
It's only fair to share...Share on Facebook
Facebook
0Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Share on Tumblr
Tumblr
0Print this page
Print
Email this to someone
email

Tim Hollingers Research – how resource development in the Lake Nipigon and Namewaminikan River impact the environment and the community

Photo of Tim from the research trip

An interview with Tim Hollinger about his research expedition that commenced on September 27th, 2020.

What is your research about?

Our department has worked with BZA Rocky Bay (Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek First Nations) for the past few years. They have been trying to kick into gear a watershed monitoring program because they have gone in on some ventures,  dams, and developments. They feel like they have been left out of Lake Nipigon monitoring and conservation for the past 100 years, which is true. They want to be in a position where they have their own data, as opposed to listening to the MNR and getting big excel spreadsheets of data that says everything is okay. They want to understand and participate for themselves. That’s the bigger objective of our work with them.

Lakehead provides technical assistance and guides them along. They will come to us and say, “we want to learn about XYZ” and then we can provide them with pathways to carry that out with the scientific method.

Some background on the study

This is the second year working through the First Nation Environmental Contaminants Program (FNECP). They did a 1-year study in 2017 on the Namewaminikan river, it’s also known as the Sturgeon River. It’s on Lake Nipigon. The river has a long history of gold mine development in and around those areas. There have also been gold mine developments in Beardmore, which they call “the Beardmore gold belt”. The area has a lot of old abandoned mines in that watershed as well as in the blackwater watershed. In 1995 there was a dam built on the river for hydroelectric development, but it was declared that it wasn’t viable or profitable after only 5 years of operation. A lot of the first nations communities had opposed the dam, but the government didn’t take their word seriously, because this happened in the 1990s. The site was a sacred site and the government had completely disregarded that. When they went to build the dam, they had part of the bank washout and human remains washed downstream because it was a burial site. There’s that context, but fast-forward to 2015-2017 they built two new run-of-river dams upstream. Having a history of gold mining and log driving in that river system, they had a concern for mercury contamination. The river is a popular river where people fish. They had concerns back when they built the dam over mercury contamination.

We did a study and it wasn’t that definitive, but it did show that compared to other areas there are elevated mercury levels so there’s cause for concern. The hydro company had hired biologists to do sampling and monitoring over the past few years, but the community really wants to be able to do the monitoring themselves.

Our upcoming research expedition

We are in the second year and the second phase of this environmental contaminants program. Starting September 27th, Rob and I will be going out on Lake Nipigon with a community fisherman on a tugboat along with two biologists from the Aboriginal Ontario Fisheries Research Center based out of North Bay. They are biologists that work in part with the MNR and First Nations communities, although they are not funded through the FNECP. We are going out with them to catch a bunch of fish at 5 different locations on Lake Nipigon to analyze those for mercury content. The biologists from the organization are trying to figure out a population study for sauger on Lake Nipigon. This is all part of the environmental contaminants program. That project is more geared to the community because that’s what they want to do in the future, more widescale monitoring. What we are doing is taking a closer look at the dams this year with the mercury content and the fish. They had proposed an increase in headpawn levels. They are supposed to be run of the river dams, but with an increase of headpawn, that causes more mercury in the system. They are also concerned with historical context of resource development, gold mining, logging, and clearcutting within that water shed.

Tim Hollinger’s Project

For my project I am doing a land classification in GIS as well as getting fish, water, and sediment samples above and below each of the dams to see if there is any gradient or trend within the river system. We will also look at what factors in the watershed are affecting that. We are mainly concerned with mercury, but arsenic is also a concern, but more so for the blackwater river which is located further south. Our project is mainly looking at the river and the big lake monitoring project in hope that BZA can develop the capacity to have their own overall watershed monitoring program. Lakehead will still be involved and do research with them, but the hope is that they become more self-sufficient to carry out their own studies and have a full-time position in the community as an environmental monitor position.

Study Objectives

  1. Identify mercury levels in fish and sediment on the Namewaminikan River as it relates to 3 run of river dams and past development within its watershed;
  2. Identify mercury levels in fish and sediment at the mouth of river systems that are being deposited into Lake Nipigon in areas of interest to the community;
  3.  Quantify the potential stressors on watersheds and aquatic systems that are of importance to the community using GIS in order to engage community members in a better understanding of data collection, interpretation and monitoring

How has covid-19 affected your research?

We were supposed to go out on this expedition in June. We were going to try to bring as many elders and youth out as possible/ The original project was supposed to be us tagging along in this community event. They had all the tents, boats and food for everybody, and we were just going to tag along. That was supposed to be at the end of June/early July. It’s come down to 2 biologists, 2 Lakehead researchers, and 2 fishermen. Covid-19 has changed the community involvement side of the project because it doesn’t reach out in the same hands-on way that we had planned. In the future we plan to have community workshops and education sessions on mercury as well as engage with the community to get their input for the second year of the study. WE want to see if they have any concerns moving forward. There will still be community involvement and it is a community-based project because Ray Novos came up with the whole project. Ray will tell us what he wants, and we tell him what’s reasonable and feasible to do. We aren’t going out on the lake telling them where we need to catch fish. We’re saying “these our areas of interest based on what Ray has told us, take us out and fish where you would fish based on these general areas and we’ll sample the fish you would catch and feed to the community. We’ll see what those mercury levels are at different points in the lake. It’s a big lake so we will be out there for 6-7 days. Covid-19 has changed the time frame, ideally it would be done in mid-summer. It’s going to be a lot colder, but it will still be done and be a great experience.  

It's only fair to share...Share on Facebook
Facebook
0Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Share on Tumblr
Tumblr
0Print this page
Print
Email this to someone
email