Join us in Celebrating 30 Years at the Great River Gala

Science + Nature UNtapped

A free virtual monthly speaker series

Program is supported by a community donation

Science and Nature on Tap (UNtapped online version) is a monthly speaker series that invites everyone to come together and learn from experts in a warm and friendly atmosphere. Speakers range from university professors to local enthusiasts, and address a wide variety of topics in science and nature.

Whether you join us in-person or online, we welcome you to participate and ask questions – it’s free!

April 10th, 2024 / 6:30-7:45 pm 

Journey North

John Dunn, Wilderness Traveler, Photographer, and Presenter

After completing some 5,000 km of journeys on Canada’s eastern Arctic seaboard – namely Ellesmere, Devon, Baffin and Labrador – John started planning a longer wilderness traverse of Canada.

The idea was pretty simple: to make a south-to-north traverse of the country by linking a series of expeditions through some of the country’s finest landscapes. Converting the idea into reality was not so straightforward: requiring 8,000 km of skiing, hiking and paddling. In the end “Journey North” comprised a 400 day series of wilderness expeditions – kayaking, canoeing, packrafting, hiking and skiing – covering almost every step of the way between Tofino on Vancouver Island to the northern tip of Ellesmere Island.

While Journey North was never intended to be a literal full south-to-north traverse of Canada, John hopes that the sharing of his adventures will inspire someone to do the “whole thing”: as a single, pure wilderness journey from Cape Columbia to Middle Island or v.v. ! Journey North is a celebration of the vast Canadian wilderness and of the joys and challenges of long self-propelled journeys.

Bio: John Dunn is a wilderness traveller, photographer and presenter who specializes in expeditions in the Canadian wilderness – especially the Arctic. He has organized some 30 successful expeditions, including the first end-to-end ski traverse of Ellesmere Island; a pioneering 3,000 km skiing, kayaking and hiking traverse of Baffin Island; and a 2500 km journey through British Columbia which included a gruelling crossing of the entire western cordillera. That BC traverse is now part of his “Journey North” presentation. His Baffin images were published in National Geographic magazine.

John was born and educated in England. A geology degree from London University then led to a job in mineral exploration in the Australian Outback. He moved to Canada in the late ‘80s and became a Canadian citizen. He says he comes by his wilderness wanderlust honestly: his parents sailed around the world at the age of 65+. John brings his expedition images and experiences to a wide audience through his multi-media presentations, making frequent tours of schools across Canada. John continues to visit the Canadian Arctic, most recently in 2022 for a 60 day, 900 km journey on remote Axel Heiberg Island. After 30 Arctic trips, 13,000+ km of sled-hauling and over 1200 days in the field he still has the Arctic “bug” and the desire to share his experiences through his images and talks.

How To Attend Event:

1. Watch on Facebook Live by clicking Join Live Event

2. In-Person: Program Room 1 & 2 at the Cornwall Public Library (45 Second St. East, Cornwall ON K6H 5V1)

Past Presenters

Evaluating the Ecological Impacts of Waves and Shoreline Erosion on Nearshore Habitat in the St. Lawrence River 

Curtis Lazore, Great River Network
Arman Hagiggi, University of Ottawa
Colin Rennie, University of Ottawa
Matt Windle, River Institute

Join us for Science + Nature on March 13th at the Cornwall Public Library (or virtually) to learn about wave cycle science and its relationship to shoreline erosion and aquatic habitat quality. For the last two years, the Great River Network, River Institute, University of Ottawa, South Nation Conservation, and the Raisin Region Conservation Authority have been working together to gain a better understanding of wave action and its impacts on our shorelines. 

 Don’t miss this opportunity to explore the fascinating world of environmental science, and to meet the scientists and community members working in our community! 

This presentation details a two-year collaborative project between the Great River Network, the St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences (River Institute), the University of Ottawa, South Nation Conservation, and the Raisin Region Conservation Authority.  This presentation provides new knowledge to understand the relationships between wave cycle science, shoreline erosion, and aquatic habitat quality.  

Small but mighty: Understanding the role of nutrients in the Upper St. Lawrence River

Erin Smith, PhD – River Institute & Ontario Tech University 

Abstract: What changes have you noticed in the St. Lawrence River over the last 50+ years? Whether it’s shifting fish populations, algal bloom frequency, or water clarity, nutrients are one common factor influencing all these changes. Nutrients come from various sources including urban and agricultural activities and influence the entire food web from plants and algae up to predatory fish. As part of the Great River Rapport project, broad-scale nutrient trends in the Upper St. Lawrence River were explored and related to various changes in human activity. Additionally, local trends in Lake St. Francis and its tributaries will be examined to find out where nutrients may be coming from and how they are impacting the lake ecosystem. Attend to learn more about nutrients in the river and their impact on overall river health and join in the conversation.

Bio: Dr. Erin Smith is a freshwater ecologist currently working on a Mitacs Elevate Post-Doctoral Fellowship jointly at the River Institute and in the Kirkwood Lab at Ontario Tech University in Oshawa. Dr. Smith completed her PhD in 2022 at Ontario Tech University and her B.Sc. (Honours) with a biology specialization at McMaster University in 2018. Her research work focuses on water quality and using the lower aquatic food web to better understand lake and river health. Some key components of Dr. Smith’s work are collaboration and communication; she works with various research scientists, community scientists, policymakers, conservation authorities, and non-profit organizations and enjoys sharing her work with all these groups and the general public whenever possible.

Negotiating Rights and Responsibilities with the Kaniataronwanenneh (St. Lawrence) in Akwesasne 

Abraham Francis, Founder of the Aronia Collective and PhD Student at Clarkson University

The right of nature is a significant movement occurring on a global scale that seeks to use legal personhood and rights to protect the environment from degradation with legal action. A debate on the actual implementation of these rights within courts continues to unfold and be challenged. For the Haudenosaunee, a relational network is articulated in the Ohenton Karihwatehkwen (Words that come before all else), a speech given before and after critical meetings, events, or decisions occur. The address ensures that the Haudenosaunee keep all their relations in mind and remembers that everything has a reciprocal role and responsibility to each other. Introducing the biocultural context of the Haudenosaunee complicates the discussion around bestowing rights upon nature when they are beings that already have agency. However, the act can be seen as a part of harm reduction within colonial systems. An effort in Northern New York by a group called Talking Wings has brought together various actors involved in protecting the environment and opened up the possibility of seeing the rights of Kaniatarowanenneh (St. Lawrence) recognized and critically engaged in the Haudenosaunee biocultural context in their expression. This effort within Akwesasne continues to be negotiated, which must overcome complex geopolitics and obtain the investment of different political bodies to support it.  

Algonquin Wild 

Michael Runtz, Author and Instructor, Carleton University 

Algonquin Wild is Michael Runtz’s highly visual look at Nature in Algonquin Park through the seasons.  From howling wolves to stunning warblers, there is much that makes Algonquin an unforgettable experience. 

Michael Runtz is recognized for his outstanding work as a naturalist, biologist, educator, author and photographer—work that has inspired thousands. An author of 15 bestselling books, an active nature photographer, natural history consultant, nature guide in Algonquin park and television presenter, Michael is a familiar face and voice to many. His television series, Wild by Nature has garnered an international audience. In Canada, Michael is known as the founder of the 1000-member strong Ontario Field Ornithologists group. Michael embraces both traditional and new media, with active engagement, especially during COVID, on social media platforms, to ensure people can continue to be inspired by nature and learn—even from their homes.

Kanietarowanenen– the Great River: her health and the health of the future 

Ojistoh Horn, MD, Akwesasne Medical Clinic

The St. Lawrence River, also known as Kaniatarowanenen, the “Great River’, drains a quarter of the earth’s freshwater.  In the mid 1980’s, around Akwesasne, she was found to be so polluted that many restrictions were placed on the Peoples’ ability and safety to interact with her and the lands and air around her.  Today, many of our people are not healthy. 

The story of the quest to keep this vibrant river healthy, to monitor her health and the health status of the people who engage with her, are the basis for a discussion about ecological and planetary health.  

As a traditional minded Haudenosaunee woman, mother, western-based physician, having immersed myself in the understandings of the sciences including epidemiology and biostatistics, I would like to discuss the largest health crisis of this century.  The dysregulation of the homeostasis of Iethinisthena Ohontsa – Mother Earth.  Also known as Climate Change. 

Let’s think Seven Generations into the future, by looking back into the past.  Let us join the discussion about what we can do today to ensure the continued existence and thriving of all the parts of creation that exist in and around Kanietarowanenen.

Ojistoh is a Mohawk / Haudenosaunee woman whose mother is from Kahnawake, and father is from Akwesasne. She works as a family physician taking care of her people through all stages of the lifecycle.  She teaches medical students and family medicine residents the complexities of providing primary care to Indigenous peoples and their communities.  Drawing on both Western and Traditional paradigms, working with like-minded physicians across the country, with a focus on the effects of the environment and pollution on health, she promotes the inclusion and support of traditional knowledge and ‘ways of being’ into a framework for providing wholistic and primary care to her people.

Fish Inclusion for Hydropower

Abe Schneider, CTO & Co-founder & Sterling Watson, Staff Engineer & Fish Passage Lead 

Migration corridors for riverine species tend to overlap with valuable hydropower resources. Supporting clean hydroelectric power generation while also protecting freshwater diversity is in many cases an unmet challenge. Exclusion infrastructure (i.e., fine fish screens, behavioral guidance infrastructure, and bypasses) can protect fish from turbine entrainment when it is feasible, but also limits the available passage routes for fish and constrains hydropower generation. Alternatively, turbines designed to pass fish downstream safely can maintain connectivity for downstream migrating species while also enabling uninterrupted hydropower operation. Integrating safe downstream passage into normal hydropower operations through the use of fish-safe turbines (fish inclusion) can reduce cost and complexity while facilitating downstream migration. We will describe the function and application range of a new propeller-style turbine, called the Restoration Hydro Turbine (RHT), as well as passage testing learnings and results for American eel, Alewife, and Rainbow trout.

Abe Schneider is cofounder and Chief Technology Officer of Natel. Abe creates hydraulic designs for Natel’s turbines, and works at the intersection of science, R&D, product and project development, and communications. Abe holds bachelors and masters degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT. Abe enjoys SUP surfing, wing foiling, rock climbing and building things with his wife and 2 children.

Sterling Watson is a Staff Engineer and leads fish-safe turbine design at Natel Energy. Her technical focus includes turbine performance assessment, fish passage test design and data collection, engagement with the scientific and stakeholder communities, and model development to inform high-performance, fish-safe turbine and hydropower plant designs. Sterling holds bachelors and masters degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT. Her passion for everything aquatic extends beyond the office and she can be found swimming, surfing, and sea foraging in the waters of San Francisco during her free time.

Think like a Muskrat: Recognizing & loving Eastern Ontario’s largest Invertebrates.

Fred Schueler, Research Curator at Fragile Inheritance Natural history 

Native Unionoid Bivalves – mussels, clams, or naiads – are an ancient freshwater lineage with some 300 species in North America, of which a couple of dozen species colonized eastern Ontario after deglaciation. We have 3 abundant genera, which hybridize between stocks from Mississippian & Atlantic refugia, and a wide range of other species. Despite the abundance with which they lined the beds of our streams and lakes, and their constant filtering of the water, they are generally ignored. Unionids were already threatened by sedimentation & pollution before invasive Zebra Mussels arrived in the 1980s, but Zebras clustered on Unionids, and whole faunas became extinct. As we gathered the lovely shells which documented these lost populations, some of us predicted that natural selection would produce adaptations, and there are situations where this is happening. We now need to get out into the St Lawrence and other Zebraed waterbodies to see where Unionids have recovered, after whatever adaptations they’ve evolved, and whatever has happened to Zebra numbers. 

Having learned, as an undergraduate, that “ecology is the science of where organisms are found,” Fred Schueler has spent half a century in the museum mission of finding & documenting where species occur. He and his wife Aleta Karstad have promoted, illustrated, and studied a series of conspicuous groups that weren’t popularly recognized as species: reptiles & Amphibians, Crayfish, slugs & land snails, invasive plants, and aquatic Molluscs, especially the native Unionid mussels. From their home base in Bishops Mills, in Grenville County, they survey the occurrence of their species of interest east & west across Canada. Fred’s academic tradition emphasises the collection of specimens & data that can be used to document ecological & evolutionary change, and since the incursion of Dreissenid Zebra & Quagga Mussels has been the biggest challenge faced by aquatic ecosystems in Ontario, they’ve been working on it since the early 1990s. 

In the forest, the fields, and by the waters: creating a Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabeg Ethnobotanical Atlas and Field Guide to Southern Ontario  

Jessica M. Dolan, Ph.D. Mitacs Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Guelph and Plenty Canada  

This talk is about my current research on Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabeg Ethnobotany in partnership with Plenty Canada and the University of Guelph. We have built a team of students and community members who are working to combine historical data from museum archives, with cultural knowledge and biological field research to create an Indigenous digital atlas and printed ethnobotanical field guide. Our aim is to do work that will uplift Indigenous relationships with the plant relatives in Southern Ontario’s Greenbelt and along the Niagara Escarpment. The goals of this multi-year project are to generate digital and printed publications that will integrate Indigenous and Western sciences, in support of culturally-grounded learning about plants used for food, medicine, utility, and craft. We intend for the field guide and Indigenous atlas to serve as tools that will accompany public, place-based education, that will enable people re-envision familiar, peri-urban landscapes as Indigenous homelands. Our work supports Indigenous treaty rights through multiple pathways of bio-cultural conservation and the development of co-management within the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network.   

Dr. JessicaDolan has a B.A. in History and Social Sciences from The New School for Social Research; an MSc in Ethnobotany from the University of Kent at Canterbury; and a Ph.D. in Environmental Anthropology and Indigenous Studies from McGill University. She is currently a Mitacs Post-doctoral Fellow at Plenty Canada and the University of Guelph Department of Geography, Environment, and Geomatics. She has also worked as an Environmental Science Officer for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Environment Program, and as a consultant for Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Environment Division.  

Big Fish, little fish: the ups and downs of Yellow Perch and Northern Pike in the Great River

Dr. Mary Ann Perron, Mitacs Postdoctoral FellowThe River Institute & University of Ottawa 

As River People, we all love and care for our fish. They are a key part of livelihoods and ways of life along the Great River. The St. Lawrence River has experienced major human-driven degradation that has fundamentally altered the food web. Yellow Perch are a sentinel species in the region with a culturally rich history. Northern Pike are top predators in the ecosystem and contribute to its natural regulation and equilibrium. The importance of both species, and their responses to environmental change, make them good indicators of the health of the Upper St. Lawrence River. As part of the Great River Rapport, we explored abundance indicators of Yellow Perch and Northern Pike in the Upper St. Lawrence River along with the major drivers of trends in abundance over the past 100 years. Join us on September 7th at 7pm at Schnitzel’s in Cornwall to learn more about these important fish! 

Dr. Mary Ann Perron completed her BSc at Laurentian University in Biology with a specialization in Restoration and Conservation Ecology. She then went on to complete her PhD in Biology at the University of Ottawa, specializing in freshwater ecology with a focus on wetland ecosystems and dragonfly science. Dr. Perron joined the River Institute in 2020 as a Mitacs postdoctoral fellow where she leads the scientific component of the Great River Rapport. She is currently leading a team of scientists to complete a series of technical reports on the 35 ecological indicators for the project. 

A year of Collaboration 2021 Year in Review
Presented by the River Institute Staff

It’s been a busy year at the River Institute, and we are excited to share all the projects we’ve been working on!Join the River Institute staff and Board on May 18 at 7pm for the Annual Year in Review presentation: A Year of Collaboration. This special edition of Science and Nature UNtapped will highlight the River Institute’s projects and accomplishments of the past year, and celebrate the partnerships that enrich all of our work. River Institute scientists, educators, and staff will describe the many projects underway and their plans for the 2022 field season. Bring your questions – everyone is welcome!


Stories of Coastal Resistance and the Climate Crisis

Philip A. Loring, author of Finding Our Niche and associate professor at the University of Guelph 

Coastal communities are often described as being on the front line of climate change impacts. In this talk, Loring explores also how they can be the front line of active and innovative responses to climate change. He explores the deeply rooted but often overlooked injustices involved when communities are asked to be resilient or to adapt to changes and disasters over which they have no control or responsibility. With lessons from how fishing communities responded to the first year of closures of COVID19, Loring explores opportunities for communities to “bounce forward” in the face of change, mitigating carbon dioxide while also reducing vulnerability and building community well-being.

Dr. Philip Loring is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, Environment, and Geomatics at the University of Guelph, where he holds the Arrell Chair in Food, Policy, and Society. A human ecologist, his work focuses on the intersection of sustainability, food systems, and social justice, primarily in coastal settings. An avid science communicator, Loring emphasizes writing, film, and other forms of storytelling to reach diverse audiences. His book, “Finding Our Niche”, won a gold medal from the Independent Publisher’s Awards and a silver medal from the Nautilus Book Awards, and his TEDx talk, “No More Heroes”, has received over 100,000 views.

Breeding Bird Atlases: Putting Canada’s Birds on the Map 

Dr. Catherine Dale, Newfoundland Breeding Bird Atlas Coordinator, Birds Canada

Having solid baseline data about the distribution, abundance, and health of bird populations is essential for sound conservation and management decisions: we can’t know what we’re losing if we don’t know what’s out there! Breeding bird atlases are multi-year citizen science projects that aim to provide this baseline data by combining the efforts of scientists and birders to map the bird species breeding in a province. The data collected are used by governments, academics, industry, and conservation experts, and inform decisions about land and resource management to minimize the impact of development on biodiversity. Currently, there are 2 breeding bird atlases under way in Canada: the Ontario and Newfoundland Atlases. Come out to this talk to learn about how these ambitious projects are set up, what we can learn from them, and how you can join the fun and survey birds for science! 

Bio: Dr. Catherine Dale began her ornithology career studying tree swallows near Chaffey’s Lock, Ontario as an undergraduate student at Queen’s University, and has been fascinated by birds ever since. She completed a PhD in Biology at Queen’s in 2018, studying migration patterns of Western Bluebirds, and is currently employed by Birds Canada as the Coordinator of the Newfoundland Breeding Bird Atlas. 

She believes strongly in the importance of citizen science and loves that her job brings together two of things she’s most passionate about – birds and science outreach. Since her move to St. John’s, she has been eagerly exploring the woods, cliffs, and bogs of Newfoundland, and learning all about the birds of her adopted home.

Rethinking urban planning: Why sustainable cities are important

Angela Parker – Sustainability Project Coordinator, City of Cornwall 

Urban growth shows no signs of slowing and more than half of the world’s population live in cities. This is set to rise over 70% by 2070. Urban infrastructure today is built for yesterday’s climate, not tomorrow’s. If the future is going to be different because of climate change, then the past isn’t so helpful. Systematically integrating technological, nature-based, and social solutions is key. Strengthening urban climate resilience and lowering greenhouse gas emissions is crucial and needs to be considered in transportation and buildings, the two main emitters of greenhouse gases. This talk will discuss cities as a cause of and solution to climate change, and how the City of Cornwall, Ontario is taking action.

Angela holds a master’s degree in Geography, Urban and Environmental Studies from Concordia University, Montreal. Her research focused on human/animal interactions within particular spaces, including road ecology. She has since expanded from that research to contemplate how human-induced extreme weather events are impacting both domesticated and feral nonhuman species. 

She brings this knowledge and passion, as well as a decade of communications and outreach experience, to the City of Cornwall as the new Sustainability Project Coordinator. Her role at the City involves outreach for the community as well as implementing initiatives for current and future projects to ensure that the City mitigates greenhouse gases and becomes resilient to climate change. 

Native Insects and Invasive Molluscs:

Rivals for Domination of the Depth

Dr. David Bruce Conn

A river as large and complex as the mighty St. Lawrence entails a diversity of underwater habitats, each supporting a distinctive biota. The vast size and significant depth of the river, combined with frequent turbulence and powerful currents, create a dynamic environment that is difficult and hazardous to study. For 35 years, our teams have undertaken numerous projects, employing a range of methodologies to shed light on the animals that dwell on the river’s bottom and in many cases define the living communities of the deep. From scuba diving, to dredging from research watercraft, to examining animals that attach to navigational buoys, among other techniques, we have pieced together a growing body of information on the invertebrate bottom biota of the upper river, from Lake Ontario to Montreal. This benthos is very diverse, but in many locations is dominated by a small number of keystone species that define the communities of the deep. From native species such as filter-feeding caddisflies, to invasive species such as zebra mussels, this talk will explore the ever-changing life in the river’s depths.

Dr. David Bruce Conn is Gund Professor of Biology at the Berry College One Health Center, Associate of Invertebrate Zoology at Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology, and Senior Scientific Advisor on international issues for the U.S. State Department, while serving as a member of the White House national security subcommittee on foreign animal threats.

While a professor at New York’s St. Lawrence University, he chaired the multisectoral international St. Lawrence River Zebra Mussel Task to mitigate the spread of invasive European mollusc through Great Lakes system. He is an editor for several scientific journals, has been president of three international scientific societies, and is currently Vice President of the global INVASIVESNET organization. Prof. Conn continues to build collaborating teams around the globe, with research spanning many areas of the life sciences. His work on the St. Lawrence River began in 1985, with plans to continue into the future.

The FINS project: Little Fish, Big River 

Matt Windle

In 2015 the River Institute and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne’s (MCA) Environment Program staff began a project with a simple goal: to describe the nearshore fish populations of the Akwesasne and Cornwall section of the St. Lawrence River. Under the moniker FINS (Fish Identification Nearshore Survey), the project was initially designed to fill in knowledge gaps and address community concerns regarding the state of small fish populations in the area, which were perceived to be declining. Since 2015 the FINS Project has grown considerably in terms of geographic scope, research focus, technological tools, and collaborative relationships. It has developed into a platform that has provided numerous local and regional benefits: high quality training opportunities for young professionals and volunteers; continuity of research and strengthening working partnerships between the River Institute and the MCA; filling in critical knowledge gaps for species at risk; monitoring the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS); developing the use of new technologies such as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) and environmental DNA (eDNA); providing public outreach and education on fish species and their habitats; providing opportunities for university graduate students and collaborations; and identifying areas for restoration and conservation activities. To date the project has surveyed over 200 sites from Kingston to Montreal and documented over 155,000 fish from 67 species, and has built one of the largest and most unique baseline datasets of the Upper St. Lawrence River nearshore habitats. This presentation will focus on the highlights, successes and challenges of the FINS Project, with insights into plans for future directions and goals.

Matt is a biologist at the River Institute with experience in environmental science, freshwater ecosystem ecology, spatial analyses, contaminant analyses, and Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS).

He completed a BSc in environmental science from Queen’s University, and a M.Sc. in Biology at Memorial University of Newfoundland. In addition to his work as a Research Scientist at the River Institute, he is also a professor in the Environmental Technician Program at St. Lawrence College. He has certifications for open water SCUBA, the Ontario Stream Assessment Protocol (OSAP), Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) fish identification workshops, advanced operations and flight reviewer status for RPAS from Transport Canada, and the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System (OWES). 

Conserving little brown bats in Ontario

Brian Hickey

Brian received both his M.Sc and Ph.D. from York University where he specialized in the foraging and thermoregulatory behaviour of red and hoary bats in southern Ontario. His bat research has brought him to Zimbabwe, the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico and Ontario, Canada. While Brian is well known for his bat research, he has studied a wide range of taxa including birds, fish, reptiles, and invertebrates.

The unifying theme throughout his research has been an interest in understanding the role that environmental variation and individual behavioural variation has on the structure of animal populations and communities. Most recently, Brian has been investigating contaminant burdens (particularly mercury) in bats as well as monitoring the status of bat declines due to white-nose syndrome. In an effort to support bat populations, Brian has built and deployed over 170 artificial roosts across Ontario. As part of this effort, his team is currently documenting the recovery and growth of several colonies of endangered little brown bats.

In addition to his role as a research scientist, Brian oversees the River Institute’s education and outreach programs, which in 2019 received a national award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), for their excellence.

Bats in North America face numerous threats including loss of habitat (especially roosts), reduced prey populations due to excessive use of insecticides, exposure to contaminants including mercury, mortality caused by wind turbines, and the devastating effects of the introduced fungus that causes white-nose syndrome.

This fungus, which was first identified in New York state in 2006, is now found throughout Canada (and most of the US) and has resulted in population declines in bat hibernacula of more than 99%.  These massive declines might represent the largest decline in a mammalian population since biologists began tracking these types of events and has prompted some experts to predict the extinction of some species of North American bats.

Between May and August 2021, Brian and his team have surveyed potential maternity roosts of endangered little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), one of the species most severely affected by white-nose syndrome. The roosts they surveyed included bat houses built and deployed by Brian, buildings or bat houses that were historically occupied by bats, and buildings owned by people who reported that they had bats living in their attics.

Brian identified 20 M. lucifugus roosts, including 17 bat houses and 3 buildings. Emergence counts were conducted at 11 of the 20 roosts with coloniy sizes ranging from 1 – 200 bats (mean 96). These results suggest bat populations in eastern Ontario may have developed resistance to the fungus and may be slowly recovering from the declines caused by white-nose syndrome.

A St. Lawrence River Odyssey on board the Lampsilis research vessel

Francois Guillemette

Riverine population identify with and use the St. Lawrence for food, transport, recreation and culture, but in turn significantly modify the sustainability of these ecological services. For example, the acceleration of human activities in recent decades has depleted some economically important fish stocks, destroyed wetland habitats, degraded water quality and accelerated invasions of unwanted species. However, at the local and regional levels, these impacts vary in their nature and intensity due to the complex hydrology of the St. Lawrence and the presence of different sources of pollution (urban and agricultural) along the river. Come aboard the Lampsilis research vessel to discover the fragile nature of the river and the most recent research results concerning its health.

François Guillemette is a Professor at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, Quebec and currently holds the UQTR Research Chair on the Ecology of the St. Lawrence. His research interests revolve around the fields of aquatic carbon biogeochemistry and microbial ecology. Of particular interest is the export, transformation and fate of organic matter from land to rivers, and the understanding of the metabolic response of microbial communities to changes in the supply, source and composition of organic material. His work also focuses on how urban and agricultural pollution affect the composition of microbial communities and the role they play in the functioning of river ecosystems and the services they provide to the society. Aside from his research program, he also has great interests in public education for the preservation, valuation and restoration of aquatic ecosystems.

Water, Fish, & Community

Barry N Madison, Ph.D

I take an integrative molecule-to-population level approach to my research. I draw on my broad research experience employing techniques from physiology, endocrinology, and toxicology to study animal responses to environment and climate change. In this presentation, I will provide some perspective on my background and approach to research, as well as the story of why Water, Fish, & Community represents a new age of integration in my scientific journey. Recent events have caused many scientists to reflect on what is important to us, and my hope is to demonstrate how COVID has made many of us rethink our approach to research. Instead of a detailed presentation of data, I hope to share my experiences and highlight the importance of flexibility in scientific research. I will offer some examples of this in practice using my own experience with recent collaborations with the River Institute. I will close with what I see as the opportunities, and their challenges for this way forward ahead. 

Originally from Kenora, ON, Barry pursued his passion for aquatic biology at Queen’s University and completed his PhD at the University of Guelph, where his research focused on the endocrine mechanisms of stress and growth in salmonids. A post-doc placement at the Royal Military College of Canada furthered his expertise in ecotoxicology in his work studying the effects of petrochemicals and novel watershed contaminants. As a Research Associate and Adjunct Professor at Queen’s University, he expanded his research into oil sands wastewater decontamination processes; explored modern methods for monitoring contaminants and indicators of ecosystem health; and studied novel bioremediation methods for harmful algal blooms. 

Barry has recently acted as a science contributor and advisor to the River Institute’s Great River Rapport, and his recent work with the Great Lakes Institute of Environmental Research (University of Windsor), Queen’s University, and the River Institute focus on Water, Fish, & Community.

Permaculture: An Introduction to Going Beyond Sustainability

Audrey Constance Wagner

MSc. candidate in Environmental Change and Management | University of Oxford BSc. Environment and Food Production | McGill University

In this Introduction to Permaculture, speaker Audrey Wagner lays out the foundation of permaculture theory and showcases some specific techniques and tools typically used in permaculture, before illustrating some examples from around the world. Permaculture (from permanent-culture or permanent-agriculture) is a system of design based on the observation of nature to create human societies which are beyond sustainable, abundant and regenerative. Emerging from the disciplines of ecology, systems thinking and traditional indigenous knowledge, permaculture guides us to work with nature to meet human needs while regenerating the environment at the same time. 

Audrey Wagner is an expert in the intersections between sustainability and food systems. Having conducted research on agroecological farms across the world, from Belize and India to Panama and Portugal, she is particularly well-versed in Permaculture. From Montreal, Canada, she holds a BSc. in Environment and Food Production, with a minor in International Agriculture, from McGill University. She is the co-founder of four organizations including the Macdonald Permaculture Showcase Garden and McGill Permaculture Club, and has worked as Sustainability Coordinator for McGill’s Food and Dining Services, researcher for the International Institute for Sustainable Development in Canada and for the United Nations World Food Program in Havana, Cuba. Currently studying an MSc. in Environmental Change and Management at the University of Oxford in the UK,

her current research focuses on payments for ecosystems services and indigenous sovereignty in the Peruvian Amazon. Audrey hopes to go on to work on agricultural nature-based solutions to climate change and biodiversity loss, while empowering farmers to strengthen their resilience and livelihoods, particularly in Latin America.

A year of Adaptation 2020 Year in Review
Presented by the River Institute Staff

Wondering what we did last year?
Curious about the river?
Want to meet some of our staff?

Join us on May 5, at 7pm for a special ‘River Institute Year in Review’ edition of Science and Nature UNtapped. River Institute staff will come together to tell you all about the amazing projects they worked on in 2020 and their plans for 2021. Bring your questions and join us…

Exotic invasion of the Upper St. Lawrence River: Moderating Factors and Emerging Questions

Dr. Alison Derry
Associate Professor Université du Québec à Montréal

Exotic invasion is globally recognized as one of the most serious persisting threats to aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem function. Invasive species are difficult if not impossible to eradicate from natural ecosystems, and so it becomes it is important to understand factors that could moderate their ecological impacts once they have become irrevocably integrated in food webs. I will revisit the ecological impacts of round goby fish invasion in the Upper St. Lawrence River (Canada) on resident macroinvertebrate and fish communities, by taking into consideration the effects of time since initial invasion 20 years ago. I will also address how different refuge types constrain round goby invasion impacts on native biodiversity at the whole ecosystem-scale of the Upper St. Lawrence River. I will finish by discussing forthcoming research questions on how round goby invasion may impact contaminants and ecosystem services for humans.

Alison Derry received a BSc in zoology/environmental biology (University of Guelph), a MSc in limnology (University of Alberta), and a PhD in ecology and evolution (Queen’s University). She is presently an associate professor in the department of biological sciences at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). Her research program applies ecological and evolutionary theory to aquatic field ecosystems to address adaptive responses to environmental disturbance from populations to communities to ecosystems.

Michael Twiss is Yankee who grew up in northern Ontario, and arrived at Clarkson in 2002, following a brief tenure at Ryerson University (Toronto). Twiss’s expertise is in limnology of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River system. His research focuses on aquatic biogeochemistry and plankton ecology and he has published over 75 peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts. Over the past seven years, he has increasingly become involved with Great Lakes environmental policy. He is an appointed member of the Great Lakes Science Advisory Board of the International Joint Commission (Canada/USA), past member of the Great Lakes Advisory Board – Science and Information Subcommittee of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and currently serves as the US co-chair of the Smart Great Lakes Initiative Steering Committee.

Alison Derry’s research program which brings evolutionary biology, community ecology, and ecosystem ecology under the unifying theme of eco-evolutionary interactions. The research is based in aquatic ecosystems across Canada and in Alaska, spanning from the Canadian Rockies to Ontario and Québec to Newfoundland. Alison, her students, and her collaborators apply a diversity of approaches that include whole lake ecosystem manipulations, field and lab experimentation, environmental DNA, and genomics to address ecological and evolutionary responses in Canadian aquatic ecosystems to stressors such as acidification, metal pollution, exotic invasion, and climate change.

Maitland Tower: Combining History, Nature, Community and Social Enterprise

Philip Ling, & Michèle Andrews
Maitland Tower Corp,

The Maitland Tower is an iconic landmark east of Brockville on the St. Lawrence River with a storied past that dates back to the 1750’s. In 2016 Philip Ling bought the Maitland Tower site, and started the restoration of the historic buildings.  

The site will become a hub for the community, connecting people with the history, nature, and the St. Lawrence River, and hosting and mentoring the next generation of social enterprises that want to have a positive impact on the community and our planet. 

It will also be a demonstration of the Living Building Challenge and Living Community Challenge — the highest standards of green building design in the world.  

Last fall the Maitland Tower team created, a non-profit to accelerate their work in the community. Michèle Andrews, a member of the Maitland Tower team, is leading, and will share some of their initiatives, including a collaborative re-wilding and shoreline restoration project on the Maitland Tower site, in partnership with the River Institute and several other local organizations. 

Philip is a nature bug, electrical engineer, clean tech entrepreneur and philanthropist, and believes in leading by example. Twenty-five years ago he co-founded Powersmiths, a manufacturer of energy saving power systems for clients across North America, which he sold in 2018. He is involved in his community, serving on several environmental committees. In 2012, Philip took his Biomimicry specialist certification with the Biomimicry Institute, where he studied how nature can inspire regenerative solutions to design problems. His family has a conservation agreement for their 400 acres of provincially significant wetlands, and were Markham Hydro’s first solar-powered home.

Michèle spent the first 15 years of her career in the corporate sector in marketing, strategy, leadership and organizational transformation before making the switch to independent school administration, where she spent the next 15 years. Recently she led a national Green Schools Project with the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools association. She is a Climate Reality Leader, and a volunteer ambassador and Living Future Accredited member of the International Living Future Institute. She brings her deep passion for creating a just, beautiful and regenerated world to work each day.

Bringing Emerging Technologies and a Decentralized Approach to Water Treatment & Conservation

Andy Zhou, Sreeman Mypati, & Cameron Runte
Grafoid Inc.

Grafoid Inc. is a Kingston, ON company that specializes in graphene research, development, and production. Grafoid has recently engaged the St Lawrence River Institute to collaborate on research and product validation studies that align with the strategic plan of the River Institute. In this presentation, we will introduce the history of Grafoid, elaborate on the uses of our graphene-based materials in water treatment settings, and discuss our applications of the materials within engineered systems that are designed to address problems surrounding water treatment, security, and conservation.

Sreeman Mypati graduated with a Ph.D. degree in Chemical Engineering from Queen’s University in 2020, and joined Grafoid Inc. in 2020 as an Environmental Scientist with a focus on developing decentralized water treatment technologies.

Cameron graduated with a M.Sc. in Microbiology & Immunology from Dalhousie University in 2017 prior to joining Grafoid in 2018 as a Business Development Associate. Now as VP Product Commercialization, Cameron is focused on a collaboration-based approach to developing commercial markets and moving the company’s emerging technologies through the product development pipeline.

Andy graduated with a Masters in Material Science and Engineering from the University of Toronto in 2017. In his current position as Grafoid’s VP of Research and Application Development, Andy leads product management and implements long-term strategy with respect to new and emerging technologies that advance company objectives.

REASON d’être: The St. Lawrence River Environment and Sensor Observation Network

Dr. Michael Twiss
Chair of Biology Clarkson University

The REASON Project is focused on accessing water quality of the St Lawrence River. This multinational partnership serves many needs – long-term data set to observe climate change effects and policy impacts on water quality, a learning tool, a platform for developing and applying emerging technologies, and an early warning sentinel of changing water quality. In this talk, Twiss will present a variety of approaches used to assess water quality and the challenges of doing this in a large river system.  The design of the REASON project sensor platforms will be shared and interesting phenomena revealed by its operation.  In addition, recent applications for protecting water quality in the St. Lawrence River-Kaniatarowanenneh are illustrated. 

Michael Twiss is Yankee who grew up in northern Ontario, and arrived at Clarkson in 2002, following a brief tenure at Ryerson University (Toronto).  Twiss’s expertise is in limnology of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River system. His research focuses on aquatic biogeochemistry and plankton ecology and he has published over 75 peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts.  Over the past seven years, he has increasingly become involved with Great Lakes environmental policy.  He is an appointed member of the Great Lakes Science Advisory Board of the International Joint Commission (Canada/USA), past member of the Great Lakes Advisory Board – Science and Information Subcommittee of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and currently serves as the US co-chair of the Smart Great Lakes Initiative Steering Committee. 

As an active member of the IJC Science Advisory Board, Twiss is presently co-chair of the Great Lakes Early Warning System – Phase II project, and is a core member of the Great Lakes Science Plan work group.  His past committee activities at the IJC SAB include co-chairing the Great Lakes Early Warning System – Phase I project, and co-chair of the Current Status of Great Lakes Connecting Waters work group.  He recently served as the president (2018-2019) of the International Association for Great Lakes Research.  Twiss is on the Fulbright Specialist Program roster, and in the absence of pandemics, he is a Level III USA hockey referee during his spare time.

Smart Bioplastics Products

Dr. Prashant Agrawal
Chief Scientific Officer Plantee Bioplastics

Plastics have varied application and have become an essential part of our daily lives. The use of the plastics has increased twenty-fold in the past half-century and is expected to double again in the next 20 years. As a global estimate, around 330 million tonnes of the plastics are produced per annum. The production, use and disposal of the plastics emerged as a persistent and potential environmental nuisance. The improper disposal of the plastics ends up in our environment, resulting in the deaths of millions of animals annually and also the reduction in fertility status of the soil. The bioplastics products are manufactured to be biodegradable with similar functionality to that of conventional plastics, which has the potential to reduce the dependence on petrochemicals based plastics and related environmental problems. The talk will focus on Plantee’s innovative technologies to make bioplastics more accessible. 

Prashant holds a PhD and MSc in analytical and material sciences from Queen’s University, Canada. He did his undergraduate (Dual BS-MS) from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, India in Chemistry. His expertise lies in Scientific chemical formulation, experimental design, chemical analysis, engineering analysis, and product design and development. Prashant’s expertise in surface modification and analytical chemistry provides a deeper understanding of the science behind the bioplastic development process. 

Otters and Contaminants from the Oil Sands

Dr. Philippe Thomas
Wildlife Biologist, ECCC – National Wildlife Research Centre

River otters are sentinel species of aquatic ecosystem health. In areas like the Athabasca oil sands, environmental loadings of polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs) and trace elements are increasing in areas of oil and gas extraction. Some of these chemicals have potential to affect reproductive health in river otters. Dr. Thomas’ research is investigating the toxicological impacts of PACs and trace metals on otters and developing unique methods to assess reproductive health. 

Dr Philippe Thomas is a wildlife toxicologist at ECCC with significant expertise in the biology of semi-aquatic mammals and migratory birds, field studies, impacts of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), heavy metal exposures and complex mixture assessments. He has more than 10 years of experience working with local stakeholders and Indigenous communities in and around the oil sands and the Canadian Arctic. Additionally, he is the project lead for the Arctic Seabird Monitoring Program, the federal/provincial oil sands monitoring program: hunter/trapper-harvested wildlife and toxicology project, and a community-led waterbird egg collection program part of the St Lawrence Action Plan.

Philippe works extensively with Indigenous communities impacted by resource development projects. Over the last 5 years, his work has focused on establishing chemical profiles of oil and gas contaminants on the feathers and in the organs of migratory game birds and mammals. 

Why do Landowners Restore Wetlands, and how does the Community Benefit?

Tom Langen
Interim Dean of Arts & Sciences at Clarkson University

The greatest opportunities for conservation of biodiversity and enhancement of ecological services are found on private property. In the St. Lawrence Valley and eastern Lake Ontario region of New York State, over 250 landowners have partnered with governmental agencies to restore and enhance wetlands on their property. What are the objectives of wetland restoration programs for the governmental agencies? Why do landowners chose to restore wetlands? Are wetland restorations similar to natural wetlands in terms of hydrology and water quality? Do they provide quality habitat for wetland-associated plants and animals? Tom Langen and his team’s research aimed at answering these questions, and providing best practices for public-private partnership wetland conservation programs.

Dr. Tom A. Langen is the Interim Dean of Arts & Sciences at Clarkson University. Dr. Langen conducts research on the environmental impact of roads, and on the effectiveness of public-private partnerships for wetland restoration. He leads professional development workshops in Latin America and North America on the environmental impact of roads and other infrastructure, and on wetland restoration. Prof. Langen teaches courses related to ecology, conservation, and animal behavior, and has published pedagogy research on innovative college teaching activities. He is also involved in local river conservation, public access, and village revitalization as a board member of Grasse River Heritage and the St. Lawrence Land Trust.

The Great River Rapport: What’s the State of the St. Lawrence River?

Leigh McGaughey
Research Scientist at River Institute

Join us on the 2nd September to learn more about the Great River Rapport. A work framed in the Ohenton Karihwatehkwen (Thanksgiving Address) of the Mohawk Nation, the project is finding ways to communicate the health of the St Lawrence River system through ecological indicators. We will share with you what we have learned about the concerns of the communities along the Upper St Lawrence River, and what information we are gathering to provide answers to your questions.

Leigh has a PhD from the University of British Columbia, and has worked as an ecologist on five continents: Africa, Australia, Antarctica, Europe and North America. Her career started in invertebrate biology, and has expanded to include fisheries science, satellite remote sensing, ecosystem modelling and developing ecological indicators. Leigh currently leads the Great River Rapport – a conversation about the health of the St. Lawrence River – as a Research Scientist at the River Institute.

Standing on the Dock in the Rain: Landscaping your Shoreline Property for Wildlife and Water Quality

Barbara King
Executive Director of Watersheds Canada

Watersheds Canada has been working on freshwater issues for 12 years. They develop programs such as ‘Love Your Lake’ which promotes healthy shorelines for healthy lakes, ‘The Natural Edge’ which is a shoreline naturalization program, Fish Habitat Programs and many others. Barbara King is the Executive Director of Watersheds Canada and she will be presenting at our next Science + Nature UNtapped. She has developed, managed and delivered Shoreline Stewardship Programs across Canada. Join us for an in-depth discussion on what you can do to landscape your shoreline property for wildlife and water quality.

Connect with Watersheds Canada on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Brian, Bailey and the Bats

Dr. Brian Hickey & Bailey Bedard
Reaserch Scientist at River Institute & MSc Candidate, University of Ottawa

Come hear Brian and Bailey discuss their research about the biological effects of mercury in bats!

Dr. Brian Hickey received his PhD in biology for work on temperature regulation in Hoary bats and he has studied bats in Canada, Mexico, and southern Africa. At the River Institute, his research theme has been how habitat changes impact animal populations. His recent work has focused on recovery efforts for Little Brown Bat populations that have been decimated by white-nose syndrome.

Bailey Bedard is from Ingleside, Ontario and is a MSc candidate at the University of Ottawa where she studies the molecular effects of mercury contamination on bats.

The Aquatic Rollercoaster: How the River’s Ups and Downs Impact Biodiversity

Matt Windle
Research Scientist at River Institute

River water level fluctuations are a natural phenomenon that help shape aquatic communities. However, the St Lawrence River (SLR) water levels have been managed for the past 60 years. Join River Institute Research Scientist, Matt Windle, for a talk on what the SLR used to be like and how aquatic life have adapted to the changes over the years. Matt has studied Hoople Bay to see how the biodiversity compares to other sections of the river that do not experience the same severe water level fluctuations and to track seasonal biodiversity changes.

Effects of Legacy Contaminants on the Great Lakes Ecosystem: A Proteomic Approach

Emmalyn Dupree
Chemistry PhD Candidate at Clarkson University

Emmalyn Dupree is a Chemistry PhD candidate at Clarkson University. Her research includes identifying the effects of legacy chemical contaminants in the Great Lakes on the human proteome. Proteome are all the proteins in the human body and are crucial to normal human functioning and factors in disease. Legacy chemicals come from the manufacturing and use of such things as pesticides, coolants, flame retardant, fertilizers, insulation, etc. Emmalyn’s research is part of a project for the Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information contact:

Leigh McGaughey Research Scientist