Taking the pulse of the St. Lawrence River

Above, Leigh McGaughey, PhD, doctor of charting the well-being of the Upper St. Lawrence River through the “Great River Rapport”. Courtesy photo

CORNWALL — The St. Lawrence River is one of the great rivers of the world and every so often this Great River needs a good check-up. The River Institute’s Leigh McGaughey, PhD, is the doctor charting the well-being of the Upper St. Lawrence River through the “Great River Rapport” – an ecosystem health report card. Dr. McGaughey will be presenting on this report and providing details on just how the public can become involved in this project at the March edition of Science and Nature on Tap at Schnitzel’s on Wednesday, March 6 at 7:00 p.m.

The Upper St Lawrence River encompasses the region from Kingston/Cape Vincent to Lake St Francis and includes the international waters shared by the Mohawks of Akwesasne, Canada, and the United States. Ecosystem health reports exist for many of Canada’s waterways (at national [1], regional [2], and local [3] scales), but none focus on this section of the St Lawrence River. In addition, the River ecosystem presents unique challenges that require attention – the report is meant to focus on the issues that matter most to the public.

Dr. McGaughey, who has researched diverse aquatic ecosystems all over the world, is now focusing on the River in her own backyard. She says, “We (at the River Institute) are working in partnership with the Mohawks of Akwesasne to examine the current health status of the River. We want to address the questions that the members of the general public are asking us. Can I eat the fish that I catch? Is it safe to swim? How healthy is our water?” The primary reason for producing an ecosystem health report is to provide the public with information on the state of the ecosystem – to answer questions about the health of the River now, how it compares to the past, and what can be done to make it better tomorrow. This report is an opportunity to inspire the public to become engaged, interested, and aware of how essentially the health of the ecosystem is linked to all of us. Over the last several months the River Institute has hosted an on-line survey to ask the public specifically what their concerns are. Well over 100 people have had their say so far sparking an ongoing conversation of the concerns, status, and actions we can all take to make our River better for today and for future generations.  

Dr. McGaughey adds, “The Ecosystem Health Report promises to be a friendly, interactive product that everyone can access online as well as in print. Questions will be addressed based on available science/data as well as Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) on the ecosystem. Inspired by the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, the report will weave stories and science together in a format that should be very be engaging and interesting to read.” Ultimately, she says that the report will help to focus research programs in areas that are data deficient and provide direction for rehabilitation projects and policy/management decisions. The intent is to provide a tool for learning, action, and involvement in caring for the River and its ecosystem. The March Science and Nature on Tap session is an opportunity hear about the report, learn more about how the project is developing, and discover how the community can get involved.

Science and Nature on Tap Sessions are free but seating is limited. For more information or to reserve your seat contact Karen Cooper at 613-936-6620 (229), email kcooper@riverinstitute.ca, or visit www.riverinstitute.ca. For more details and information on Science and Nature on Tap as well as other River Institute programming please visit www.riverinstitute.ca or follow the River Institute on Facebook and/or Twitter.

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