Next Science on Tap Session: Health Check-up for the St. Lawrence River with Dr. Leigh McGaughey

Above, The Chem Norma stranded on the St. Lawrence River close to the Morrisburg boat docks. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

CORNWALL — The St. Lawrence River is one of the Great Rivers on the planet and every so often this Great River needs a 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. The public will have an opportunity to find out all about this project when Dr. McGaughey will be presents at Science on Tap at Schnitzel’s this 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 , regional , and local scales), but none focus on this section of the St Lawrence River. In addition, the River ecosystem presents unique challenges that need attention – the report is meant to focus on the issues that matter 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 the health of the ecosystem intrinsically 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. This 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), e-mail, or visit For more details and information on Science and Nature on Tap as well as other River Institute programming please visit or follow the River Institute on Facebook and Twitter.

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