While giving a presentation on the Mississippi Valley watershed report card (they got an A), at the Sharbot Lake Property Owners Association meeting Saturday, Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority biologist Kelly Stiles said something more or less in passing that could become quite significant.
After relating that surface water quality ranges from excellent to fair moving west to east from the Canadian Shield to the more urbanized off shield areas, Stiles said: “Our wetlands range from A to B, but many are close to the lower thresholds. Even small changes in conditions could have big impacts on each subwatershed’s overall rating.”
While they do good work, the conservation authorities can’t be everywhere all the time (they do have a monitoring station on Sharbot Lake), and much of the data collection has to be left to lake associations and “citizen scientists.”
Fortunately, Sharbot Lake has a group of citizen scientists headed by Guy MacLeod, and he’s been at it for 35 years.
“The amount of time he puts in is amazingly great,” said SLPOA president Ken Waller.
Every Monday for 35 years, MacLeod has recorded the temperature off his dock (the lake average temperature has warmed slightly in that time), and now he’s started a new program that will expand the testing parameters to include pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, chlorine, and hardness, whereas previous testing focused only on temperature and turbidity (water clarity).
MacLeod now has the use of a high-end testing kit that came to the SLPOA through the efforts of former president Kevin Browne, who submitted a winning paper to acquire the gear.
“We’re now involved with Water Rangers, filling gaps and testing from ice out to November,” MacLeod said.
The goal is to achieve sustainable water monitoring, he said.
“We’re looking for volunteers, about 120 minutes a month,” he said. “It does require a boat, but you’ll get to see the lake in a way you never have before.”
If you can help, contact any member of the SLPOA executive at their website or in person.
Even if scientific data collection isn’t your thing, there are still things people can do, and MacLeod would love to see pictures.
“When you see something that doesn’t seem like it should be there, take pictures,” he said. “We’ve had reports of the largest snapping turtle you’ve ever seen to a pod of killer whales — but no pictures.”
SLPOA vice-president Guy MacLeod gives his presentation at the Annual General Meeting Saturday in Sharbot Lake. Photo/Craig Bakay