MUSKOKAN — The Canadian Water Network (CWN), in collaboration with the Muskoka River Watershed Monitoring and Management Consortium, has announced the funding of a major watershed-based research proposal to study the cumulative impact of multiple stressors on lake water quality.
The Canadian Water network is funding a three-year study to learn about the effect of water quality changes in the Muskoka River watershed. The $600,000 project is one of only four such projects in the country. The research will be conducted by (back row, from left) Jason Kerr, Huaxia Yao, Chris Jones, April James, Andrew Paterson, (front row) Murray Richardson, Cathy Eimers, Congsheng Fu, Norm Yan, Jillian Aherne.
The project, called Managing the cumulative effects in the Muskoka River Watershed: Monitoring, research and predictive modelling, is led by Dr. Catherine Eimers, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at Trent University, and includes 14 primary researchers from seven universities and institutions.
The research team will build a conceptual model, develop physical, biological and chemical indicators and assessment criteria, and design a comprehensive monitoring program and predictive models for cumulative effects. The project will focus on eutrophication and the effect that changes in water quality will have on aquatic organisms and algae.
The project is one of four across Canada that received funding and is a result of concerns raised by local lake ratepayer associations about the changes they are seeing in their lake water quality.
The steering committee for the project is chaired by the District of Muskoka and includes three technical members from the Muskoka Watershed Council, one representative from a major lake association, and one consultant who will volunteer their time.
“This is a great opportunity for Muskoka,” said John Klinck, chair of the District of Muskoka. “The project will attract additional research dollars, employ 15 highly qualified young scientists, and support the growth of our local knowledge-based economy.”
“Usually, it’s the researcher who calls the shots — what water issues to study, what questions should be asked, what data should be collected,” said Dr. Kelly Munkittrick, CWN scientific director. “Through our watershed research consortium we have turned that process upside down by asking watershed managers what they need to know to better manage the effects of cumulative stressors in their watersheds and insisting that research programs be designed in a way that could directly support those decision needs.”
Keeping the public and local lake associations informed as the research progresses is important to the research team. Eimers has undertaken to hold an annual public conference, in differing locations across Muskoka, where three or four researchers will present their findings to the public. These meetings will provide lake associations and members of the public with updates on research and monitoring results in their watershed, and an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback to the researchers.
The research will begin in April 2012 with the first public conference to be held in 2013.
A joint initiative of the Muskoka Heritage Foundation and the District Municipality of Muskoka, the Muskoka Watershed Council’s goal is to preserve and enhance the air, water and terrestrial ecosystems of the watersheds in Muskoka for the environmental, health, economic, spiritual and intrinsic values they provide.