Month: August 2016

June 29: Working with our partners

June 29th, 2016

On Friday June 17th I spent much of the day outside. In the morning I participated in a garlic mustard mapping event hosted by the Thunder Bay Stewardship Council along with Taylor Wright and Colin Cassin from the Invasive Species Centre and Ontario Invasive Plant Council, where participants aided in mapping locations of garlic mustard along McVicar Creek. These maps would be used on the following day for a garlic mustard picking event. Taylor and Colin were very informative and knowledgeable, and taught participants about several invasive species along the creek like himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed.

In the afternoon, Brent, Nathan, and I set out to gain more experience identifying species in the section of the McIntyre River running through campus. Brent caught several minnows and small fish in his hands. We found a hidden minnow trap a local fisherman probably recently installed. Though we frowned upon the trap, it had several species of fry and small fish that Nathan used for educational purposes to teach Brent and myself about identifying species.

After having a discussion with Werner Schwar from the City of Thunder Bay’s Parks & Open Spaces Section, I went out and explored the sites he recommended for further restoration and planting events. I have a general idea of where plantings could occur, but as I am not a professional, I will take Werner’s advice. Since our meeting, he has been working on planting plans for several locations along the stream. A planting plan outlines specific locations and species desired for planting. Once he has completed the plans, we will work together to purchase the required species and quantities. Keep an eye on our Upcoming Events page for more details about the volunteer restoration days!

Brent, Nathan, and I went out to McIntyre again the following week to explore some of the fish species of the area. I spotted a local friendly turtle near the edge of the water and determined I’d try to catch him for a photo op. After some advice for approach methods, I easily picked up Mr. Turtle and snapped a few pics. He was very tame and did not seem to mind much that he was being handled. His shell was seriously damaged though, many chips and scratches; as if in the past kids have thrown rocks on him from the shore line. He looked relatively healthy otherwise, though I am nothing even close to a reptilian doctor.

My tasks indoors have been much less entertaining than my outdoor adventures, though more related to education and practical experience. I began summarizing reports for restoration tasks. This is a big job and I will continue working on it as weeks and projects go on. The other indoor task I have started work on are educational posters to be put up around campus and at local public areas. One will summarize our goals with McVicar over the long term and outline stormwater management practices. The other will be an advertisement for our planting day.

June 2: Getting Started

June 2nd, 2016

The first few weeks of being a research assistant have been hectic! We’ve done a combination of training and self-directed learning. Brent and I started off with two days of a first-aid refresher course with the rest of the team: Rob, Nathan, and Jason.

We dove into training and read a lot to learn about the Superior Streams project. After spending a couple days inside reading past reports and equipment manuals, we went out on a beautiful Friday afternoon to the McIntyre River on Lakehead’s campus, where we experimented in the water with equipment so we could familiarize ourselves with it before any actual field work.

After we collected quantitative flow, pH, and dissolved oxygen measurements, we acquired some qualitative measurements. Brent, Nathan, and I caught a couple crayfish, noticed a few dragonfly nymphs, and tried to wrangle some sucker fish. Unfortunately, we didn’t get close enough to actually catch any.

The following week was spent in the office. Brent worked on field health and safety policies and procedures. I began creating a website for future awareness and event promotion, and researched seedlings to be ordered for remediation projects later this summer. This involved networking with connections to try and find local tree and shrubs sources, but ultimately we settled on a supplier in Manitoba.

This past Monday, I got the new website under our own domain. I have spent a lot of time learning about website creation, formatting and organizing web content, and incorporating pictures, blog posts, widgets, and so much more. Visit us at and check out what we’ve got so far!

June 16: Field Work Practice

June 16th, 2016

Since my last update, I’ve been busy. I’ve spent a couple days in the field, had several meetings, and made many plans for the near future.

One of my field days I spent exploring McVicar Creek for the first time. Before heading out into the field, I scoped out locations of previous restoration sites, intersections with roads where parking was available, and paths along the stream on Google maps. Camera in one hand, notepad in the other, I set out to explore the mouth of McVicar Creek at Lake Superior’s shoreline. As the location of multiple restoration projects, human effect on the stream was evident just by walking through it. There were minimal buffers before the industrial lots begin, as well as man-made paths and some destruction present.

Down at the lake, you can see the fishermen’s’ paths and attempts at restoration. Much seems to have failed, however; my guess would be due to the lack of topsoil on the riprap. This makes the plant’s root try to dig deeper for stability, but scratches or destroys the roots when the ground shifts in freeze and thaw processes in the spring and fall. Further upstream, there was evidence of littering and pollution. I found a needle (still in packaging, unused), just laying on some rocks not a metre away from the water’s edge. Many of the lawns of properties were mowed right to the stream.

I came upon a site where there was some construction underway, possibly in the process of being restored. Much of the soil was bare, ready to be washed away during the next rain event. There was a road sign that had fallen in the water. I wondered if perhaps it had been thrown in by vandals.

The last part of the stream I visited was at its intersection with the highway. The south side was a nice park with paths. Some small dead seedling tops could be seen sticking out of the tall grass near the stream bank. The north side of the highway had recently had a grass fire, probably a reason why many of the trees planted there had failed throughout the years. The fire was possibly caused by vandalism, or a someone throwing still lit cigarette butts out their car window driving by. The areas farther north of the highway seemed more grown-in and had healthy forest cover. I did not explore the other past restoration site in the County Park area on this day.

The rest of my week and the following week was filled with mostly office work, and one field day at Birch Beach Creek (see Brent’s update on Superior Streams). I had a few meetings with friends of Superior Streams to learn more about restoration projects: how to do them, where to do them, and how to make sure they’re successful. Werner Schwar, Supervisor of Parks & Open Spaces Section at the City of Thunder Bay, discussed with me locations of the city’s restoration projects and LID (low impact development) projects. I will be working with Werner and other City of Thunder Bay employees to help their restoration projects be successful.

This Friday I look forward to attending a workshop on invasive species along the McVicar Creek, specifically the garlic mustard plant. I have a history with garlic mustard from my hometown. It was a passion of one of my teachers, and so we spent several days out along the river picking the weeds. She often then took it home and made a version of pesto out of it. I’ll report more on it in two weeks. Stay tuned folks!

Intro: Meet Sara

I grew up in southern Ontario and moved to Thunder Bay for school. I go to Lakehead University, striving to receive an Honours Bachelor of Environmental Management. My highschool had several environmental community leadership programs which fed my passion for the environment and its protection. I am particularly interested in wetlands and benthic community.

After attending a workshop for Superior Streams, I wanted to help with their research and awareness. I was hired on as a summer Research Assistant and will be focusing on organizing remediation events. These events are primarily for community involvement and education. I look forward to organizing these events, meeting volunteers from the community, and seeing improvement in stream health.