by Ty Fischer, Riparian Health Restoration Technician
One of the great things about working for Watersheds Canada is the variety of experiences you get across many different subject areas. Throughout my internship, I have been lucky enough to assist with everything from shoreline assessments, to fish habitat restoration projects, and everything in between.
After such a whirlwind of a past 6 months, where every day the staff at Watersheds Canada are looking ahead to what can be done next for freshwater protection, it can be easy to forget the successes of the past. That is why in this blog post, I want to reflect on some of our accomplishments as an organization that I was a part of over the past half year.
When I first started, I hit the ground running with our program The Natural Edge. Our spring planting season was in full swing, with future planting sites that needed assessing, native plants that needed tending to in the garden, and shorelands that needed to be restored. The first project I helped out with, at Morrisburg Waterfront Park on the shore of the beautiful St. Lawrence River in Ontario, was also perhaps the most memorable. Despite it being a rainy day (a “torrential downpour” would be a more accurate description), we received a seemingly endless stream of volunteers of all ages that made the planting one of the most efficient and enjoyable ones of the entire year.
That day, I also had the opportunity to visit a site planted only a few years ago that had transformed a slumping grassy slope into a regenerating natural area. I remember picturing what it would look like 10 years into the future when it was further established by countless native species of flora and fauna. These reminders of the impact of investing into shoreland naturalization and the power of community action would continue to be reinforced for the rest of the spring as well as fall planting seasons. When all said and done, our team has successfully restored 152,715.4-square metres of shoreline using 37,311 plants in 2023!
Sandwiched between our planting seasons was our field season for Love Your Lake, our shoreline assessment program. My coworker Jonathan and I spent the summer working as shoreline assessors for this program, taking to the boat each day on local lakes to scan the shoreline and collect data that would eventually translate into personalized property reports for each of the landowners. We were fortunate enough to spend time with countless boat drivers, cottage hosts, and other members of lake communities that were as generous with their time as they were eager to learn from us how they might improve their lake’s health. We also witnessed an incredible diversity of wildlife in and around the shorelines we were assessing, which often reminded us of the ecological importance of these areas for terrestrial and aquatic life. All in all, Jonathan and I connected with 6 community partners that supported the delivery of the program, and assessed a grand total of 1,105 shoreline properties spanning 9 different lakes. Most properties will receive a personalized report, and many recipients of the reports will seek the expertise of our program The Natural Edge to help address some of the issues that are brought up.
Sprinkled throughout my internship have been opportunities to assist with our Fish Habitat program. We have taken part in multiple projects, each directed at different fish species for different purposes. For instance, we partnered with the Farren Lake Property Owner’s Association to deliver a brush bundle project on Farren Lake, Ontario. The team spent the day creating and deploying brush bundles on the lakebed in order to create underwater woody debris that will serve as important habitat for countless species of fish including pike and bass. This made the second fish habitat restoration project on Farren Lake, amounting to a grand total of 52 bundles being deployed between both projects. Like many of our initiatives, we were thankful to receive the help and support of many volunteers including a council member, many multi-generational cottage owners, and other families to help make this project a success.
Another project I assisted with was a walleye spawning bed washing project on Big Clear Lake, Ontario. Excessive silt deposits on spawning beds can disincentivize walleye to spawn there, so we used water pumps to remove the silt and a silt screen to collect it all from the rocky bed of the lake, in order to restore the spawning bed. Over 250-square metres of historic walleye spawning bed was washed that day, and the habitat will be further improved by adding 16 tonnes of washed river rock in winter 2024. Like our program The Natural Edge, these fish habitat restoration projects are powerful because they directly enhance or restore part of our natural ecosystem. With a single day of work, an entire ecosystem can be changed for the better and will continually become healthier and more resilient throughout the following years.
These are just a few of our many important moments as an organization that I feel fortunate to have been a part of. Each has been inspiring and fulfilling in its own way, and sharing them with a team so committed to creating positive change in their lives has made them even more so. Here is to many more in the future!