Conserving Local Lakes, Training Next-Gen Biologists through Trent Aquatic Research
Over the past year, Trent University researchers have continued tagging and tracking fish through the community-driven Stoney Lake Fish Tracking Project – a marquee study through the Trent Aquatic Research Program (TARP) that helps conserve fish populations in local lakes and provide impactful experiential learning opportunities.
Project lead and assistant professor of Biology, Dr. Graham Raby (Otonabee College), explained that faculty and students have surgically implanted tags in more than 200 fish including: 79 walleyes; 69 smallmouth bass; 36 yellow perch: 23 black crappies: and eight muskellunge. During this process, they have followed international best practices and worked closely with First Nations Land Consultation Officers and the Elders & Traditional Knowledge Keepers Council.
“This research is providing valuable data about when and where fish spawn, their habitat needs, how habitats are changing over time, and the impacts of issues such as changing water quality, fishing tournaments and noise from boat motors,” Professor Raby said during a recent annual research update to local community members. “Momentous change happens not only when we make new discoveries, but also when we provide valuable experiential learning opportunities to the next generation of biologists.”
The research update was also an opportunity for Dr. Paul Frost, the David Schindler Endowed Professor of Aquatic Science at Trent University, to speak to community members about his TARP research that is mapping patterns of water quality in Stoney Lake. Professor Frost is an aquatic ecologist who studies nutrients, food webs, and ecological dynamics in lake ecosystems.
Valuable hands-on experience
TARP is an integrated research program focused on the long-term study of freshwater ecosystems in the Kawartha region and provides experiential learning opportunities to Trent students.
Amber Fedus, a Ph.D. candidate in the Environmental & Life Sciences program, says she gained valuable hands-on experience by deploying receivers, tagging fish, and taking fin clippings to determine where fish are feeding in the lake - providing insight into which habitats may be the most important to conserve.
Prof. Raby shared that he and his students, along with researchers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, placed 60 receivers in the lake before pulling them up in Spring 2023 to download the data that included fish movement and water temperature. One receiver alone had more than 700,000 detections of fish movement.
Jacob Bowman (Peter Gzowski College), a Conservation Biology undergraduate student, has snorkelled in the lake to determine which fish species are present in certain habitats and has also led projects to determine if underwater video stations are a useful biomonitoring tool.
Generous supporters key to lake health
TARP’s community-driven research projects are made possible through in-kind support and generous donations by community members. In fact, Trent’s newly christened aquatic research vessel – the RV Ingleton – is named after supporters Carol and Ralph Ingleton who helped fund the purchase of the boat along with fellow donors Bill and Gail Szego.
Prof. Raby believes that co-creating knowledge with the broader community – including annual research updates - is key to building trust and relationships and results in stronger advocacy when it comes to potential policy changes for fisheries management and habitat conservation.
In Fall 2023, the research will continue with more fish tagging and ongoing data analysis.
Learn more about supporting TARP and further cementing the University’s leadership role in Aquatic Science to benefit aquatic ecosystems.
Posted on August 4, 2023