Research and Projects

Water.  Every person, creature and living thing on Earth needs it for survival. Without it, we die – and quickly. Further, our communities, countries, industries and business es all need water in order to sustain their ongoing operations. It lies at the heart of our economy, representing a fundamental part of our regional and national infrastructure – and our prosperity. It is so critical that we do everything we can to properly preserve, manage and protect the waters of Georgian Bay and the Great Lakes.

Our Mandate
If we want Georgian Bay and the Lakes to be viable over the long term, we must become careful and conscientious stewards, using a well-planned, thoughtful and systemic approach to keeping them healthy, safe and secure for generations to come.

This is our mandate at Georgian Bay Forever. We know that the Great Lakes, especially Lake Michigan-Huron and Georgian Bay, are at great risk. We are deeply concerned about the threats evident to even the most casual observer: threats to water quality, water quantity/levels, biodiversity and ecosystems. Like many of the world’s remaining freshwater lakes, our Great Lakes are highly vulnerable to the pressures and stresses of human development, including climate change.

Our goal? To preserve and protect the water of Georgian Bay and the creatures it is home to with thorough scientific process and research that answers and raises important questions to get to the right solutions. In the process, we also protect our health, safety and quality of life, which, like the region’s economic future, all rely heavily on the permanent presence, quantity and quality of these essential waters.

It takes dedication to protect the Bay. Click on the + signs to see what we are tackling around water quality:

1. Ongoing:Divert and Capture. To divert microplastics out of our precious water.

Ongoing: GBF is partnering with the Rochman Lab from the University of Toronto to undertake a 3 year Canadian field study designed to halt microfibres, a type of microplastics, from escaping washing machines and ultimately ending up in our lakes like Georgian Bay. There is much research to be done on the impacts of microplastics to wildlife and human health, but they are found in increasing and alarming numbers in The Great Lakes, in our tap water, and in many species.

Status – Starting Fall 2018: This project is expected to take 3 years. There will be updates on GBF platforms (website, social media, emails etc.) We are still actively seeking donations for the project to extend its reach.

Learn more about this project and how you can help. Link to: Microplastics Information and more about the Project.
27 Min Video On Microplastics. Presented by Dr. Rochman from the Rochman Lab from the University of Toronto. Link to Video.

With great thanks to these funders:

This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change. Ce projet a été realisé avec l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada agissant par l’entremise du ministère fédéral de l’Environnement et du Changement climatique.
Further funding and assistance for Divert and Capture: The fight to keep microplastics out of our water, was provided by the RBC Foundation, Patagonia, the Helen McCrea Peacock Foundation, and our many passionate donors.

GBF wishes to acknowledge the support of these partners:
The Rochman Laboratory at the University of Toronto, the Town of Parry Sound, the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, and our many community volunteers!

2. Ongoing: To drastically improve water quality monitoring by establishing a standardized set of water quality testing protocols and revolutionize water quality data acquisition.

Completed: GBF is raised funds to purchase in partnership the first autonomous underwater vehicle in Canada. This will significantly improve water quality data measurement by filling gaps of information that exist in the US but not in Canada on water, monitoring will be much more efficient and accurate, and costs will be reduced.
Learn more about this amazing transformative technology and how you can help. Link to AUV information.

Status – Ongoing: We worked closely on water quality protocols with the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve, who is building on our previous work with the Township of Georgian Bay, the Ontario Ministry of Environment’s Lake Partner Program and the Severn Sound Environmental Association.

Work from this project will be reflected in ongoing updates to the “State of the Bay” ecosystem health report for eastern and Northern Georgian Bay, which is updated every 5 years. GBF was a partner in the development of this report card. The current report card was just released in 2018.

Learn more:
State of the Bay 2018 report
Water Quality Tools

3. Complete, but ongoing impact: Blue-Green Algae.
Completed: 2014
Full Report

Georgian Bay Forever joined Environment Canada and the Ministry of the Environment in sponsoring a study of blue-green algae, (cyanobacteria) by Dr. Lewis Molot of York University. This is just the latest in a distinguished line of research on this subject being done in Georgian Bay, in particular Sturgeon Bay in the Pointe au Baril area, on this potential property-value destroying, recreation-barring, summer-holiday destroying bacteria.

The old certainties about high phosphorus levels being the only trigger for this potentially toxic phenomenon have been questioned, as blue-green algae outbreaks are increasing worldwide (and most alarmingly in the Great Lakes), and showing up in water-bodies registering well below the accepted thresholds for phosphorus.

To understand this phenomenon, Dr. Molot posited that there is a complicated evolutionary struggle between benign forms of algae that dominate in nutrient poor water (the water we like in Georgian Bay) and their more toxic cousins that seem to take over in nutrient-rich wetlands. While high phosphorus levels are undoubtedly a risk factor for the bad type of algae, a particular form of iron that is associated with anoxic (oxygen-deprived) sediments that lie in the basin of certain water-bodies, may play a part.

Understanding the interrelationships among all the factors that can trigger an outbreak of algae blooms may help us identify communities and wetlands that are at particular risk and help us introduce measures to prevent these outbreaks.

Research with impact. The academic article, A novel model for cyanobacteria bloom formation: thecritical role of anoxia and ferrous iron (Molot, and others) that GBF partially funded, was cited by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DPO) in a 2017 Research Document report, Freshwater Cage Aquaculture: Ecosystems Impacts from Dissolved and Particulate Waste Phosphorus.i

The conclusion at the end of the report supports more investigation into basic findings from Molot’s report. The DFO report noted that, “Improved knowledge of the physical (e.g., climate, water depth, water temperature), chemical (e.g., redox, Fe, sulfate), and biological (e.g., invertebrate, microbial interactions) processes acting on the accumulated fish waste is needed to understand the remobilization of P. This information will help to assess the potential effects associated with the addition of aquaculture P loads to the nearshore.” i /sup>

Learn more in this full report: A novel model for cyanobacteria bloom formation: the critical role of anoxia and ferrous iron (Molot and others)

Reference:(i)Otu, M.K., Bureau, D.P., and Podemski, C.L. 2017. Freshwater Cage Aquaculture: Ecosystems Impacts from Dissolved and Particulate Waste Phosphorus. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Res. Doc. 2017/059. v + 55 p. Page 11 quote, page 13 map , quote page 41.

4. Complete. Great and efficient scientific tool: The first microbial source tracking assessment of water quality in the Township of Georgian Bay.
Completed – 2015
Final Report

This DNA-based research is a novel diagnostic tool which helps us to identify the source of organisms found in the water, such as bacteria, and determine whether they are naturally occurring or the result of human interaction, such as failing septic systems or grey water discharge in boater bays.

5. Complete. Great scientific tool - Paleolimnologic Studies in the North and South Bays of Honey Harbour.
Completed – 2013
Full Report

In order to understand the seriousness of water quality problems; you’ve got to study the past. That is why Georgian Bay Forever supported the paleolimnologic studies in the North and South Bays in the Honey Harbour area.

Paleolimnology is the scientific examination of lake sediments to reconstruct past environmental conditions. Sediments provide a history of long-term trends in water quality, algal and aquatic plant abundance, and community composition. By cross-referencing these factors against what we know of more recent human activities, water level and climate changes, scientists will have a better chance of determining the cause or causes of the area’s water quality.

The paleolimnological studies were conducted in the North and South Bays of Honey Harbour to show historic water quality, water levels and temperatures by analyzing fossils in freshwater sediments that have accumulated over the past 500 years. This research helped to establish baseline conditions before European settlement and enabled comparisons of changes as they occur in relation to current and fluctuating water levels and water quality.

The results showed that the current water quality at the time of the study (2013) was not significantly degraded. However, human activities were shown to have reduced water quality historically during the lumber industry of the late 1800s, increased shoreline development in the 50’s and 60’s, and with climate change impacts.

Learn more in this full report: Historical Water Quality Trends in Georgian Bay Embayments (Hutchinson Environmental Sciences Limited)

6. Helping research the make-up of sediment and its capacity to release Phosphorus into the water.

Completed: Dr. Dittrich will submit the final report for their project in May 2017