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Work Underway: RLEF Small Grants

    Taking Sediment Cores
    on Upper Rideau Lake

    This summer, RLEF is funding three research projects to build our understanding of the Rideau Lakes environment. Research is being conducted by groups at Carleton
    University in Ottawa, and Queen’s University in Kingston, strengthening links between local institutions and our local environment.

    At Carleton, Dr. Steven Cooke is leading an examination of the Broader Biodiversity Benefits of Fishing Sanctuaries. His past studies have shown that fish communities in the sanctuaries are more diverse and abundant than those in similar areas outside sanctuaries. But what of other wildlife? Do Fish Sanctuaries contribute to more than fish? Dr. Cooke and his students are out to answer this question, using trail cams and making observations of the other wildlife present in and around fish sanctuaries.

    At Queen’s Dr. John Smol is looking at algae blooms, an issue that has become more noticeable to lake residents and users in recent years, and is of great concern when potentially toxic cyanobacteria or blue green algae is present. With his students, Smol will be analysing “sediment cores” (samples taken from the lake bottom) from Big Rideau, Upper Rideau, Lower Rideau, Indian and Otter Lakes to identify what organisms are present in the lake, and compare these to samples taken about 25 years ago. They hope to clarify which factors contribute to algae blooms, including longer summers with less ice cover and warmer temperatures, extending our knowledge of stressors beyond nutrients, and helping us understand how the lakes have changed since the 1980s.

    In conjunction with the Fisheries Conservation Foundation, and the Queen’s University Biological Station, and supported by the Opinicon Property Owners Community, Dr. David Philipp is leading a study of the impact of angling on bass populations – building on work ongoing since 1990. Changing fishing patterns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic provide a unique opportunity: observed boats and anglers were almost non-existent on Lake Opinicon during the 2020 spawning season. Did this mean more bass fry survived? Snorkel surveys confirmed this, counting a much larger than usual population of young bass less than 1 year, and seeing fewer hook-wounds on nest-guarding male bass. These surveys will be expanded to include three lakes at the top of the Cataraqui River portion of the canal system (Opinicon, Indian, and Newboro Lakes) and three lakes at the top of the Rideau River portion (Upper, Big, and Lower Rideau Lakes), to see if the COVID-related population boom is also present. This would confirm the importance of protecting nesting bass, and restricting angling during the nesting season.

    These projects were selected from proposals received in response to an open call made last fall. “We were excited to see how many possibilities there were for research in our lakes,” said Michael Peterson, President of the RLEF. “Our only disappointment was that we couldn’t fund all of the projects.” He continued, “this work will help us be better stewards of our lakes and ensure their health in the years to come. I hope everyone will support the RLEF through our website at, so that we can continue to offer these grants in coming years.”

    Work is ongoing on the lakes through the rest of the summer, and reports from each of these projects are expected in the fall. RLEF expects to issue another Call for Proposals for Small Grants for Scientific Research on and around the Rideau Lakes this October. You can contact us if you would like to ensure you receive a copy.

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