Past and Ongoing Work

Past and Ongoing Research Studies

Early Science:

Since its beginnings, Scugog Lake Stewards have been involved in many scientific programs on the lake. Its founders were involved with a two-year study in 1997, commissioned by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, to map the habitat of the entire Lake Scugog shoreline for its ecological value to fish and other littoral species. These habitat studies indicated that only slightly more than 400 of the more than 2,200 properties around the lake had shoreline management that was healthy for the lake or its species, especially fish. Few had lake or land planting to prevent runoff contamination arising from multiple sources. These sources included fertilizers from the lawns and gardens of lakeside properties, from agricultural runoff from the fields of the many farms surrounding the lake, and of course from poorly functioning septic systems. Many farms allowed livestock into streams and the lake.

What came out of early studies:

This study spurred on Kawartha Conservation to begin scientific studies for the Lake Scugog Environmental Management Plan (2010), which the Scugog Lake Stewards contributed to greatly, being the local ‘eyes on the lake.’  It also spurred on the development by Kawartha Conservation and Stewards of the very successful Blue Canoe program which Kawartha Conservation later took through many of the Kawartha Lakes. In fact the Stewards were the early managers of the students who circled the lake talking about good shoreline practices.

In order to teach good shoreline management in a time when stone or wood break walls was considered the ideal, the Stewards constructed two shoreline parks on Port Perry Bay using 7 different erosion control methods espoused at the time as environmental solutions as well as planned native plant naturalization. Lake Scugog wave and ice action is very hard on shorelines; so making sure we knew what we were suggesting to people was paramount.  The photo shows what was found to be the best method when later interplanted with shrubs, trees and long grasses. By constructing permitted 25% grade at the water edge out of the lake, laying a suitable erosion control blanket and then covering the entire slope into the lake with round stone and cobble, ice slides up the slope rather than digging in and pushing up the lake edge soil.

Eurasian watermilfoil studies:

weevils
Weevils on milfoil

The Stewards were also involved in attempts to control the massive influx of the new newer, stronger, thicker Eurasian watermilfoil (EWM) hybrid that evolved about 15 years ago. This hybrid non-native plant completely overcame stands of native lake plants, resulting in excessive overgrowth in many parts of Lake Scugog, making it difficult to enjoy recreation on the lake. Attempts were made by the Stewards, working with private industry and local expert Kyle Borrowman, to use greater numbers of aquatic native weevils (a group of beetles) to control the invasive plant. In spite of apparent early success with the weevil control measures, challenges arose, and these efforts were ultimately abandoned as an unrealistic and too expensive control method for such a large area.

Recent activities: Lake Stewards Research:

Credit must be given to Dr. Ron Porter, who saw an opportunity to quench his further curiosity in science and joined the Stewards Board of Directors about 8 years ago. He quickly became fascinated with life in the lake; in the first year developing an aquatic plant identification guide for the lake. It was his drive and enthusiasm that brought, Drs. Andrea Kirkwood from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Jennifer Korosi and Josh Thienpont from York University, to join the team. With help from them and their students, an initial summer of study was undertaken, which looked at the chemistry (e.g. nutrients, pH), and biology (e.g. algal and plant distribution) around the lake. This pilot project gave us essential baseline data, helped us refine our sampling techniques, and establish the strong partnerships required to approach the Ontario Trillium Foundation for a large grant. With success in achieving a 3-year Ontario Trillium Foundation Grow Grant, we are currently working on monitoring and research on Lake Scugog, in an attempt to answer the question of “where have all the walleye gone,” by understanding across the diverse Lake Scugog ecosystem, throughout the year. This has carried us into an extremely wide range of information gathering.

Starry stonewort, a plant-like alga in our lake

One of the most worrisome recent changes to the Lake Scugog ecosystem has been the appearance of the invasive macroalga Starry Stonewort. This large algal species (often confused for a plant) was first discovered in Lake Scugog as part of our lake monitoring program in 2016 (but was likely there for much longer). It has now invaded the lake, in many cases displacing native plants and even invasives such as EWM and curly leaf pondweed. Our present research is aimed at understanding the effects of this new alga on the future of the lake and our fish stocks.

In addition to partnering with UOIT and York University, we have also partnered with Kawartha Conservation and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to conduct the current research program. These partners have allowed us to expand our sampling to the near shore environment, running two citizen science programs to better understand the lake. The SLS/MNRF “Walleye Watch” program occurs yearly in the spring at ice out, with citizens observing spawning walleye in critical habitat areas. And secondly, Kawartha Conservation and students from UOIT are heading a program to sample water chemistry and biology in the nearshore environment throughout the summer. We are excited by this truly collaborative, community and expert research program, involving close to 100 citizens; from lake scientists, to students, SLS members, and community members living on or close to the lake. It has been a great success to date, and we look forward to continuing to share our results as they come in. Stay tuned!