The Garden River First Nation water quality monitoring program was conceived in the fall of 2020. It was collaboratively developed by Chief Andy Rickard (Garden River First Nation), three staff at the Lands and Resources Department (Garden River First Nation), and Dr. Elaine Ho-Tassone (NORDIK Institute/Algoma University). As the project progressed, additional persons at Garden River First Nation took the lead on this project, namely Aaron Jones and Sebastian Belleau. This project contributed to postdoctoral research by Dr. Ho-Tassone and was funded primarily by the Great Lakes Local Action Fund via the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks. Mitacs provided matching funds to support the Postdoctoral Fellowship and Eco Canada provided a wage subsidy for two Garden River First Nation students from June to August, 2021. Swim Drink Fish provided additional funds and resources to create an E. coli testing hub at the First Nation.
This project collaboratively generated actionable community-based data and information to inform local and regional management and decisions related to the St. Marys River AOC. In addition to Garden River First Nation and NORDIK Institute, collaborators included Algoma University, Waterlution, Water Rangers, Swim Drink Fish, and DataStream (formerly part of the Gordon Foundation). This pilot project was implemented by Indigenous community members who monitored water quality at seven locations. Sampling occurred from July to November 2022, resulting in 1,067 data points and two benthic invertebrate surveys (541 tallied). Monitoring undertaken as part of the pilot project contributed to a baseline understanding of conditions in the Garden River and nearshore St. Marys River, while providing context for training basic monitoring and ecological observation skills. From this project, a more comprehensive community-based monitoring program was planned, using priorities and feedback from the community.
Dr. Elaine Ho-Tassone
March 14, 2022