Why talk about it now?

My experience at Gull Lake

Posted by aonomus on September 29, 2009

This last weekend I had the chance to go up to the University of Toronto Survey Camp as part of my freshwater ecology course with Dr. Nick Collins. The camp is normally used by Civil engineers to practice their survey skills in the field, but it is also situated on Gull Lake which like most freshwater lakes, supports a diverse ecosystem.

The whole trip started out with a bit of a rough start, mainly because of some confusion over the pick-up location for the bus driver, he came, left, and we eventually got another bus 4 hours later. Because we arrived late, we missed a segment of activities, but regardless we went to sleep for the night while the two TAs tirelessly did stuff in the middle of the night (echosounding runs and buoy deployment).

All packed and ready to go Finally on the bus at 9:30PM for a 3 hour drive

So once we actually arrived on site and unloaded, one of the first things we noticed was that apparently, civil engineers are anything but civil…

Civil engineers, anything but civil.

That aside, the next morning we woke up bright and early for breakfast, the morning briefing, and beginning activities. I learned that our prof can make some pretty awesome bacon, and overall everyone can cook well.



At 6AM, you can get some pretty beautiful pictures, and because of the temperature differences, the lake (around 17degC) fogs up the air (around 4degC) and creates this nice surreal look as the cool air from the ground flows out onto the lake. Another beautiful picture was the panorama I assembled (warning, 10mb image!)

A beautiful 6AM sunrise

A beautiful 6AM sunrise

For some more details, here are some of the things that all the different groups did during our time at Gull Lake:

  • Seineing: fishing with a seine net near-shore with hip waders, followed by collecting, measuring (length & weight) and classifying by species all the fish collected.
  • Stream sampling: off-site sampling using kick and sweep (essentially stirring up sediment and rocks, sweeping with a net, washing away sediment).
  • Echosounding: using a device which uses sound echos to determine depth to the bottom of the lake, or the nearest object (such as fish). Trends were found between different times of day for fish schooling habits
  • Water chemistry tests using a YSI 6600 V2 multifunction sonde at different depths for pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, temperature, and chlorophyll content.
  • Dissolved oxygen tests: sampling water from varying depths using a Kemmerer bottle for dissolved oxygen and conductivity tests.
  • Plankton sampling: deploying nets down to depth and gathering a sample of plankton representative of the water column, or using traps to gather from a specific depth.
  • Plant sampling: near shore aquatic plant sampling to assess diversity and provide a cross section of plant life
  • Benthic sampling: using pole dredges for shallow water, or free-fall dredges for deep water to sample sediment for organisms.

Sadly I don’t have any photos of these activities, we were all too busy gathering data from the lake to worry about photos (plus dragging my camera along on the lake seemed too risky). You can view all the photos from the trip here, but sadly most of the trip I was without my camera. Regardless, everyone thought the trip was very fun and educational, and since we were doing real work on a lake and seeing trends show up from concepts learned in the classroom, we really gained a perspective for our course material.

If anyone reads this and is considering a field course in ecology, think about how willing you are to get your hands a little dirty and experience real work in the field. If you are willing, you won’t regret it; not only did everyone learn, but our entire class feels like one big family and we have gained friends from this.

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