Researcher: Ari Yamaguchi, MSc Candidate (2017–present)
Supervisors: Deborah MacLatchy (Laurier), Heidi Swanson (University of Waterloo)
The Ka’a’gee Tu First Nation (KTFN) heavily relies upon Tathlina and Kakisa lakes for commercial and subsistence uses. Past research has found that some of the commercially targeted fish in these lakes have more mercury in them than is considered safe by government guidelines. This study explores how mercury in the air and water ends up contaminating walleye, northern pike and lake whitefish in Tathlina and Kakisa Lakes.
Researchers and community members will collect samples of water, minnows, insects and soil from across the ecosystem’s food web to find connections between environmental measurements and the amount of mercury in fish in these specific lakes. By predicting mercury exposure risks, we hope to provide decision makers with tools for public education on safe consumption practices and guidelines to reduce the health risks of mercury on community members.
Researchers: Andrea Lister, PhD Research Coordinator, (2010–present) with Deborah MacLatchy’s lab (Laurier)
With concerns over the prospect of oil and gas development upstream in the watershed and the changing climate, our research initially focused on the implementation of baseline environmental monitoring studies of walleye and whitefish at Tathlina and Kakisa lakes in collaboration with Ka’a’gee Tu First Nation (KTFN) and researchers of the GNWT. In order to gain a better understanding of the resiliency of the fish populations, the research has expanded to involve studies of the lakes’ ecology including the characterization of food webs and the transfer of mercury, as well as the development of an acoustic telemetry study of walleye that may identify over-wintering refuges and timing and locations of spawning. Tathlina Lake is a unique, shallow lake with low winter oxygen levels and historical documentations of fish stock declines. This work aims to inform the guidelines on safe levels of fish consumption based on mercury concentrations, increase our knowledge of the factors influencing the transfer of mercury in these aquatic environments, and gain insight into the sustainability of these culturally and commercially important fish species to the KTFN.
Researchers: Heather Dixon, PhD, GWF Research Associate, Biomonitoring (2017–present) with Deborah MacLatchy’s lab (Laurier)
I am investigating contaminant levels (particularly mercury) and trophic interactions in the food webs of subarctic lakes in the Dehcho region of the Northwest Territories. My particular focus of this work is a fish-down study at Sanguez Lake, conducted in collaboration with Jean Marie First Nation, the Dehcho AAROM (Aboriginal Aquatic Resource And Oceans Management) program, and the University of Waterloo, where we are hoping to reduce mercury in northern pike and make them safer to eat. I am also helping to develop an acoustic tagging study of Arctic grayling in Kakisa River to assess habitat use, in collaboration with the Ka'a'gee Tu First Nation, Dehcho AAROM, and the University of Waterloo. This work is important in developing updated consumption guidelines for mercury concentrations and for assessing the sustainability of fisheries in the Dehcho.