Connectivity – We should never forget we are all connected to each other and every other living organism on this planet in some small way.
“The Ecological Integrity of river systems depends on their natural dynamic character”
– Poff et, al. 1997
Today we traveled to the town of Clayton in the Thousand Islands region of New York. After only three days on the water, our team felt like a salty bunch of seasoned sailors as we took shore leave for a meal on the town. We all embraced our role as educators once again, as locals turned out to inquire who we were and what kind of work we were doing on this vessel. It is only when we began to talk about our experiences that we fully started to realize all we have experienced and absorbed.
We then visited the Thousand Islands Biological Station located on an island in the St. Lawrence River, right outside of Clayton. The station is run by SUNY ESF and is manned by faculty and students from the university. Each student and faculty member described their own individual research as well as the research sampling that the entire station continually participated in. Our group was in awe of being able to learn about the research on the St Lawrence River system from a scenic island. Those island researchers were also able to tour the Lake Guardian and I’m certain that each of them was also just as impressed with the work being done here.
One of today’s key takeaways was our discussion of the Moses Sander’s Power Dam project located downstream near Massena, NY. This joint venture between the United States and Canada was built to create a clean, natural energy resource for the region. While most of us consider dams and renewable energy to be positive, we learned about the profound negative effects that the dam building, coupled with human use and decision making has had on the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes ecosystems. While moving forward with initiatives designed to benefit humans it is easy to lose sight of the fact that our decisions have led to many unintended consequences. Each ecosystem is dynamic. Every factor is influenced by and influences other elements of the system. It is extremely naive for us to think that we have the knowledge and ability to predict all the possible outcomes of our “for the better” changes to the environment.
As science educators, both being born and raised on the shores of two of the five great lakes, we thought we had good understanding of the major issues currently facing the great lakes watershed. However, after three days aboard the R/V Lake Guardian it is obvious to us both that the enormity of the problems facing the resource is far too great for one simple solution and will require a collective, dynamic approach.
Jim Damon and Steve Mundell