By Megan Clark | June 14, 2014
Friday the 13th. 7:00 A.M. Two Environmental Lab employees and Bob the Beaver (a taxidermied specimen who was to become critical to the team) embarked on the 2.5-hour road trip to Seine River First Nation, where their Lab Director had been flooded in just the night before. Ominous, I know, but this story is not like most that begin on Friday the 13th.
Kristi, Bob the Beaver, and I were greeted by the great hospitality of Seine River First Nation, which included pancakes and coffee for breakfast. It was Treaty Day, which commemorates the building of Canada’s history through treaty agreements between First Nations peoples and government. Seine River First Nation organized an open house for the occasion, giving residents the chance to explore the work being done in their community, from research on sturgeon spawning to opportunities for home energy audits.
We represented the Lakehead University Environmental Laboratory (LUEL), the Aquatic Toxicology Research Centre, and Lakehead’s Biology Department. We demonstrated limnology field equipment used in our sample collections and explained the lab services we provide. Our display offered the shock value of a monstrous lamprey, fully dissected rats, and wood ticks for viewing under a microscope. We showed off the “tomtato” created by a plant propagation class. It is a tomato grafted to a potato, such that it grows potatoes in the soil and tomatoes from its crown. We were very grateful for our attentive audience. Despite all that, Bob the Beaver stole the show. Children pet him, trappers threatened to skin him, and no one could resist checking him out.LUEL recently partnered with Seine River First Nation on a project that assessed mercury levels in the water system, traditional foods, and the hair of some residents. This summer we continue to work together to study the effects of varying water levels and invasive cattails on wild rice. Treaty Day was a great occasion to meet with residents directly affected by the problems we work towards solving, to hear their stories and concerns, and to learn from others pursuing innovation in northern communities. We’d like to extend sincere thanks to Seine River First Nation for hosting Treaty Day and welcoming us to the event.