Researcher wants feedback from lake users for study

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
University of Regina biology student Lushani Nanayakkara takes scientific samples on a lake in southern Saskatchewan.

A University of Regina postgraduate student wants to hear from anyone who has been swimming, fishing or relaxing at one of Saskatchewan’s lakes this summer.

Lushani Nanayakkara is conducting a survey about the different ways people use the many prairie lakes across southern Saskatchewan.
“We basically want to know public perceptions about these lakes,” she said. “It is important that we have an understanding of what the public uses these lakes for, what they’re concerned about if they have any and their general ideas about these systems, because we have this really good database of knowledge about the water quality and the natural science aspect. So this survey is our attempt to incorporate some public information into this study.”
She is a PhD candidate in biology at the University of Regina and has been visiting lakes since 2011, when she started to conduct an ecosystem survey of the factors that determine food web dynamics.
Her research is supervised by Dr. Björn Wissel and Dr. Peter Leavitt, who are both professors in the Department of Biology at the University of Regina.
Nanayakkara has already done a pilot study in 2013 at a number of lakes.
She surveyed people at seven regional parks, including Lac Pelletier near Swift Current, to ask them how they are using the different lakes.
“It was a much smaller set of lakes and the response rate wasn’t that great,” she said. “So we thought we’ll do another more extensive survey this year and try to expand its geographical range that we’re distributing the surveys in.”
There were 65 respondents to the pilot survey. They identified a variety of issues of concern to them.
“They’re certainly concerned about things like shore development and agricultural runoff, and the impacts that have on water quality,” she said. “In general most of the lakes will be used for fishing as well. So they’re concerned about things like overfishing.”
The current survey has been expanded to include other prairie lakes across southern Saskatchewan from North Battleford to the Melfort and Humboldt areas as well as the Qu’Appelle lake system and Blackstrap Lake.
According to Dr. Wissel there has been a strong response from lake users in the Regina area and along the Qu’Appelle lakes.
“A lot of our study lakes are in the Swift Current area and also around Humboldt and so that’s why we think it’s so important to get the word out,” he said. “We do have some of these smaller lakes that we have been sampling for a long time. So for us it’s critical to also get a good regional representation and response rate for the whole southern part of the province for all the prairie lakes.”
The current survey has already been completed by more than 300 people. The efforts to obtain input from lake users have been expanded for this survey to include the use of social media and the survey can also be completed online.
Nanayakkara has been visiting some of the lakes this summer to make people aware of the survey and to request their input.
“The response is quite positive when I approach them in person,” she said. “Most of them are happy to give that feedback because they have issues they would like to bring up and they don’t actually have an outlet to do so. So I think this survey provides a good opportunity to provide their feedback and let us know what they’re thinking and what’s going on in these systems because they see that are happening throughout the summer or year round.”
Dr. Wissel noted University of Regina scientists have been conducting fairly extensive sampling programs for a number of lakes across the province for many years.
This sampling data from their ongoing biological and chemical lake studies as well as the information from the lake user survey will be used to develop best management practices for these sensitive prairie lake ecosystems.
“Many of these lakes don’t really have a natural outflow,” he said. “So all the nutrients, all the salts that go in, stay in there for a long time. Scientifically these lakes are really interesting, highly diverse in water quality and salinity, in fish presence or absence, in the composition of the invertebrates.”
The prairie lakes face a variety of development pressures due to the concentration of the population in the southern part of the province.
“There are big proposals to remove water from the Qu’Appelle chain for several potash mines, agriculture is removing huge amounts of water for irrigation, cities remove water for their use and ultimately all the wastewater goes back into the same system,” he said. “So we have a lot of lakes, but we don’t have a lot of water, and that’s why these lakes are highly vulnerable due to the human impact as well as climate variability.”
Participants in the lake use survey will have a chance to win fishing rod prizes. For more information about the lake survey or to receive a questionnaire, send an e-mail to  Nanayakkara at The lake user survey can also be completed online at: http://www.sogo

via SW Sask News – Prairie Post – Prairie Post

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