Tag Archives: Acadia University

Whistler’s Lakes: Records of Environmental Change in Alta and Lost Lakes

*Due to generous private support, this event will now be offered with FREE ADMISSION

Dr. Ian Spooner (Acadia University, Nova Scotia) is an environmental scientist who uses lake sediment records to determine how development, atmospheric pollution and local geology influence lake water quality and chemistry.  Over the past seven years he and his students along with staff at Cascade Environmental Resource Group have studied the sediment records in Alta Lake and, more recently, Lost Lake.

Both lakes have provided detailed and complex records of environmental change dating back to the 1700s.  Research to date has indicated that both natural processes and anthropogenic influences have had a significant impact; the data provides some guidance for future development in both watersheds.

Thursday, April 11 Ian will be at the museum to show how the lake records were obtained and analyzed and discuss what they can tell us about both the resilience and vulnerability of these lakes to future environmental change.  Local context (written records, personal experiences) is critical to effective interpretation of the lake sediment records and he hopes that everyone who has an interest in or a story about our lakes can attend.

Dr. Ian Spooner (Department Head, P. Geo) has been a professor at Acadia in the Earth and Environmental Science Department for 25 years.  His primary research interest is using lake sediment records to investigate environmental impact and he has active research programs in Atlantic Canada, Alberta and British Columbia.  His secondary research interests include applied geomorphology (fluvial, coastal) and landslide hazard assessment.  He also has consulted in the areas of environmental risk assessment, groundwater and surface water contamination, coastal erosion and has been involved in hazard assessments for resource companies in Nova Scotia, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.
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Upcoming Events: Feeding the Spirit / The Science & History of Alta Lake

The next couple of weeks are exciting ones here at the museum! We have two events to share, the first of which is happening this evening. Join us tonight for free food and a chance to win stellar prizes from Creekside Market, Prior, Splitz, Whistler Roasting Company, PureBread, and more. Whistler Museum’s annual event, Feeding the Spirit, is a chance for new residents to enjoy some free grub, and mix with long-time locals in an intimate setting.

As part of Welcome Week, the museum, with support from Whistler’s Creekside Market, is aiming to welcome new residents and provide them with a sense of place and community. This event also provides a chance for long-term Whistlerites to recall and share their stories of what originally brought them here and what keeps them in this beautiful playground. Hope to see you there!

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We are also thrilled to announce In Depth & In Writing: The Science & History of Alta Lake, an event you don’t want to miss. Join us for this historical and scientific discussion of environmental change in Alta Lake in the past, present, and future. The event will start at 7:00pm and there will be a cash bar. Free to attend.

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During the summer of 2014 Professor Ian Spooner and graduate student Dewey Dunnington from Acadia University, working with members of Cascade Environmental Resources Group (CERG), conducted some exciting research on Alta Lake. Using a core sampling technique, they collected intact samples of the layers of sediment on the lake bottom to better understand how the lake and its watershed have reacted to both natural and man-made change. This technique is known as paleolimnology. Most studies only look at the way the lake exists now – paleolimnology allows us to study the history of a lake too. Every centimeter of sediment represents about 5 years, so some of the material in these samples is as much as 400 years old!

Alta Lake is an important ecological component of Whistler Valley, and since western settlement of the region, has been an essential resource for residents and visitors alike. It is also historically significant – so much so that the town itself was called “Alta Lake” until 1975.  The history of the lake from a human perspective has been recorded in the pictures and writings of the residents of the valley, many of them kept in the archives of the Whistler Museum.

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While we have watched the lake from its surroundings, the lake has also observed us, recording environmental change through the slow accumulation of material as it washes into the lake, year after year. The sediment from the bottom of Alta Lake allows us to better understand how the lake and its watershed have reacted to both natural and human-made change, and will help us evaluate our management strategies going into the future.

On the evening of Thursday, December 4th, Dewey Dunnington will be presenting his findings to the community at the Whistler Museum. To complement this Executive Director of Whistler Museum, Sarah Drewery, will also be presenting on the history of settlement around Alta Lake.