What do some secondary students and their instructor from Vernon do on a beautiful warm sunny day in October? Well, they go on a fieldtrip to Gardom Lake, of course. On October 10, 2019 eight students and their instructor, Rob Buchanan, from the Vernon Community School, an offshoot of Clarence Fulton Secondary School, unloaded their canoes at the lakeshore. Their school seeks to provide learning opportunities by providing “hands on” experiences that develop inquisitive minds, teamwork, social and emotional growth, and development as well as basic scholastic achievements, all the while making it fun. They were met by Marge Sidney, BCLSS Board Member, and Liz Winter, President of the Gardom Lake Stewardship Society.
Rob contacted the BCLSS for information when he was creating the course. He was put in contact with Marge. Recently retired from the Ministry of Environment, Marge lives in Armstrong and has been working on the BC Lake Stewardship Engagement Initiative. Where could they go on a field trip to learn about lake limnology, as that subject was taught in September, and go canoeing, as all the students had just taken a basic canoeing and water safety course? Gardom Lake immediately came to mind as many fisheries and water quality projects had been done over the years by the Ministry. Gardom Lake is a special place as it is situated between the dry Okanagan and the wet Shuswap so there is a great diversity of life. In addition, the Gardom Lake Stewardship Society always likes hearing about what is going on at their lake, so Liz was contacted, and a plan was set in place.
Before the students even got on the water, Marge and Liz tested the students on a little bit of map orientation and map features, both topographic and bathymetric. The students had no idea that the bottom of lakes could be mapped and that the contour lines are just a mirror image of what is on the land. Once we located ourselves on the map and pointed to where the two deepest parts of the lake were, we planned our paddle. We stayed close to shore as that is where most of the life is. We talked about the riparian area and how the health of it is so important to the water – acting as a filter as well as providing habitat for many plants, birds, and animals. We saw Western Painted Turtles, lots of coots, eagles and swans.
Gardom Lake has two island and we stretched our legs on both to identify some of the plants and talk about how doe deer swim to them in the spring to have their fawns and keep them safe from predators. From the islands, we paddled to the deepest part of the lake where we tied up to the aeration float. The aeration system was running so we talked about why the lake was aerated and how it works. We brought a water quality meter with us and did a profile to discover what the dissolved oxygen and water temperature readings were at every meter from top to bottom and to quiz the students on how a lake turns over and the seasons of a lake.
There were many fishermen on the lake, so we talked about the rainbow trout and how just a few years ago the lake was having real problems with invasive fish including small and largemouth bass, yellow perch, pumpkinseed sunfish and goldfish. The birds, frogs, and insects in the water were nearly gone due to the predation by these introduced species. In 2009, the Ministry used Rotenone (a biodegradable poison with no long-term environmental impact) to kill all the fish as the invasive species had taken over. They later restocked the lake with rainbow trout. The treatment was a success and life has returned to the lake as well as providing a great rainbow trout fishery. To show this, we did a plankton haul, pouring the contents into a jar and looked at all the life with a magnifying glass. We talked about the food chain and how the zooplankton eat the phytoplankton which are in turn eaten by the aquatic insects and then the fish, birds, bears etc. Everything is connected in this world and everything has a home. If something is moved from its native home bad things can happen.
Our allotted four hours passed quickly, and we needed to get back to shore. We had one last thing to show the students – we walked over to a newly restored, less than a year-old wetland along the inlet. Life has quickly moved into the newly restored area. We discussed the problems that humans have inadvertently caused to the inlet and the additional plans that the Gardom Lake Stewardship group have to restore it. The bottom area next to the lake is mostly pasture with a ditch for the creek along one side. Future plans will restore the area to the original wetland with the creek meandering through it.
Time to go – a great time of exploring and learning was had by all!
By Marge Sidney, BCLSS Director