When you think of “Algonquin”, things like camping, canoeing, and hiking all likely come to mind. But what about science? Long-term data? Cutting edge technology? No?! Science and research is taking place all over the park and has had long history in Algonquin.
One place with a particularly long history is the Harkness Laboratory of Fisheries Research. From creel surveys to hydro-acoustic technology, Harkness has been a base for aquatic research in Algonquin for over seven decades.
If you build it they will come
The original Harkness lab began in 1936 as part of the University of Toronto and was established on Lake Opeongo. With more and more people travelling to and through the park, staff were concerned whether or not fishing could be sustainable with this new wave of recreational fishermen. So a survey of anglers and their catch at Lake Opeongo was started to monitor fishing effort in a number of lakes. The survey continues to this day and is one of the most important sources of long-term data on lake trout biology in Ontario. It also stands as the world’s longest running survey of a recreational fishery.
A research station is born
The station began as the “Ontario Fisheries Research Laboratory” and remained that way for the first 25 years. In 1961 the site was rededicated as the Harkness Laboratory of Fisheries Research in honour of Bill Harkness, the first director of the station and a leader in developing fish and wildlife science in the then Department of Lands and Forests (now Ministry of Natural Resources).
From that simple beginning, the Harkness lab has grown over the decades to accommodate a growing list of scientists and students pursuing new areas of fisheries and aquatic science, such as:
• how aquatic food webs work in lakes with different species,
• the ecology of brook trout, lake trout, and smallmouth bass,
• the effects of climate change on aquatic species,
• improving our understanding of rare and endangered fish species, and
• understanding the dynamics of recreational fisheries.
Some of the most up-to-date technological tools are routinely used by Harkness staff, like:
• fisheries hydro-acoustics for mapping the distribution and number of fish in lakes,
• acoustic telemetry for monitoring tagged fish to track fish movement and behaviour, and
• glass-encased electronic fish tags activated by the wave of a magnetic wand, to individually identify fish and track growth and monitor population size.
These days, Harkness staff are joined by university professors, graduate students and other scientists in developing the latest cutting-edge work in aquatic, wildlife and forestry science.
For more information on the history of Harkness, current research and facilities, visit Harkness.ca.