By David Sweetnam
Executive Director of Georgian Bay Forever
Part of the Great Lakes Bottom Mapping Working Group newsletter. Subscribe here.
Coastal wetlands provide ecosystem services that sustain both our aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and purify drinking water that Great Lakes communities depend on. And as climate change alters these wetlands, effects are felt all the way from the coastline to the home tap.
In 2016 Georgian Bay Forever (GBF) worked with NASA to examine water levels impacts on the wetlands surrounding Georgian Bay. Since no coastal bathymetry was available, satellite imagery was acquired at two points – the high water levels (1986) and low water levels (2013) – as surrogates for this bathymetry to determine impacts on wetland inventories and extent.
Through this process, GBF and many others, recognised the value of high-resolution bathymetry. In 2019, GBF was pleased to partner with Environment Canada to begin collecting this critical data in pilot sites along the eastern coast of Georgian Bay. This data will be used to assess the climate resilience of coastal wetlands based on modelled water movement. GBF has partnered with Western University in London, ON, University of Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier University, both in Waterloo, ON, to acquire an autonomous underwater vehicle, affectionately named Georgie mcBayFace in homage to the original proposed name for a British research vessel and AUV. Starting in 2020, Georgie will aid in gathering high-resolution side-scanning imagery, water quality, and bathymetry data.
Above: David Sweetnam, Executive Director of Georgian Bay Forever and Dr. Brian Branfireun of Western University with Georgie. Photo courtesy of David Sweetnam