Contributed photo The Bras d’Or Watch field day offers roughly 25 underwater viewers, as well as microscopes, pH meters, turbidity meters and more tools to assist participants with their exploration of the ecosystem.

BIG POND: A meeting of the minds took place last Thursday as members of the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association (BLBRA) hosted an information session at the Big Pond Community Centre.

“It was very productive,” said Dr. Annamarie Hatcher, a member-at-large for the Reserve’s board of directors. “We had representatives from all around the lake.”

The Thursday night discussion was called “Looking Inward, Looking Outward: Citizen Science in the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere” and upwards of 40 people attended. Three presentations took place, and the first of the night was headed by Hatcher.

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Hatcher’s presentation dealt with developing Bras d’Or Watch Lakeshore field day, an event held every July and sponsored by the BLBRA.

Hatcher offered a review of what’s been happening with the field day over the last three years. As with all three presentations, a question-and-answer period followed the talk.

Dave Harris, another member-at-large for the BLBRA, made a presentation on forest monitoring programs. Harris is the eastern region resource manager for the Department of Natural Resources and a regular contributor to CBC Information Morning.

“He has a committee and they just started working with schools,” Hatcher said. “They are about to go into the high school in Potlotek and do some work with the young people there. They’re piloting some things and trying to fit them within the curriculum of the provincial Department of Education.

“They are working with the teachers to streamline some forest monitoring procedures to satisfy curriculum objectives. We’re also trying to do that with the Lakeshore field day to get more teachers and educators involved.”

The final presenter was Bill Vokey, a manager with TD Canada Trust. He outlined the involvement of the Toronto-Dominion Friends of the Environment Foundation in the group’s funding of the Bras d’Or Watch for over two years. The Bras d’Or Watch is one of the 150 Canada-wide Common Ground Projects funded by the Toronto-Dominion Friends of the Environment Foundation.

“One of the main objectives of the Toronto-Dominion funding initiative is to engage aboriginal people and their environmental programs,” Hatcher said. “It was interactive and very positive.”

Hatcher and her fellow presenters were in good company.

“We had the head of Eskasoni Fish and Wildlife Commission attend, and we also had the head of the Collaborative Environmental Planning Initiative, a First Nations-led organization covering the whole of the watershed of the Bras d’Or Lake,” she said. “They had a lot of very good input.

Hatcher said she and the BLBRA were happy to put so many like-minded people in the same room.

“The way I sometimes describe it is that we’re like a dating service, introducing groups, communities and people to their ecosystem,” she said. “Hopefully, they’ll fall in love.”