Dr. Tim Papakyriakou
Dr. Greg McCullough
Algal Taxonomy and Ecology Inc.
For Manitoba, an abundance of clean, reliable freshwater is the centrepiece to the province’s economic and social infrastructure. From clean drinking water and agricultural irrigation to hydroelectric power and recreational activities, the very identity of Manitoba is built upon its freshwater supply.
The upper Manitoba Great Lakes (Lake Manitoba, Winnipegosis and Waterhen) include the 27th (Winnipegosis) and 32nd (Manitoba) largest lakes in the world. They are important drinking water sources for the people who live near their shores, and important recreational and fisheries resources for the region and the Province as a whole. Moreover, they help to protect Lake Winnipeg by filtering nutrients and contaminants in runoff from its western watershed. In particular, the operation of the Portage Diversion during flood events has effectively shifted significant fractions of the Assiniboine River nutrient and contaminant load from the south basin of Lake Winnipeg to the south basin of Lake Manitoba, with undocumented impacts on the latter.
Research conducted by the MBGL program helps support science-informed management of Manitoba's largest freshwater resources.
Since 2012, the Centre for Earth Observation Science (CEOS) has recorded water conductivity, temperature, chlorophyll concentration and turbidity at stations in Lakes Winnipegosis, Waterhen and Manitoba.
In 2016, CEOS expanded the mooring program to include open water sampling at up to 20 stations situated throughout the upper MBGL. At each station we have recorded physical parameters including conductivity, temperature, oxygen and light profiles, and collected water samples to measure water chemistry and biological samples for algae and zooplankton abundance.
Current CEOS graduate student programs include remote sensing of algal diversity, biomass and geographical distribution.
Graduate student Katelyn Rodgers studies land use/climate forcing of nutrient loading from the watershed.
Graduate student Agoston Fischer's research looks at remote sensing of sediment dynamics in the lakes.
Another research program within the MBGL includes work centred on how carbon is transported and modified as it flows through Manitoba rivers and lakes to Hudson Bay.
MBGL researchers are also conducting a multi-year study devoted to the understanding of the greenhouse gas (GHG) exchange dynamics in the Nelson River. The GHG fluxes are being monitored both pre- and post- flooding of the future Keeyask Hydroelectric reservoir to account for the changes in rate, variability and controls on GHG exchange as the natural peatland and river become part of a reservoir.
MBGL researchers are also studying nutrient forcing of algal biomass and associated algal toxins. We look at water quality indicators such as chlorophyll, suspended solids and dissolved organic carbon and use them to create visualizations such as maps of chlorophyll concentration in surface water. These methods combined with satellite data can be used for early detection of algal blooms and identify potential sites where algal toxins may occur.
Beginning in 2020, CEOS has partnered with the Manitoba Métis Federation to develop a weather keeper program on the upper MBGL. The program is designed to build Métis capacity in water related management activities and increase Métis ability to make science-based decisions about climate and nutrient issues in the basin. These programs will underpin a co-developed and jointly managed monitoring network that will allow for a system-level understanding of how the MBGL respond to land-use change in the watershed, to such major influences as the operation of the Portage Diversion and re-engineering of the Lake Manitoba outlet, and to regional changes in climate.
Dr. Tim Papakyriakou
Dr. Greg McCullough
Algal Taxonomy and Ecology Inc.
Currently, the physical, chemical, biological and geological processes in the lakes are not well understood. Therefore, we have a poor ability to predict responses to change in factors such as climate, fishing pressure, and nutrient or contaminant loading from the watershed, or to understand impacts carried downstream to Lake Winnipeg, into Hudson Bay and the arctic. For example, climate change impacts include direct lake warming, which intensifies in-lake chemical and biological processes, and increasingly intense precipitation events. It is likely that this has led to increased runoff and more frequent flooding, and hence, increasing nutrient and contaminant transport from the watershed to the lakes, but we have no data to support this speculation. In Lake Manitoba, commercial catch of the most valuable species, pickerel, has declined by more than half since the 1980s. This may be due to pike in-migration through the Portage Diversion, or to high fishing pressure; we have too little information to know the cause. Most recently, in the summer of 2021, zebra mussel larvae were discovered in Lake Manitoba; again, without better information, the impact of this invasive species is a matter of conjecture. Overall, lake management and governance are being decided without adequate scientific support.
Through our multi-disciplinary research the MBGL program will provide biological and physical data to support science-based decision making in the Hudson Bay Watershed, at local, regional and hemispherical scales.
Response to the Province of Manitoba "Engaging Manitobans on Water Management Strategy"
Barber, David; Papakyriakou, Tim; Pflugmacher, Stephan; McCullough, Greg; Herbert, Claire. (2021). Response to the Province of Manitoba “Engaging Manitobans on Water Management. Centre for Earth Observation Science, Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources, University of Manitoba.
Climate in the Lake Winnipeg Watershed and the Level of Lake Winnipeg
McCullough, Greg. 2015. Commissioned report for the Clean Environment Commission.
Operational Water Quality Monitoring Over Lake Winnipeg Using Satellite Remote Sensing Data
Liu, Jiangui; Hirose, Tom; Kapfer, Mark; Bennett, John; McCullough, Greg; Hocheim, Klaus; Stainton, Michael, Our Common Borders – Safety, Security, and the Environment Through Remote Sensing October 28 – November 1, 2007, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
View a selection of reports and publications related to our work
Lake Winnipeg Special Edition
In 2021, the Journal of Great Lakes Research published a collection of peer reviewed paywalled publications about Lake Winnipeg. MBGL researchers contributed multiple articles to this issue.
Lake Winnipeg Basin Indicator Series
Environment and Climate Change Canada, Agriculture and Resource Development. 2018. Lake Winnipeg Basin Indicator Series Gatineau, QC. Environment and Climate Change Canada.
State of Lake Winnipeg, 2nd Edition, Technical Report
Environment and Climate Change Canada, Agriculture and Resource Development, Water . 2020. “State of Lake Winnipeg, 2nd Edition, Technical Report.” Gatineau, QC. Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Students in CEOS conduct research that contributes to the global conversation on climate change and its effects on our planet. From their field research, they write stories and bring photos back from their experiences.