Great Lakes Surf and Turf: conservation of biodiversity in coastal wetlands by land and sweetwater sea

April 18, 2019

Dr. Patricia Chow-Fraser
Department of Biology McMaster University

Situated at the land-water interface, coastal marshes of the Great Lakes are places with extremely high biodiversity. They are used by hundreds of species of wetland plants that are essential for filtering out nutrients and sediments and that provide habitat for many species of migratory water fowl, marsh birds, at-risk freshwater turtles and amphibians, and more than 100 Great Lakes fishes. These ecosystems have dynamic lakeward and landward boundaries governed by fluctuating water levels, that favour surf and turf taxa depending on different water-level regimes. Managers need to manage these ecosystems by protecting both aquatic and terrestrial species, and understanding how species will respond to anticipated climate-change impacts. Dr. Chow-Fraser will use case studies to illustrate current and past efforts to protect and conserve at-risk and vulnerable species in coastal marshes throughout the four Canadian Great Lakes due to adverse human activities and climate change.


Dr. Pat Chow-Fraser is an ecologist interested in studying the effects of human activity on aquatic ecosystems using biological, environmental and social indicators. She and her students have sampled over 250 wetlands throughout the Great Lakes basin and have published on the use of models to predict the effect of water level, impact of invasive species, and effects of agricultural and urban development on marsh vegetation and fish habitat in coastal wetlands. Her lab uses remote sensing, GIS techniques, trophic-level manipulations, radio telemetry and spatial/multivariate statistics. She was involved in creating different citizen science initiatives, such as the Classroom Mini Marsh Program and URBAN (Urban Rural Biomonitoring and Assessment Network), a program funded by the RBC Bluewater Fund. She is currently part of the Global Water Futures project, an interdisciplinary initiative that brings together members of several indigenous communities and researchers from McMasters University

photo of Dr. Patricia Chow-Fraser