OSWEGO, NY, April 11, 2008 - How do the people who work, live and play along Lake Ontario see the future of this great resource? Can American and Canadian recreational anglers, government agencies, charterboat captains, planners, aquaculturists, environmental groups, researchers and academics come together to discuss how they’d like to see the future of Lake Ontario?
To open up such a discussion, the bi-national Lake Ontario team of the Great Lakes Regional Research Information Network (GLRRIN), co-coordinated by Dale Baker (Associate Director of New York Sea Grant) and Dave MacNeill (New York Sea Grant fisheries specialist), held two separate conferences at opposite ends of Lake Ontario. Facilitated by Dr. Bruce Lauber of Cornell University’s Human Dimensions Research Unit, two similar Lake Ontario “Search Conferences” were held in Grand Island, New York near Niagara Falls (March 31-April 1, 2008) and Gananoque, Ontario in the St. Lawrence valley (April 3-4).
After an overview of Lake Ontario presented by MacNeill, facilitator and meeting format developer Lauber led each group of approximately 40 participants into a “shared history” discussion of Lake Ontario. Participants wrote on a wall-sized timeline to show decade by decade the natural and socioeconomic history of Lake Ontario and the forces affecting it. By alternating small and large work groups, each consisting of a balance of stakeholders, the group listed a shared vision of the “ideal future” followed by the “likely future” of Lake Ontario. Although lists from breakout groups varied, a future of better water quality, sustainable fisheries, habitat restoration, reduction of invasive species and alternative energy policy seemed to resonate throughout the conversations.
During the two-day conferences, participants were aided by other members of the planning committee: Dr. Tim Johnson (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources), Tom Brown (director of Cornell University’s Human Dimensions Research Unit), Dr. Gary Sprules (University of Toronto), Dr. Jim Johnson (USGS Fisheries Lab) and Barbara Branca (New York Sea Grant Communications Manager). Although not present for the conferences, much of the initial planning had been done by Dr. Jack Mattice, former New York Sea Grant Director who spearheaded the conference prior to his retirement last year.
As part of the future search process, the facilitator led participants into an exercise to identify information needs that would be of practical value to Lake Ontario stakeholders. Each group reported its findings and all participants had an opportunity to indicate which information needs had priority.
Lists of prioritized research needs as well as pre- and post-workshop evaluations that were filled out by all participants were reviewed and synthesized by the team. A full report entitled: “Information Needs for Lake Ontario: The Great Lakes Regional Research and Information Network Search Conferences” is now available for download.