By Lydia Ross
“The Halifax Harbour holds so much value in my life. It’s here where I connect with our bustling ocean and imagine centuries of sunsets over historic McNab’s Island. It’s a special place, where industrial human activities and our natural world exist as one system. Yet, it seems our harbour’s natural world has been dropped from its story.
Many view the harbour as an industrial waste dump, void of life and fish habitat. And while it’s true the harbour has had a crappy past… since 2008, millions have been invested into the restoration of the harbour’s water quality through the Harbour Solutions Project. Today the harbour is no longer a waste dump. It’s time to change how we understand and speak about the harbour by highlighting the cultural and ecological values central to our harbour’s story.”- Lydia Ross, #Mywatermark
The Re-Imagining Atlantic Harbours 2050 project aims to install an interactive water-quality testing station and interpretive panel along the Halifax harbourfront. The panel will feature a map showcasing the harbour, its eight watersheds, and our urban environment as one marine ecosystem with historic and ecological value. The panel will highlight basic water-quality parameters necessary for swimmable, drinkable, fishable harbours, and help locals and visitors use and interpret interactive water-sampling devices, providing hands-on engagement with the Halifax harbour (secchi disk for water clarity, thermometer for temperature).
Kelly Schnare, Program Manager, and a group of core individuals have been developing RAH2050 for two years. “The program aims to give locals and visitors an interactive way to learn about the Halifax harbour as a living marine ecosystem and to empower them as citizen scientists”. Halifax Water, Halifax Waterfront Development, Department of Fisheries, Ocean Viewer, and Watermark Project have helped grow this pilot initiative through financial and consultative support and collaboration.
“A key element of this program will be an interactive web portal featuring all things Nova Scotia and marine science. The panel will ask that you upload your data to our site where you can then learn about other cool ways to view, understand, and protect our ocean. Our community partners have been so important as we bring together conversations between scientific communities, locals and visitors.”
Protecting our marine environments begins at our watersheds. A watershed is an area of land whose rivers and streams all drain into one larger waterbody, in this instance, the Halifax Harbour. Many people live within Halifax Harbour watershed ecosystem. “We want to inspire an awareness of place within this watershed system and illustrate all the ways we impact the harbour from land”, Kelly explains. Actions include being mindful of what you put down your drain and picking up litter wherever possible to prevent it from entering our marine ecosystems.
Fluctuations in water quality indicators such as temperature and clarity impact the capacity for marine environments to sustain life. Marine animals thrive within varying ranges of environmental parameters that include salinity, temperature, clarity, dissolved oxygen, and nutrient levels. Knowing about these parameters and how they affect certain species can also help us understand how climate change impacts species distribution. Many invasive species overtaking marine environments, such as the European green crab and the invasive tunicate, thrive in changing climates. Understanding the factors which affect the health of our harbour will be necessary to help us imagine a swimmable, fishable harbour for 2050.
The Halifax Harbour basin had numerous fisheries in recent past and still holds value as fish habitat for many marine species like lobster, herring, smelt, mackerel, gaspereau, salmon, harbour seals, porpoises, and sharks! Through this project, we hope to raise awareness around our harbour ecosystem, and address knowledge gaps around harbour health and how urban development, residents, and visitors impact the harbour watershed.
Through interpretative education, hands-on learning, and an online resource portal for everything marine science, RAH2050 aims to change the way people think and talk about the Halifax harbour. Celebrating Halifax harbour’s cultural and ecological significance will connect locals and visitors with more ways to value the harbour. We hope people will understand their influence on harbour health through their day-to-day actions. The program aspires install the panel and open the interactive station to the public on April 22nd, Earth Day. Please visit our website and Facebook page for more information and updates. RAH 2050 is a program of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation – Atlantic Chapter. Please visit Sierra Club for more information on other amazing programs!
Lydia Ross has volunteered for several years with the Sierra Club helping pilot marine education initiatives. “I love connecting people with our oceans who don’t normally harbor a connection with our natural world“. Lydia has experience working in Marine Conservation Areas restoring aquatic ecosystems. Her main interests lay in seagrass ecology, in particular blue carbon.
“I’ve been fortunate to observe and understand our marine environment in unique ways. It’s wonderful being able to share this passion through engaging programming and artistic expression.”