The Mohawk people call the St. Lawrence River “Kaniatarowanenneh” meaning “Big Waterway. This past summer the “Big Waterway” became a living laboratory when university and college students from the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) Environment Division joined St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences scientists in a St. Lawrence River fish, wildlife and water quality assessment project.
MCA students Neena Miller, Katsitsiaroroks Mitchell-Smoke, April Terrance together with MCA technician Cynthia Lazore spent nearly two months on the big waterway as part of the River Institute research team investigating the ecological health of the River. River Institute biologists Dr. Brian Hickey and Matt Windle as well as other students from SD&G rounded out the team. The success of gathering this research not only provides students with an opportunity to share environmental findings with their own community but adds to the scientific information that direct environmental action plans for the river. Summer projects included measuring the amount of mercury in Walleye and Hoary Bat populations, gathering data on species at risk Map Turtles and American Eels, as well as investigating the spawning of the elusive Cutlip Minnow.
“River Institute Executive Director Dr. Jeff Ridal says, “It has been a rewarding experience for all involved. We have gained a lot from this partnership and we look forward to doing it again another year.” The students added, “. It has been such an educational experience and it was awesome to have the opportunity to contribute to these fundamental projects.”The conditions of swimming areas, the health aspects of the fish population, as well as the health of local animal populations such as muskrat, turtle and beaver are always a concern to our people”, says Grand Chief Mike Mitchell. He added, “We (at MCA) want to be in a position to inform and what better way than by having our summer students be the body that provides that information? They can also learn from our Elders who have life experience on the river.”