Lake user feedback sought

By Costa Maragos Posted: July 31, 2015 6:00 a.m.

Biology student Lushani Nanayakkara, shown here studying lake ecosystems, is seeking input from lake users.
Biology student Lushani Nanayakkara, shown here studying lake ecosystems, is seeking input from lake users. Photo courtesy of Lushani Nanayakkara.

If you’re heading to the lake for some summer fun this weekend, you might be approached by a U of R researcher.

Biology student Lushani Nanayakkara is looking for feedback on how people use prairie lakes and their concerns about the environmental impacts.

“People who live and use the lakes are linked to the ecosystem,” says Nanayakkara, a PhD candidate in Biology. “The natural sciences can explain what is happening to these lakes. But if we just focus on the natural science aspect, we’re missing a part of the puzzle.”  

Nanayakkara will be distributing surveys at about a dozen lake sites around Southern Saskatchewan this summer.

She wants to know what people are using the lake for, their concerns, knowledge of the aquatic ecosystem and their general disposition to getting involved in the management of the resource.

“I did a pilot study in 2013 and I gained some valuable insight into how people feel connected or, in some cases, disconnected from their lakes,” says Nanayakkara. “Of those who feel a deep connection, I found them to be passionate and certainly opinionated.”

Nanayakkara surveyed people at seven regional parks from Red Berry Lake, Northwest of Saskatoon, to Little Manitou Lake and further west to Lake Pelletier, near Swift Current. She's expanding her geographic range this summer to include the Qu’Appelle Lake system and Blackstrap Lake.

Nanayakkara has been spending a lot of time around lakes since 2011, when she started working on an ecosystem survey examining the factors that determine food web dynamics. Her research is being done under the supervision of Drs. Björn Wissel, and Peter Leavitt, both professors of Biology at the U of R.

Now Nanayakkara is integrating a social science component to her research.

“The feedback will help build upon the insight I gained from the pilot study.  There are, at times, disassociations between science and public knowledge,” she says.
“Lake users exhibit concerns that are biased towards their given lake uses such as fishing or boating,” says Nanayakkara. “Ultimately, lake users are intimately linked to the health and well-being of the lake and their knowledge should be a valuable resource. Having that feedback from the public helps me develop a comprehensive management framework that has a strong natural science foundation but takes into account stakeholder feedback.”

Nanayakkara will be personally handing out the surveys at as many lake sites as she can get to. She also asks that if you’re visiting a park around Southern Saskatchewan to look for a copy of the survey.

You can also request a survey by contacting Nanayakkara via email