Photo 1: Kelsey Atatise standing beside a huge white pine on the 3080m portage into Cache Lake from Lindsay Lake. Photo Credit: Katherine Tripp. Photo 2: Offering tobacco prior to obtaining an increment core form a red pine. Photo Credit: Kelsey Atatise.
I started working as part of the Quetico Foundation Research Team in the year 2020, with this field season being my second year as part of the team. I decided to work for the Foundation because I have a keen interest in biology and in working in a natural environment, and believe it is important to make a positive impact on the environment for future generations. There are a variety of subjects that I wish to study in post-secondary in the near future, including environmental sciences and biology. The work that I have been part of with the Quetico Foundation will help me achieve these goals. Throughout the two years that I have worked for the Quetico Foundation, my role as a research team member consisted of various fieldwork projects focused on collecting all scientific data for the Park Biologist. The main goal of collecting this data is to support the management of Quetico Provincial Park’s ecosystems with a focus on supporting and increasing the ecological integrity of the park. Being given the chance to help support the management of Quetico Provincial Park’s ecosystems these past couple of years has been an invaluable learning experience.
During our last trip of the season, my partner Katie Tripp and I paddled into the interior of the park starting from Bemar Lake and ending at French Lake. In 6 days, we paddled Bemar Lake, Bitchu Lake, Ross Lake, Cullen Lake, Munro Lake, Mack Lake, the Wawiag creek that leads into Kawa Bay, Kawnipi Lake, McKenzie Lake, Cache Lake, Trousers Lake, Baptism Lake, and the creek from Baptism that leads into French Lake. Our goal was to collect maximum depth, clarity (secchi depth), surface conductivity, and surface pH from each of these lakes to assess lake trout vulnerability to climate change. The main goal of collecting data from each category helps us assess their suitable habitat and better understand how their habitat may change within the next 100 years. The data that we collected this summer will be used to determine which lake trout populations are at risk of being affected by climate change and if any management action will need to be taken to support these populations.
The 6-day trip was the longest trip that I went on and the furthest that I have paddled within the interior of Quetico Park. This trip was probably the most challenging out of all the trips that I have been on this summer – we paddled and portaged many kilometers. However, I overcame the challenges with the help of a supportive partner and because of the many beautiful sights while on this trip. When arriving at Cache Lake from the McKenzie Lake portage, my partner and I came across the largest white pine we had ever seen, it was huge, and we approximated it to be over 200 years of age. Being able to paddle and portage from lake to lake to collect data this summer has been unforgettable. I strongly encourage those who have a passion for working in a natural environment to consider working as a member of the Quetico Foundation Research Team.
A lesson I wish to share is about offering tobacco (asemaa). Offering asemaa in the wilderness helps us connect to the earth, trees, plants, and all other living organisms, as one. In Anishanaabe culture, asemaa is one of the four sacred medicines. This medicine is used as a spiritual connection to ourselves, to every living organism, and to my people’s creator, the Gichi-Manidoo. Asemaa is used to honor the tree’s spirit, for it too has life and provides medicine for us. Back in 2020, QF Research Team Leader Katie Tripp, former assistant biologist Jared Stachiw, and I were primarily focused on collecting red pine stand structure and regeneration data in relation to historic fires. When we would core a red pine, to figure out the age of it, we would put down aesmaa to give many miigwetches (thank-yous) to the tree. Putting down asemaa before coring the red pine is important to show acknowledgement and respect for the tree, and to show appreciation for the ecological data it is providing. Everyone is welcome to use tobacco in the same way as the Anishanaabe do. Here at Quetico Provincial Park, many of the workers respect the natural environment and Anishanaabe culture, and they too practice the teachings of offering tobacco.
I would like to thank the Quetico Foundation for giving me this phenomenal job opportunity these past couple of years. Being given the privilege to work for the Quetico Foundation in the interior of Quetico Provincial Park has given me the chance to learn, grow, and better understand why this park deserves rigorous protection. I hope the new Research Team members come to enjoy Quetico as much as I have and continue to help support the ecological integrity of Quetico Provincial Park.