Sable Island’s Vulnerable Ecosystems in a Changing Climate

The focus of this project is to work in collaboration with Parks Canada to assess biological and environmental information for the freshwater systems of Sable Island National Park Reserve (NPR).

The deliverable for this project will be two-fold:

  1. The development of a biomonitoring measure for the freshwater ecosystems of Sable Island NPR and;

  2. The creation of a model to project the sustainability of these ecosystems with respect to future environmental change.


The challenge for monitoring and the associated resource management and conservation planning of the freshwater habitats is a lack of baseline knowledge of how the freshwater ecosystems operate through time. Without a context, there is little to compare contemporary monitoring information to. We are able to extend the development of a monitoring program for Sable Island NPR to a context that can range from centuries to millennia through the inclusion of paleolimnological information into our biomonitoring approach. Paleolimnology is the study of indicators preserved in lake sediment through time. With the use of paleolimnological indicators, lakes can serve as storybooks of the past, and the information contained can be used to calibrate our projections for the future. This research and approach will enable the research team to directly address these unknowns through the development of methodologies and monitoring approaches that will directly aid in conservation planning and development.

What Dalhousie University is doing, and why we need your help

Your contribution will be used to recruit students to Dalhousie University to assist with developing a monitoring program for the coastal freshwater ecosystems of Sable Island National Park Reserve, fieldwork and laboratory expenses for the collection and processing of samples, and equipment and consumables used for this research. Each dollar you give will be matched with three dollars from the Fathom Fund. However, this project won’t happen unless we hit our fundraising goal. If our campaign is successful we will be able to develop a meaningful monitoring program for Sable Island as well as ensure that we are able to produce meaningful information that will directly influence ongoing and future conservation of Sable Island’s freshwater ecosystems.

Investing in the Future

Curious to find out where your donations are going? Find out more about the faces of the Sable Island research project below.

Shen Molloy
2019-2021 M.R.E.M. Candidate

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“I’m interested in the impacts of climate change on coastal communities and what natural adaptations can be implemented to mitigate these challenges.” – Shen Molloy

Shen is from Kingston, Ontario. She is currently finishing her BSc. in biology and environmental science at Mount Allison University. In the fall, she will starting a new chapter at Dalhousie studying freshwater sustainability on Sable Island using paleolimnological indicators. With a passion for the environment, Shen is excited for the opportunity to learn about how to quantify future sustainability using indicators of the past. By examining the subfossil remains of insect populations in sediment cores from the ponds on Sable Island, Shen will be exploring a metaphorical storybook of information that will calibrate ongoing monitoring and future conservation planning.

 Victoria Watson
2019-2021 M.E.S. Candidate

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“I have always been interested in how climate change transforms environments and what this means for the future.” – Victoria Watson

Victoria is from Guelph, Ontario. She completed her B.Sc. Hon. in Environmental Science at Guelph University, focusing on organic matter impacts on the bioavailability of pesticides in water, and analyzing fisheries management and licensing on Canada’s West Coast. Starting in September 2019, Victoria will be studying the vulnerability of Sable Island’s freshwater ecosystems. Victoria’s interest in Ecology developed at a young age, with a strong interest in wildlife protection. The opportunity to research Sable Island’s ecosystems is a once in a lifetime opportunity to not only build skills in quantitative ecology, but also to have meaning behind her work for both the ongoing monitoring of Sable Island’s freshwater ecosystems but also all of the endemic species that rely on them.

Parks Canada Contribution

Parks Canada is supporting this project by providing the logistical necessities to conduct the proper research. Travel accommodations for students and researchers on Sable Island NPR will be provided by Parks Canada, as well as ongoing research support to integrate this project into their Ecological Integrity Monitoring Program.

The donations to ProjectDal will help recruit two graduate students to work with Parks Canada and Andrew Medeiros on setting up the biomonitoring assessment methods for the park. 100 per cent of the donations made to ProjectDal will go to student support.

If you are able to make a donation to support a healthy coast today, Donate now via Project Dal, and share our campaign with friends (Note: Any donation made toward the project will come with a tax receipt from ProjectDal). Thank you for your support.

Thank you for your support

As a means of gratitude for supporting this project, we are offering unique images of the ecosystems of Sable Island during our fieldwork campaign, and access to our detailed field notes for the project, which will include student testimonials and project updates. All of this and more can be found on Fathom.Fund.

Thank you to our Project Partners

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About Sable Island National Park Reserve

Sable Island National Park Reserve is an example of a coastal ecosystem that is highly influenced by environmental change and subsequent variability in weather extremes. Storm-surge activity and erosion have led to a large-scale change in the surface hydrology of Sable Island NPR, including the impacts the freshwater sources that sustain populations of horses, birds, and many species of rare plants and invertebrates. Ultimately, the sustainability of freshwater systems of Sable Island is not known, highlighting the need to not only understand the trajectory of these systems through time but monitor their ecological integrity.

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Parks Canada has the mandate to not only protect the ecological integrity of ecosystems under their jurisdiction but to monitor these systems; this project seeks to assist with this process by developing a clear approach and methodology for monitoring of the freshwater ecosystems of Sable Island NPR as well as providing the context in which they can be assessed. The use of benthic macroinvertebrates as biological indicators for assessing the health of freshwater habitats is a common biomonitoring approach used across Canada. The basis behind their use is the ability to infer ecological condition from shifts in their abundance and diversity. Knowledge gained from monitoring benthic macroinvertebrate indicators can also be applied to detecting the influence of environmental stress at fine scales.




Dr. Andrew Medeiros is an expert in freshwater ecology, biogeochemical processes, and Arctic environments. His research focuses on understanding the ecological trajectory of freshwater ecosystems of the past, present, and future. By examining change from centuries to millennia he is able to make predictions and create models to project responses to environmental change. Dr. Medeiros is motivated by seeing science in action and has worked hard to build relationships and establish trust with Indigenous communities whom are at the forefront of environmental change in the North. This has allowed him to combine quantitative modeling to examine issues of fresh water quantity and quality as it applies to northern communities. The data allows researchers to conduct risk analysis for municipal water supplies, and research areas of concern for local residents. His findings have resulted in a fundamental shift in the way this knowledge is applied to water security challenges.

Dr. Medeiros has received numerous awards, internships and grants throughout his career including the W. Garfield Weston Postdoctoral Fellowship in Northern Research in 2012 and 2013. Dr. Medeiros has contributed his Arctic expertise to 24 peer-reviewed scientific publications, four technical reports, and a number of regional and international television segments. He was also a scientific advisor and contributing author for The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), an initiative of the Arctic Council administered by the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF). Dr. Medeiros joined the College of Sustainability co-appointed to the School for Resource and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University in August, 2018.