Written by Avalon Carthew

Believe it or not, we managed to do not one, but TWO, shoreline cleanups last week. In addition to the cleanup in Alderville First Nation on Friday, July 23rd, members of the Turtle Island Conservation and Adopt-A-Pond teams headed out to Ohsweken, located on Six Nations of the Grand River, for the second cleanup of the week. The weather was lovely, making it the perfect day to pick up waste from along the shoreline in Chiefswood Park. 

The shoreline cleanup was well attended by 48 eager volunteers. So eager, some were patiently waiting for us to set up our tent and tables. Whether they were youth attending a camp, or someone who came from as far as Guelph or Cambridge, everyone was excited to be there!

People of all ages were intrigued by our turtle, frog, and toad models. One young man was very interested in snapping turtles and asked Christine, one of our First Nations Conservation Technicians, a bevy of questions. As I spoke about leopard frogs to a family, I was regaled with a story about having seen such a frog just last week at someone’s house.

In total, 15kg of garbage was collected. Taylor, Christine, and Michelle even got the chance to make use of the Great Lakes Program’s sieve. It functions like a flour sieve you may have in your kitchen, but is much larger. As you can see in the photo below, you couldn’t fit a sieve this size in your kitchen! Just as a flour sieve separates flour and debris, the Great Lakes Program’s sieve separates sand and waste.

This special sieve is comprised of fine mesh that is perfect for breaking up clumps of sand, allowing it to fall through. Once sand has been sifted through it, any debris and tiny pieces of garbage will remain in the sieve’s mesh. After sifting dry sand through the sieve, we were left with a pile of microplastics and other forms of teeny-tiny waste. You can certainly never look at an otherwise pristine beach the same way after that!

Taylor from Turtle Island Conservation and volunteers searching for microplastics remaining in the sieve.

Kayanase, an ecological restoration and native plant business from Six Nations, had a tent set up alongside ours. They had trays of native wildflowers to give away, including Purple Coneflower and Wild Bergamot. Native plants provide refuges and food sources for insects that range from Zebra Swallowtail butterflies to Red Milkweed beetles. You can learn more about Kayanase and the projects they do at kayanase.ca.

Christine and I searched for turtles hanging out near the Grand River but didn’t spot any. As I was picking up some garbage, a volunteer approached and informed me that she had seen a black snake with yellow stripes on it. That’s definitely an eastern gartersnake, what a great sighting!

The Grand River.

I found some beautiful, but invasive, Flowering Rush. This aquatic plant can crowd out native vegetation, therefore decreasing biodiversity. Flowering Rush can grow so densely that it can negatively impact recreational activities such as swimming and boating. Please always remember to clean your boats and other watercraft, as this will ensure you don’t accidentally spread invasive species.

Flowering Rush and a honey bee.

The shoreline cleanup was a rousing success, and it wouldn’t have been possible without volunteers. Thank you Ohsweken and Six Nations of the Grand River for hosting us. It was wonderful to put on such a wonderful and uplifting event in your community. I hope you had as much fun as we did!

This project was made possible by the Great Lakes Local Action Fund grant through the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. Keep an eye out for posts about other shoreline cleanups taking place over the next couple of months!