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The Rideau River Biodiversity Project


Three Productive Years of Research

Attention! Diver at work!

Can we swim in the Rideau River without risking our health?

This simple question, posed in the early 1990s by the residents of Ottawa-Carleton, was the beginning of the Rideau River Biodiversity Project, a three-year study that has painted a detailed portrait of the River.

To respond to concerns of residents, the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton (as the region was formerly named) joined the Canadian Museum of Nature in 1995 in a study of the quality of the River's water, its microscopic algae, and the spread of zebra mussels (an invading exotic species). The study concentrated on the stretch of the River that passes through Ottawa.

Chlorophyll analysis.  
A student analyses chlorophyll.  

As public interest mounted, and thanks to the contributions of various financial partners, the field of study was expanded in 1998 to develop a more complete picture of the Rideau River.

Seven areas of study were added: fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles, indigenous freshwater mussels, aquatic invertebrates and aquatic plants. The length of the Rideau River to be studied was stretched from Smiths Falls to the Ottawa River.

The Rideau River Biodiversity Project was initiated with the goal of recording the River's biodiversity, of determining its bill of health, and of working towards its preservation, all with the close co-operation of the community.

Over the course of the summer of 2000, the scientists witnessed just what a jewel we have in the Rideau River. Discover for yourself what animals live in it, what plants grow in it and learn whether, at the time of the study, it was possible to swim in it ... in perfect safety!

Notable Numbers
Bullet. Members of research team: 31 (including 10 university students).
Bullet. Scientific disciplines: 9.
Bullet. Other Museum staff members participating in the Project: 18.
Bullet. Volunteers who gladly gave their time and energy: 50.
Bullet. Hours of volunteer assistance: more than 1000.
Bullet. Organizations, municipalities, public and private corporations and businesses that participated in the Project or supported it in various ways: 61.
Bullet. Project budget (financed primarily by the Canadian Museum of Nature and the Echo Foundation (formerly EJLB Foundation), but also supported by numerous partners): $1,000,000.
Bullet. New pieces of data gathered about the River and its fauna and flora: more than 100,000.
Bullet. Sampling sites: more than 150.
Bullet. Laboratory analyses: more than 30,000.
Bullet. Species of plants and animals found during the Project: nearly 600.
Bullet. Scientific articles published (before the end of winter 2001): 27.
Bullet. Conferences and talks given (before the end of winter 2001): 71.
Bullet. The Rideau River Roundtable: one of a kind!



Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeiana.
Lithobates catesbeiana.
An Environment to Protect
The Rideau River Biodiversity Project has demonstrated that the River is in much better shape than most people thought. Nevertheless, it is still an environment in need of protection. The survival and the diversity of its indigenous species are dependent on the preservation of its shorelines, the control of invading populations of exotic species and a reduction in the concentrations of fertilizer going into the River.

Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata.
Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata.
A Project of the Canadian Museum of Nature
 Images: Thomas Cook, Lynn Gillespie, Ed Hendrycks