November 5th 2021
Steeping Tea to Understand Climate Change
Over the past few months, the Gault Nature Reserve has hosted a collaborative project between researchers from McGill University and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). In this project, Maude Lachapelle, a doctoral student at McGill University, aims to uncover the effects of contaminants on aquatic food webs.
On their first day at Gault, the team started by preparing “leaf tea”. After leaving the mixture of dead leaves and water to steep for a few weeks, the experiment was ready to begin. Equipped with this leaf tea rich in dissolved organic carbon, Maude can reproduce lake browning and eutrophication to see how these increasingly common phenomena affect mercury uptake in organisms living in lakes like Lac Hertel.
For their experiment, Maude and her team used the experimental floating dock located on Lac Hertel, called mesocosm. This mesocosm holds 32 basins designed to replicate the surrounding environment as closely as possible while maintaining a barrier between the experiment and the lake water itself. Maude can, therefore, safely reproduce lake browning and eutrophication while maintaining natural variations in water temperature in a way that would not be possible in a laboratory setting.
In the summer, the Gault Nature Reserve is usually buzzing with researchers. While fieldwork tends to slow down as temperatures drop, some researchers take advantage of seasonality to answer specific questions. Maude, for example, will repeat this experiment across seasons to evaluate how climate change may affect the processes she and her team are interested in.
Maude Lachapelle (left) and Zofia Taranu (right) on the Lac Hertel flotting dock (photo: Alex Tran)
About the Researcher
After completing her master’s degree in Plant Science at McGill University in 2011, Maude Lachapelle entered the workforce. Her path eventually led her to Environment and Climate Change Canada, where she worked as a Research Assistant for the past six years. She went back to the school benches in January 2021 to start working on her Ph.D. co-supervised by Dr. Irene Gregory-Eaves (McGill University) and McGill alumni Dr. Zofia Taranu (ECCC). After graduation, Maude aspires to be a Research Program Manager for a government agency.
Gault Nature Reserve of McGill University
Header: The "leaf tea" ready to steep (photo: Alex Tran)