Lake Simcoe Science
Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Helping us understand the big
Our last issue introduced the topic of
Geographic Information Systems (GIS),
or connecting data and geography to help
understand our world. This issue explores the
role of GIS specifically at LSRCA.
In order to protect and restore the Lake
Simcoe watershed, we need to understand it.
GIS makes it possible for us to see the bigger
picture – to be able to calculate the sum total
of all the natural features (forests, rivers,
wetlands, groundwater, etc.) that comprise
what is known as our “natural heritage”. This
basic understanding of our watershed is critical
to everything we do.
It’s widely understood
that our emotional and
physical well-being is
with our ability to access
nature. Using GIS, we
can identify and protect
existing natural areas.
With that as a basis,
we can then identify
additional areas to
protect to make sure that
communities are not cut
off from nature, but have
access to the natural
experiences that support
Natural hazard identification –
protecting people and property
Our primary mandate to protect people and
property from flooding and other hazards would
not be possible without the insights provided
by GIS. Areas are identified where we should
or should not develop the land, such as in flood
plains, or along steep slopes or riverbanks.
Supporting the protection of
our drinking water sources
GIS played an instrumental role in collecting
and translating all the background research that
supported the development of source water
protection plans in the province of Ontario.
Thanks to the efforts of experts in GIS, we now
have an accurate picture of our ground and
surface water supplies, and their relationship
to the activities on the landscape that could
threaten those supplies.
Teaching our youth
GIS supports our education programs through
the creation of resources such as maps, and
in the field to
waypoints on our
and GPS programs.
support to launch
our first full-day
“Map, Compass and
enrolled in Outdoor
as well as the Specialist High Skills Major
Spatial skills are valuable to learn and
develop as they are one of the primary ways
humans get around. Spatial reasoning is also a
great predictor of talent in science, technology,
engineering and math.
Our science and research team collect tons
of data related to the health of the watershed
(water quality, temperature, species distribution,
etc.). When the data is housed in tables, it’s
not always that simple to interpret to determine
if there are any trends or patterns. When that
same data is transferred into a spatial (map)
format, the stories start telling themselves. GIS
played a key role in helping our researchers
identify the shift in Lake Simcoe from mostly
zebra mussels to mostly quagga mussels.
Taming the data devil
It’s one thing to have mounds and mounds of
data, but we need the staff with the right skills
in order to
manage it. Our
GIS staff have
to keep our
the data could
overwhelming and difficult to control.
Collaborating to save
Because GIS is firmly entrenched in many
organizations, LSRCA collaborates with partners
who are interested in the data that we have for
a variety of different uses. As a publicly funded
agency, we save money and resources by sharing
our information with our partners, and, in turn,
relying on them to share information with us.
Bringing it all together
GIS may not be the first thing that comes to
mind when you think about the work of the
conservation authority. But the reality is that
GIS has changed the way we view the world,
our understanding of our place in it, and how we
need to proceed in order to protect it.