LAC LA BICHE - An unexpected award arrived for one Lac La Biche outdoor enthusiast who was only hoping to showcase and report on the health of her lakeside community.
Jennifer Batiuk won the ‘Most Impacted’ award for a photo she took that was submitted to the National Lake Blitz Program’s 2nd Annual Lake Biodiversity Photo Challenge.
Batiuk’s photo showcased the blue-green algae impacts in Lac La Biche Lake this May. It was taken while exploring the lake near the Maccagno Point Boat launch and the image was selected by a handful of judges for the national competition that will be featured in Living Lakes Canada’s publications.
“I was shocked that the picture does actually show the impact. It’s ironic that I won for the ‘Most Impacted’ category on this absolutely beautiful lake,” she says, adding, she spends many hours during the spring and summer canoeing, paddling and enjoying the lake recreationally.
The photo, emulating the early blue-green algae spread experienced regularly in the lake this summer, was originally part of a project Batiuk and her sister, Stacey, began this summer to support the organization’s “community-based water monitoring” program at the Maccagno Point Boat launch area.
“Every two weeks, we go to the same spot and we take the temperature of the water, the air, the lake, wind… and if there is any indication that there is an issue with the health of the lake, animals or biology living there,” she says. The data is then submitted alongside photos through the organization’s app.
“It’s a beautiful lake, it’s got almost 190 km of shoreline, every area is a little bit different,” she says.
Unknowingly, the blue-green algae outbreak was reported to Living Lakes Canada the same day Alberta Health Services (AHS) released the advisory in late May, says Camille LeBlanc, the National Lake Blitz Program’s Manager. Ultimately, she says Batiuk is helping cover an important concern many lakes in Canada face today.
“Jennifer's photo of the canoe covered in blue-green algae after a paddle on the lake was taken the same day the Alberta government issued an algal bloom advisory. The Lake Biodiversity Photo Challenge aims to raise awareness around the health of lakes in Canada and the climate impacts affecting them—and this photo does exactly that.”
This year “from May to July, almost 300 photos were submitted capturing 160 lakes across Canada,” Living Lakes Canada reported. The national organization reaches from coast-to-coast, and includes various landscapes around lakes, showcasing both the environmental impacts and beauty that exist.
Batiuk is honoured to receive the title and a prize package, along with “bragging rights.”
Doing her part
Ultimately, the issue of blue-green algae is apparent and does impact the enjoyment of the lake.
“We can’t enjoy it fully as we would like to when there are outbreaks like this. There were a few warnings for a couple of the beaches throughout the year and that does impact us,” she says.
While she hopes her picture will help spread awareness, even though she doesn’t think it was the most attractive lake photo submitted, she’s hopeful it will move concerns forward.
“Is it doing much to promote people coming and enjoying the lake? No. But, it might raise the profile and raise the issue of what we’re doing to that lake that may be causing these issues and making it worse.”
There are many ways locals can support the lake too, whether big or small, says Batiuk.