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Keith Somers

Adjunct Professor

MSc, University of Toronto
PhD, University of Western Ontario



I am the site supervisor and biostatistician at the Ontario Ministry of the Environment’s Dorset Environmental Science Centre (DESC). Our focus is monitoring long-term changes in water quality and the biological communities of inland lakes and streams. As Dorset’s biostatistician, I collaborate with provincial and federal scientists as well as university partners from Trent (former CRC Industrial Chair – Peter Dillon), York (Norm Yan), Queen’s (CRC Chair John Smol, Shelley Arnott, Brian Cumming), Waterloo (CRC Chair Bill Taylor, Rolland Hall), Laurentian (CRC Chair John Gunn, Bill Keller), and the University of Toronto (Don Jackson). In addition, I am an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto, Trent University, and York University. Collaborations with Dorset partners have allowed me to work on a wide variety of studies. For example with Peter Dillon at Trent University, I have collaborated on projects involving: the impacts of golf courses on benthic communities in lakes and streams on the Precambrian Shield (2 M.Sc. students, 1 PDF completed); the response of diatom communities to nutrient enrichment and other anthropogenic stressors (1 Ph.D.); temporal coherence in long-term changes in benthic communities in Dorset-area lakes and streams (2 M.Sc. students); the uptake of mercury by fish and benthos in Dorset lakes (2 M.Sc. students); the effects of climate change on long-term dynamics of dissolved organic carbon in lakes (1 PDF completed); and the use of the reference condition approach to statistically assess aquatic ecosystem health (1 PDF). Collaborations with Norm Yan at York University have focussed on the statistical assessment of temporal coherence of zooplankton populations (1 Ph.D. and 1 PDF, now completed), the recovery of zooplankton communities from acidification (1 M.Sc. and 1 PDF completed), and the impacts of climate change. With Bill Keller at Laurentian University, I have collaborated on studies on the recovery of zooplankton communities from metal and acid contamination in Sudbury-area lakes and on the utility of the reference condition approach for assessing the cumulative impacts of mine effluent discharges on the benthos of urban streams. The success of the latter study resulted in an ongoing, major collaborative program co-funded by 5 northern Ontario mines and Environment Canada. I have also collaborated extensively with Don Jackson at the University of Toronto. Don and I both did graduate work with Prof. Harold Harvey so we have many common interests relating to aquatic communities in Ontario lakes. Currently I am working with Don on a number of projects including the re-sampling of 100 Ontario lakes to assess crayfish assemblages. Why are the benthos, crayfish, and fish of Precambrian Shield lakes important? These taxa represent sentinels of a vanishing Ontario resource. We know very little about the roughly 260,000 Ontario lakes that are larger than 1 ha in surface area. As the impacts of man’s activities rapidly spread across the province, there is less and less time to adequately evaluate the state of our freshwater resources. Currently there is great interest in measuring aquatic community responses to anthropogenic stressors, but these responses must be evaluated within the context of natural variation. Dorset and the neighbouring area protected by Algonquin Park provide a setting to evaluate patterns in aquatic communities along a variety of natural environmental gradients. A better understanding of the climatic processes and physiographic features that structure minimally impaired aquatic communities is critical to long-term monitoring programs at DESC. More generally, my collaborations advance our understanding of the importance of temporal and spatial scales in aquatic community ecology, and provide better statistical tools for community ecologists.