Great Lakes Beaches Research

3. Research Work

Field Work

Field work is being undertaken at two urban (Burlington Beach and Marie Curtis Beach) and two non-urban beaches (Tiny Township, South Georgian Bay) on the Great Lakes. The selected sites include beaches that are ‘degraded’ (e.g., shoreline development, wet sand conditions, absence of sand dunes, septic systems, invasive vegetation) and ‘natural’ (e.g., limited development, dry sand conditions, native vegetation).

Field measurements are conducted to determine:

  • Beach groundwater flows, groundwater discharge rates and changes in beach morphology.
  • Distribution and fate of nutrients in beach sediment, groundwater and nutrient fluxes between the groundwater and lake.
  • Temporal and spatial variability in E. coli and Enterococci occurrence and microbial source tracking

Multiple field trips are conducted to each beach site per year to capture the changes that occur through the bathing season.

Laboratory Studies

Laboratory experiments are being conducted to further understand phenomena observed in the field. Experiments will examine:

  • Nutrient transformations and fluxes in beach sediment under dynamic water table conditions.
  • E. coli and Enteroccoci survival in beach sediment for conditions relevant to the Great Lakes environment.
  • Transport of E. coli in beach sediment under dynamic groundwater flow conditions.

Laboratory analysis of groundwater conducted in a glove box

Numerical Modelling

Field and laboratory experimental data will be combined with advanced numerical computer models to better understand the role of groundwater in nutrient and fecal pollution at beaches of the Great Lakes.