Acadia students looking at tidal energy research

Wendy Elliott
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Tidal energy-related research is underway at Acadia University’s tidal institute. Among those involved are, from left, Dr. Graham Daborn, Peter Porskamp, Kaycee Morrison, Freya Keyser, Matthew Butler and director Dr. Anna Redden. - Wendy Elliott, 

Four graduate students at Acadia have become the first recipients of the George Baker Tidal Energy and Environment Scholarship.

The $1,000 awards were established in recognition of the late Dr. Baker’s generous donation to Acadia and his unique contribution to the understanding of the environmental implications of tidal power generation from the Bay of Fundy.

The four scholars have been conducting research projects this year that will look at life in the waters of the Minas Basin and Bay of Fundy.

Kaycee Morrison is assessing lobster seasonal migration and habitat use in the Minas Basin and Minas Passage, while Matthew Baker is investigating patterns in fish presence and abundance in intertidal weirs in the Minas Basin.

Freya Keyser is tracking the movements of striped bass in the upper Bay of Fundy to help with conservation efforts and assess the risk of fish-turbine interactions.

Peter Porskamp, meanwhile, is assessing marine mammal presence in and near the FORCE Lease Area off Parrsboro during winter and early spring. He plans to address baseline data gaps and sensor performance.

All four are either biology or environmental science graduates of Acadia and are currently in their first or second year of graduate studies in biology under the supervision of Dr. Anna Redden.

Redden, the director of both the Acadia Tidal Energy Institute and the Acadia Centre for Estuarine Research, says the centre’s meeting room and library now holds many of Baker’s tidal energy books and papers and bears his name.

A longtime Kentville resident, Baker was a director of the N.S. Tidal Power Corporation from 1971 to 1989 and executive vice-president from 1976-1989. It was he who recommended that there be a broad examination of the environmental implications of Fundy Tidal Power. 

The first meetings, convened at Acadia in 1976, led to the creation of the Fundy Environmental Studies Committee (1977-1984), which oversaw the first multidisciplinary, multi-institutional study of the whole Bay of Fundy, substantially increasing knowledge of that ecosystem, Redden said.

Acadia is known, said Redden, for its collaboration and cross-disciplinary approach to this research.

“If you have common goals, you have a better chance of moving forward,” she said.

“Even though George Baker was very optimistic that tidal power could be safely developed in the bay, he was a strong advocate for objective, science-based investigations of the tidal power issue, including use of the pilot plant at Annapolis Royal to examine issues of fish passage.”

In 1985, Dr. Graham Daborn established the Acadia Centre for Estuarine Research to further the research focus on tidal environments.

“It is no exaggeration to say that without George Baker’s leadership and support, the Bay of Fundy science community would know much less about the bay, and would be far less prepared to address the contemporary challenges of tidal power development.” 

In 2009, Baker was presented with a Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership Special Community Service Award in recognition of his “inspired leadership” on the tidal power issue.

Earlier this year, the institute launched an almost 300-page community and business toolkit. The toolkit is a guide that provides information on tidal energy development. The multidisciplinary toolkit engaged 12 different writers, Redden said, and is available online.


Organizations: George Baker Tidal Energy, Acadia Centre for Estuarine Research, Acadia Tidal Energy Institute N.S. Tidal Power Fundy Environmental Studies Committee Annapolis Royal Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership Special Community Service

Geographic location: Acadia, Bay of Fundy, Minas Basin Minas Passage FORCE Lease Area Parrsboro Kentville

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