Seeing Evolution in Fast Motion

Close to one hundred experimental ponds at the Gault Nature Reserve for examining the impact of climate change and pollution on Quebec’s lakes

A new outdoor laboratory will serve as a facility for studying the effects on our lakes of climate change and chemicals commonly used in Quebec. It features a series of 96 experimental ponds containing 1,000 litres of water from Lac Hertel on McGill University’s Gault Nature Reserve in Mont St. Hilaire. This network of ponds, named LEAP (Large Experimental Array of Ponds), was opened on September 2, 2016.

Published: 2 September 2016
Researchers will simultaneously explore how insects, like water fleas, and plants, such as duckweed, evolve and adapt in response to environmental stressors and various concentrations of herbicides (RoundUp) and insecticides (neonicotinoids). These tiny species at the bottom of the food chain play an important role in the balance of a lake’s ecosystem: they are a source of food for other species and also feed on bacteria and algae which, if they proliferate, can become detrimental.

“The LEAP project was created to accelerate research into the resilience of our aquatic ecosystems. Will aquatic biodiversity be able to adapt to environmental change?” explained Andrew Gonzalez, project initiator and professor in McGill University’s Department of Biology.

The ponds are also a training venue for the environmental and biological researchers of tomorrow. University students and post-doctoral researchers from McGill University are working daily on the project at the Gault Nature Reserve.

Gault Nature Reserve

The Gault Nature Reserve is a nature reserve belonging to McGill University, which protects over 1,000 hectares of natural landscapes on Mont St. Hilaire and provides a range of services and support for research and the teaching of natural sciences, while offering access to the general public via its 25 km network of trails.

Lac Hertel is located on the Gault Nature Reserve. The Reserve was designated in 1978 as the first Canadian biosphere reserve site in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve program. In 2004, the Gault Nature Reserve was officially recognized as a private nature reserve by the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs du Québec.

For more information: and

Professor Andrew Gonzalez is also Canada Research Chair in Biodiversity Science and Director of the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science.

The LEAP project is funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Gouvernement du Québec and Liber Ero Chair in Conservation Biology.

Info and visual material:

Julie Tremblay

Communication & Event Coordinator

McGill University’s Gault Nature Reserve

julie [dot] tremblay3 [at] ncgill [dot] ca

450-467-4010, extension 249


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