In the summer months, many cottagers pack their vans for the weekend and head up north to relax and spend time outdoors by the lake.

While cottaging is a favourite pastime for many Canadians, cottage properties can have negative impacts on our environment.


Some cottage-owners might not be aware of the impacts that their cottage might have on the surrounding environment….

And climate change may also accelerate changes that every property owner should know about.

Some changes include:

  • Invasive species;
  • Erosion;
  • Lake level variations;
  • Excessive vegetation; and
  • Algal blooms.

To help close this knowledge gap, Trent University professor, Dr. Tom Whillans, offers a shoreline assessment course for undergraduate students.

The field course runs for an “intense” 10 days and provides the students with the knowledge and expertise to assess shoreline health, aquatic and invasive species, and proper zoning rules for docks and lawns.


Students who complete the course receive a certification from Watersheds Canada as official “Shoreline Assessors”…. and an academic university credit!!

With their certification, students can apply to work for the entire summer for the Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners Association (CHA). They assess shoreline properties, some of which are later re-naturalized as demonstration projects. The Haliburton program is funded by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, Trillium Foundation, Watersheds Canada, Haliburton County Development Corporation and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

shoreline assessment project.jpg

Accommodations and classrooms for the course itself are arranged by U-Links. The CHA supplies the assessment equipment and arranges for individual lake associations to provide drivers and boats for the students in the course and throughout the summer. Additionally, the employed students have their meals covered and get to stay with cottagers whose lakes are being assessed!

Talk about a cool summer job!

This past summer 4 Trent University Students (Shelby Erwin ,Shelby Heath, Shannon Millar & Mystaya Touw) conducted individual assessments for THOUSANDS of lakeside properties! The students gained practical hands-on experience assessing the shorelines on a number of lakes, which helps prepare them for their career.


These assessments help educate individual property owners about their cottages and some ways that they can be a part of solutions to restore their shorelines.

Shannon Millar told us that they wouldn’t be able to do this project without Trent University. She said it was a very valuable experience to interact directly with homeowners about the environment and to help directly educate the community about environmental issues.


Here are some testimonials from the students:

“Throughout the summer we got the amazing opportunity to apply our knowledge and skills acquired over our 3 years of schooling to a summer job. We have become confident talking about and identifying features on the shoreline that are enhancing the water quality and features that are degrading it. We  have applied our knowledge to make suggestions to cottage owners about their shoreline.We also learned a lot from the people we have been staying with as they usually had an important position on the Lake association. It was truly inspiring to meet people that were just as concerned about water quality as we are and to work and learn with them” – Shelby Erwin

“I would say these opportunities better prepared us to work confidently and independently. Being thrown into new cottaging communities where you, likely the youngest person in the room, are now the representative and the expert, requires you to apply the knowledge university provides you with to the larger world. This process teaches us how to best communicate with people of a variety of interest and knowledge levels. The program between Trent University and the CHA, exemplifies that science cannot and should not be independent of the community it serves. We developed our skills, not only in field of assessing shoreline health, but also in communication and problem solving” – Mystaya Touw

A big thank you goes to these four students for conducting this very important research and for fighting to keep individuals informed about their impacts on our environment.