Lake Ontario, ON - Michael Gilbertson
My name is Michael Gilbertson, I worked for the IJC from 1988 to 2004 and my final title was Research Manager with the system health work group. Most of my research back in the very early 1970s was on Lake Ontario but actually I worked on Lake Huron, on Georgian Bay, and Lake Erie as well as Lake Ontario.
I was a student in Ireland for 6 years and I did 6 years of research on peregrine falcons and the effects of pesticides. There’s a very small island called Scotch Bonnet Island which is off the southwest corner of Prince Edward County and that was really like my laboratory. That was the island where I studied herring gulls and really did the important piece of research which really indicated that we had dioxins, dioxin like chemicals even though we couldn’t find them at the time.
I thought ‘well, if we’ve got a problem of toxicology in the Great Lakes, I’ll see it manifested in the fish-eating birds breeding on the island’, actually in Hamilton Harbour which is a pretty scuzzy place to do any research.
What I found was not only very poor reproductive success, most of the eggs died the levels of chemicals were so high. I found that the chicks, both inside the eggs and also hatched out had a very high incidence of deformities, things like twisted beaks, missing eyes, duplicated feet, that kind of thing. That started of the big forensic toxicology study that finally ended with chemicals like dioxins and really understanding how those chemicals had caused these very serious effects.