About 350 metres below the surface of the St. Lawrence River live hundreds of species, including burrowing shrimp, mud stars, brittle stars and worms.
Most people wouldn’t give those little guys a second thought. Yet, according to Dr. Jean-Marc Gagnon, collection manager of the invertebrate section of the Canadian Museum of Nature, they’re an important part of the water they live in.
Estuaries like the St. Lawrence are just one of five types of aquatic places — others are lakes, rivers, oceans and wetlands — explored in Canada’s Waterscapes, a new exhibit opening at the Canadian Museum of Nature Friday.
“This is an exhibition about the remarkable range of water environments that are here in Canada,” said Monty Reid, the museum’s manager of exhibition services.
“We talk about five separate environments across the country from the Squamish River to the Quill Lakes in Saskatchewan to the East Coast. And we talk about the wonderful animals and plants that live there.”
While the bottom of the St. Lawrence is quite remote, Gagnon said, the exhibit allows visitors to see an environment they wouldn’t normally have the chance to encounter.
Canada has the longest coastline in the world, said Reid. “We have more water resources in the country than anywhere else in the world. Life came out of the water and we’re still tied to it.
“It’s a subject that’s at the top of people’s minds — the stewardship of water and the safety and cleanliness of the water supply. It’s a big issue.”
Still, the exhibit is “not a heavy-handed exhibit” about conservation, said Reid. It’s got a little something for everyone, including models, specimens and kid friendly activities that will put visitors face to face with a whooping crane and its chicks, more than a dozen species of frogs, a trout, Gagnon’s burrowing shrimp, and another, yet unnamed species of sea worm that Gagnon has discovered.
Although he wants people to appreciate the wonder of the water that we’ve got, there’s an underlying message, Reid said.
“We need to take care of it.”
The exhibit runs through Jan. 3.