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International award honours ‘The Fish Guy’ from Glenora

Tim Johnson, of Picton, is receiving the prestigious Anderson-Everett Award for his research and work at the Glenora Fisheries.

By Olivia Timm
If you turn right at the Glenora Ferry dock, you’ll likely find Tim Johnson wearing a fish shirt. But he won’t be there Friday, as the Picton resident is receiving the prestigious Anderson-Everett Award for many years of contributions to Great Lakes research.

While working at the Glenora Fisheries Station, Johnson says half of his time is dedicated his work here, and the other half is travelling.

“Part of what I do is to provide science advice, decision support advice to fishery management; so issues like invasive species or climate change, habitat loss, contaminants, those sorts of things,” he said. “My team will develop research programs. We investigate questions, risk and concern for policy and then they make decisions about the level the government will incorporate them,” he said.

“There is never a quiet day and no two days are the same. My wife Julia always laughs at me because I’m always travelling, but never going anywhere ‘exotic’ or ‘cool!’, he said.
“Fish know no borders, so as much as I respond in the interest of people in Ontario, I also collaborate a lot with people of the United State Federal Agencies as well, so in the course of a day, I keep up with that correspondence, write grants to develop or generate funds to support programs, write reports and scientific publications.”

Johnson also mentors graduate students from Queens, Toronto, Guelph and Windsor universities and notes he lives “vicariously through them as they’re phenomenal students.”

Closer to home, Johnson is known as “The Fish Guy” by Grade 2 and 3 students at Queen Elizabeth school.

For 10 years now, he’s been volunteering at the school with an Atlantic Salmon hatchery program. He explains it’s a partnership between his team, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

Johnson and his team at the Glenora Fisheries Station have a tank full of eels that they are helping transfer safely into Lake Ontario.

“We get 100 fertilized salmon eggs and we bring them into a hatchery aquarium in the classroom and each day, the students make an observation about what’s going on. Eventually, they have the opportunity to go on a field trip where they visit a provincial hatchery and we go to a field site where we’ve been stocking salmon for many years now in an effort to restore and bring them back into Lake Ontario. The students get to release their fish there.

Participating in the program brings him joy.

“I find it fascinating that you get these eggs that are the size of a pea you would eat at dinner, and they sit in this little incubator and as they hatch out, you can see them wiggling. That’s really cool for the kids. After about four weeks, they hatch, and so we release the eggs into these little elements in the bottom of the aquarium and they hide in the gravel. For two and a half months, it’s like a pet rock experiment. These kids, every day are like ‘Is it my turn?’ and they come over and stare in that tank and ask questions.

“It’s that excitement; that anticipation and the connection that these kids make through this program and with the ecosystem around them,” he said.

The students at Queen Elizabeth aren’t the only ones who make Johnson proud of his work. At home, daughters Amanda, 17, and Sarah, 15, share similar interests to their dad’s and are both interested in pursuing science in their education.

“I’m very proud of my daughters. They both excel at so many things from athletics to arts as well as academics. Probably four years ago, I remember sort of a strange flattery when Amanda said, ‘I’m gonna be an ecologist just like you.’ I laughed and thought that was really the nicest compliment you could get from your child.”

Johnson grew up in Aurora, Ontario where he developed a passion for the outdoors. He was truly fascinated with nature, but especially lakes and rivers.

His career with the Ministry of Natural Resources began in 1985 as a summer student at the Lake Erie Fisheries Station in Wheatley, and following graduate work in Ontario and Wisconsin, he has been a Great Lakes research scientist for more than 20 years.

His research focuses on the effects of invasive species, habitat changes and harvesting and on the health of the fisheries and the lakes in general.

Johnson also sits on a number of committees, including the International Association of Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) which is the group honouring him with the Anderson-Everett Award this week.

He’s been with IAGLR for more than 20 years and has served as its president, and on several committees.

The Anderson-Everett Award recognizes important and continued contributions to the IAGLR in honour of the efforts of namesakes David Anderson and Margaret Everett, known for their significant early contributions to the association, and the Great Lakes.

The award honours long-term, sustained contributions to the association, or the understanding of the Great Lakes.

“I’m not going to say I’m at the end of my career – I am certainly not ready to pack it in – but at the point I’m at in my career, to get that level of recognition where people value what you’ve done, they see the contributions and say ‘you are difference maker’. For that reason, it’s really exciting and a real compliment for me to have that recognition,” he said.

Johnson will receive the award in Scarborough this Friday at the end of a week-long conference.

Tim Johnson, known as ‘The Fish Guy’ reflected in the glass of an aquarium

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  1. Theresa Durning says:

    Congratulations Tim!

  2. Mike Farrell says:

    Congratulations Tim for your ongoing commitment to Great Lakes research – you are a great asset to the County and the region.

  3. Paul Adamthwaite says:

    My warmest congratulations to you Tim. Julia, Amanda, Sarah and Keeley will be very proud of you…

  4. Tim says:

    Congratulations Tim, my daughter and I enjoyed participating in the Salmon project and I would like to thank you for the difference you are making in our eco system.

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