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New Ontario government research boat named for renowned Picton-area scientist

The life and work of the late Prince Edward County fisheries scientist W.J. ‘Jack’ Christie, known for his decades of groundbreaking Great Lakes research at the Glenora Fisheries Station, is being honoured with a new Ontario government research vessel that will bear his name.

The christening of the RV Jack Christie is to take place during a ceremony at the Glenora station Aug. 4 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Jack Christie

William John “Jack” Christie, who died in 1997 after five decades as a fisheries and aquatic scientist with the Ontario government, became internationally renowned for his research into the causes of declining fisheries and poor environmental health across the Great Lakes. He was locally known for leading the research team at the Glenora Fisheries Station, which he established in the mid-1950s.

“My family and I are proud to see the launch of this amazing new boat to carry on my dad’s legacy and commitment to the Great Lakes 25 years after his death,” said science writer Peter Christie. “Dad brought the Ontario government’s first Lake Ontario research vessel, The Namaycush, to Glenora in the 1960s. We know he would be excited to see this boat launched to continue the science we need to deal with new challenges.”

Jack Christie, who retired in 1992, is best known for his work with his close colleagues to spearhead a holistic view of lake life known as “an ecosystem approach”. The concept—emphasizing the interconnections among fish, other aquatic species, and the chemical and physical properties of the water—has since become a guiding principle for scientists and fisheries managers across the Great Lakes and around the world.

Christie’s groundbreaking research was often focused on the Bay of Quinte and the waters around Prince Edward County. He was also locally known for his fisheries station open houses, his efforts to encourage an interest in science among local students, and his passionate interest in area wildlife and natural history.

From his Prince Edward County home, Christie nevertheless had a range of roles and responsibilities with international organizations. He participated and led international scientific symposiums that remain significant resources for those working on ecosystem management.

Jack Christie has been previously honoured by The Great Lakes Fishery Commission with the creation of the Jack Christie/Ken Loftus Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions toward Understanding Healthy Great Lakes Ecosystems. He is also recognized every year with the awarding of two W. Jack Christie Graduate Scholarships in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto, his alma mater.

The R.V. Jack Christie is a 12-metre research vessel built by Hike Metal Products Ltd in Wheatley, Ontario. It is designed as a fast-moving, stable, offshore platform for studying the fish and aquatic environment of Lake Ontario in support of research by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

A small, weather-tight wheelhouse will permit operating the vessel from March through November. An A-frame and paired davits on the aft-deck will be used to deploy and recover equipment, including trawls, towed sensors, and moored scientific stations that track fish movement, measure changes in water quality, and assess habitat.

In the spirit of the pioneering research and ideas of Jack Christie, work from this new vessel will study the interconnectedness of the Lake Ontario ecosystem – from water quality to fisheries – to provide sound science to support sustainable management of these valuable resources for years to come.

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