River Institute Marks 30 Years with Gala Celebration

River Institute Marks 30 Years with Gala Celebration
Emilie DeRochie, Courtney Holden, Brian Hickey, Christina Collard, Jeff Ridal, and Matt Windle at the 30th Anniversary Gala. (Photo : Jason Setnyk photo)

The River Institute celebrated its 30th anniversary in grand style at the Great River Gala Fundraiser, held on June 20 at the Ramada Inn. The evening, filled with food, festivities, and a shared passion for river research, drew a large crowd eager to commemorate three decades of scientific achievements.

The gala kicked off with a cocktail hour featuring river-themed games, activities, and interactive displays. Guests explored an augmented reality river, tested their fish identification skills, and engaged with River Institute scientists. There was live music, and South Lancaster artist Michael E. Cartwright had his artwork displayed.

“We’re so thrilled to have the opportunity to get everyone together and celebrate the past 30 years,” said Jeff Ridal, Executive Director of The River Institute.

The River Institute, known for its cutting-edge research and educational outreach, has made significant strides in understanding and preserving the St. Lawrence River. “I’m very proud of the science we’ve done and the science team we have pulled together,” Ridal remarked. “We have 9 PhD scientists associated with The River Institute, and many more technicians and other scientists at different levels of education. They have contributed to a better understanding of the river, how to address its associated problems, and how to protect and conserve it.”

Just days before the gala, Andrea Khanjin, Minister of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks, visited The River Institute. Members of the River Institute discussed the St. Lawrence River Strategy and the Great River Rapport Ecosystem Health Report with the minister.

“Minister Andrea Khanjin came to The River Institute this week and was very impressed with the staff and the contributions that we’re making that are very relevant to her Ministry and Ontario,” Ridal said.

The River Rapport report is a collaborative effort with the Mohawks of Akwesasne that blends Indigenous knowledge and Western science to assess the river’s health. “Recently, we’ve published one on yellow perch… We’ve been able to go back in history and tell the story of the yellow perch over those 100 years, the ups and downs of this population, and what caused these changes over time,” Ridal explained.

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