January 2022

View online




Photo: Alex Tran

Subtle Impacts of Climate Change on Lakes

Results from an innovative study on Lac Hertel


Charles Bazerghi breaking the ice cover on the Lac Hertel mesocosms

Photo: James Mager


Around the world, climate change is affecting lakes in complex ways. In temperate regions like Quebec, warmer temperatures lead to lake ice forming later in the fall. Yet, scientists know very little about how these changes affect life under the ice.


In 2018, Marie-Pier Hébert conducted a study on the Lac Hertel mesocosms* to take a closer look. To simulate the effects of climate change, the team of researchers broke the ice forming on the water surface daily at the beginning of winter. Their recently published results show that many changes occur in the aquatic food webs when ice forms later. The researchers observed changes not only during that winter, but also in the following spring. In these modified food webs, some species emerged as winners benefiting from this delayed ice formation, whereas others did not.


* Mesocosms are barrels that contain several hundred litres of lake water for research purposes.

A Natural Snowshoer


Increasingly rare in the valley, ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) can be spotted in the foothills of the mountain.
Photo: Daniel Jauvin


Let’s wish the ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) a winter with plenty of soft, steady snow. Well adapted to winter weather, this gallinaceous bird has appendages on each side of its toes that are believed to serve as snowshoes. The ruffed grouse is partial to deciduous and mixed forests, and when the snow cover is heavy and fluffy, it can easily travel from one end of its multi-hectare territory to the other in search of trembling aspen, birch, ironwood and willow. It can also burrow into the snow, creating quite a stir when it flies noisily out of its hiding place with its tail flared open. Often mistaken for a partridge, the ruffed grouse has the body of a small hen, spotted and striped plumage ranging from grey to rust in colour and a distinctive dark-tipped striped tail.

By Johanne Ménard from the Société d’ornithologie de la Vallée du Richelieu. To learn more about the SOVDR and become a member: sovdr.org. (This text appeared in issue 2 of Nature sauvage.)


How to Stay Safe While Hiking


Patrollers in training (photo taken before the pandemic)

Photo: McGill University


Hiking is not only risky on high Himalayan peaks. Elevation changes, fatigue, and trail conditions can all make hiking more dangerous, even at the Reserve.


Here are a few basic precautions to take when hiking:

  • Wear proper footwear and make sure you check trail conditions before you leave home. Steep trails frequently ice over, so depending on the weather, you may need crampons.
  • Bring extra clothing and a snack in a backpack. If something happens and you need to stay still for a long period of time, hypothermia can quickly become a real possibility.
  • Bring your cell phone with you and let someone know you are out hiking.

In case of emergency, call 911 or 514-398-3000 (McGill security). An emergency response protocol will be activated, and patrollers will be dispatched to you promptly.


Summary of Emergency Responses in 2020



In 2020, our team responded to 38 different incidents. In over 32% of incidents, the Régie intermunicipale de sécurité incendie de la Vallée du Richelieu was called out to handle more serious cases or to provide stretcher transportation in areas inaccessible by all-terrain vehicles.


2019 2020
Emergency Responses 47 38
Visitors 313,659 215,232
Visits / Responses 6,674 5,664


Our response ratio was 1 incident per 5,664 visits in 2020.

That is a 15% increase over 2019!

Blast from the Past


Andrew Hamilton Gault, stalwart defender of the mountain


Photo: McGill University


In 1913, the Campbell family sold a portion of their property to Andrew Hamilton Gault, who was just 28 at the time. He already had an emotional attachment to the mountain, since he had spent many happy days playing there as a child with one of the family’s sons.


A Montreal businessman, Canadian Army officer, politician and accomplished athlete, Andrew Gault lived much of his life overseas. When he retired, he spent up to nine months on the mountain every year in a cottage near Lac Hertel with his wife. In 1957, he began construction on the Gault House. Sadly, he would only be able to spend a few weeks there before his death in 1958. For 45 years, however, Andrew H. Gault steadfastly protected the natural environment of his estate from mining and logging operations.


In memory of his father a former governor of McGill, Andrew H. Gault chose to bequeath his estate to the university to be protected for future generations.


About our Blast from the Past

As owner and guardian of the Gault Nature Reserve, we plan to celebrate the university’s bicentennial by publishing a monthly photo in InfoGault. Each photo will capture a moment from the history of this beautiful site.



Réserve naturelle Gault

422, chemin des Moulins

Mont-Saint-Hilaire (Québec) J3G 4S6


Téléphone : 450 467-4010


Cette infolettre est envoyée à votre demande par la Réserve naturelle Gault. Mettre à jour vos préférences ou vous désabonner.


This message was sent to you by Gault Nature Reserve.

Change your preferences or unsubscribe at any time.