The Otter~La loutre: Top Five Posts of 2016

Polar Bear Swim, English Bay, Vancouver, BC. Source: Flickr

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With 2016 behind us, now is the time to take a quick peek at the most popular posts of the year on The Otter~La loutre. 2016 was a big year for the blog. We published 99 posts on a range of topics in Canadian environmental history from the draining of Niagara Falls to the nature of Confederation. To some extent, The Otter~La loutre has become a way of measuring the scope of environmental history research in Canada. If 2016 is any indication of the vibrancy of the field in Canada, I’d say environmental history is strong and starting to explore exciting new areas of research.

But what did our readers actually read this year? What were the most viewed posts on the blog?

5. Robynne Mellor, “Wildly Nuclear: Elliot Lake and Canada’s Nuclear Legacy”

Readers were drawn to Mellor’s post about her ongoing dissertation research on Elliot Lake and other nuclear landscapes of the twentieth century. She examines the many challenges places like Elliot Lake face with the legacies of uranium mining.

4. Jocelyn Thorpe, “Indian Residential Schools: An Environmental and Gender History”

As part of our series of posts on gender and environmental history, Jocelyn Thorpe sketched out some of the ways the two analytical lenses of environment and gender can be brought into focus when studying the history of Indian residential schools in Canada. In the wake of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Thorpe’s post draws our attention to the ways in which historians and gender and the environment can expand our understanding of this dark episode of Canadian history.

3. Larissa Holman, “Does this Dam Have a Future? Taking a Closer Look at the Mactaquac Dam”

Readers were interested in mega projects in 2016, especially dams and waterfalls. Last January, Larissa Holman wrote about the Mactaquac Dam, one of three large hydro-electric dams found along the St. John River in New Brunswick. Holman discusses the current debate over the future of the dam and she shares her own HGIS work on the project and a magnificent story map of riverside communities lost to the dam years ago. It really must be seen.

2. David Massell, “History Lingers at Muskrat Falls”

David Massell wrote our second most popular post on the blog in 2016, the finale of our series, “Dam Nation: Hydroelectric Developments in Canada”. Massell covered another eastern dam controversy, this on concerning the hydroelectric development at Muskrat Falls in Labrador. Massell takes readers through the turbulent history of hydroelectric dam construction on the Churchill River, situating the current Muskrat Falls project in a broader history.

1. Daniel Macfarlane, “Turning off Niagara Falls … Again: 1969 Redux”

It gives me great pleasure to celebrate the publication of Daniel Macfarlane’s post on the “shut off” of Niagara Falls as the most-read post on our blog in 2016. Macfarlane, of course, is one of the editors of this website and an executive member of NiCHE. Throughout the year, he has taken great pride in the fact that literally thousands of people have read this wonderful (and wonderfully timed) post on the history of draining the falls for maintenance. As a historian of the Great Lakes and the author of a forthcoming book on Niagara Falls, Macfarlane was the ideal contributor to respond the news that the falls would, once again, be “shut off” in the next few years.

That wraps up this look at the most-read posts of 2016 on The Otter~La loutre. Do you want to be on this list next year? Send us your posts! Tell us about your research. Contact us here and let us know what you want to write in 2017.

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Sean Kheraj

Associate Professor and Vice-Provost Academic at Toronto Metropolitan University
Sean Kheraj is a member of the executive committee of the Network in Canadian History and Environment. He's an associate professor in the Department of History and Vice-Provost Academic at Toronto Metropolitan University. His research and teaching focuses on environmental and Canadian history. He is also the host and producer of Nature's Past, NiCHE's audio podcast series and he blogs at

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