CITIZEN SCIENCE AND STEWARDSHIP IN THE BEAVER HILLSCategory: 2013, Community Grant, Completed, Grant, Water
Water quality in many Alberta lakes is deteriorating, increases in the frequency and duration of harmful algal blooms are increasingly turning our water bodies green, smelly, and toxic. Watershed management that reduces the impact of human activities on lake watersheds is necessary to protect lake water quality. But watershed management involves integrating both personal and public choices related to conservation and sustainability in an attempt to balance social, economic, and environmental factors. It is also requires robust data to assess the current health as well as future risks to lakes.
The Beaver Hills, our focus region, is experiencing increasing pressure from industrial activities, urbanization, and country residential development. The impacts of these activities, especially those related to low-density housing, can be minimized if citizens have a personal commitment to stewardship and making ecologically-responsible choices.
Citizen scientists have much to offer, and much to learn, by involvement in volunteer monitoring and stewardship programs, but are a resource which is largely untapped. This project will develop citizen science modules for assessing stream health, controlling invasive plants, and monitoring amphibian populations. Each of these topics is important in Alberta and related to the protection and conservation of water quality and quantity. Stream monitoring is a chance to gain useful information on flow and water quality and influence decisions relating to water flowing through participants’ own backyards. Invasive plants are an ongoing challenge in riparian areas, but many species can be controlled by methods amenable to citizen involvement. Amphibians are indicators of environmental quality, so that monitoring and tracking populations of these animals may provide insight into the health of local wetlands.
This grant will be used to develop modules for stream, invasive plant, and amphibian monitoring that will be used immediately in the Beaver Hills area. Each module will include training for volunteers as well as an equipment bank to provide all of the materials needed for each module. Experience and broad success in recruiting and training volunteers using the modules as well as collecting robust data would encourage us to expand the program for Citizen Scientists across Alberta.