WWF-Canada Blog:

Taking the STREAM to Canmore, Alberta

© Catherine Paquette/WWF-Canada

Canada’s watersheds need our help. And thanks to the STREAM team, we’re gathering important data on the state of our freshwater from citizen scientists across the country.

Earlier this summer, the team at STREAM (Sequencing the Rivers for Environmental Assessment and Monitoring) led a two-day practicum on Canmore, Alberta’s beautiful Bow River. Eighteen people learned how to properly gather data for the benthic invertebrate indicator—the bugs that live on the floor of the river and are a measure of ecosystem health.

The diverse group of participants included university students and researchers, national park staff, professional scientists and consultants as well as staff and volunteers from local watershed groups and NGOs. It’s a great example of the public stepping in to help with current water monitoring and data collection.

© Catherine Paquette/WWF-Canada

STREAM builds on the work of previous reports. In 2017, WWF-Canada released its innovative Watershed Reports which detailed the state of Canada’s freshwater. One of its major findings was that most of Canada’s watersheds are “data deficient”— the necessary data to properly assess the rivers and streams doesn’t exist or isn’t available.

As many as 112 of 167 sub-watersheds are data deficient for the benthic invertebrate indicator. One of the report’s main recommendations to fill the information gap was to increase the amount of data collection and water monitoring across Canada.

© Catherine Paquette/WWF-Canada

STREAM helps address this shortage of data. Established in 2019, the community-based monitoring project is a collaboration by WWF-Canada, Living Lakes Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada and the University of Guelph’s Hajibabaei Lab in the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics.

These citizen-scientists are also helping to address one of the biggest water monitoring challenges in Canada. The country is simply too big and diverse for a single organization to monitor every watershed. But community-based water monitoring groups can now be found in almost every province and territory. Working with academia, local and provincial governments these citizen-scientist groups collect aquatic data that leads to a better understanding of our water resources.

Organizations and individuals across Canada are already taking charge and monitoring their home waters. And through technological advances such as open databases, this is becoming easier than ever. Another of these technological advances that will benefit water-monitoring groups is DNA metabarcoding. This state-of-the-art technology allows the benthic samples collected by citizen scientists to be analyzed faster and cheaper than ever before.

To learn more and find out how you can get involved, please the STREAM website.

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