The Research - Watershed level analysis of stream condition across Metro Vancouver using rapid monitoring techniques and land cover mapping

FreshWater Watchers from the Metro Vancouver region are collecting data to enable stream health to be assessed, establishing a baseline set of indicators of stream condition. Research will further examine water quality in the context of different degrees of urbanisation, surrounding land use and land cover in the city.

The connection between urbanisation and water quality is known in broad terms, but on a smaller scale there is still much to learn about the relationship between the two. Variability in the patterns and arrangement of land cover, including the use of green ‘buffer zones’, may alter the way in which nutrients and pollutants flow into streams, resulting in varying impacts upon water quality.

The goal of the project is to increase and share understanding of the relationship between urban land use, specifically what types of land cover and management practices, and water quality. The data will also be used to assess which water quality measurements are most sensitive to changes in land cover. By taking responsibility for monitoring Vancouver’s streams, citizen scientists will help both scientists and local decision makers to better manage Vancouver’s environment.

Dr. Scott Shupe, University of the Fraser Valley, Department of Geography

Lead Project Scientist: Dr. Scott Shupe
University of the Fraser Valley

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Q & A

Where are you based?

Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Why did you become a scientist?

I have always been curious about the world around me. When I was a child I was fascinated by the variety of animals on the Earth and their behaviours. Growing up I wanted to emulate scientists who went out in the field to observe and understand how animals function. Seeing the scientists work in the field was very interesting to me. As I grew older I became increasingly interested in the habitats of the animals as well and developed an appreciation and urge to understand the complexities of the Earth.  Animals, forests, the Earth itself and even space - I was simply interested in everything. When I first went to university I literally started my studies at “the ground floor”, that is geology, eventually branching off into renewable natural resources and advanced technologies to study the Earth.

What do you enjoy about science?

I think that curiosity is a natural human quality that is fulfilled by active investigation. It is rewarding to conduct investigations that bring to light information that helps us understand the natural world or that provokes insight into our understanding about the world that we live in. I also like to read about what scientists in other fields are doing and like to try and understand the importance of their findings.

What is your favourite freshwater activity?

I enjoy swimming in the lakes in the summer and running on unpaved trails that take me close to streams all year round.

Where is your favourite lake and why?

One of my favourite lakes is Alouette Lake, northeast of Metro Vancouver. It is a wonderful, accessible drive to the lake uphill through the beautiful forests of Golden Ears Provincial Park. It is generally quiet and peaceful around the lake most of the year and the air is fresh and clean. To top it off there is a wonderful vista of mountains from the beach at the southern end of the lake.

What excites you about HWP?

The HWP is bringing together scientists and citizen scientists in a novel way that will provide fundamental data and yield information for use in understanding local and global fresh water issues. Citizen Scientists will provide a vital role in observing and measuring the state of fresh water resources, particularly as pressures mount and governmental monitoring becomes stretched thin.

How is the Programme going so far?

The programme is going well. We had our first Citizen Scientist Leader (CSL) Event in Vancouver on April 30, 2013. Vancouver CSLs have begun collecting data in the field for their representative streams and some of them have already posted these data on the Freshwater Watch website.

What are some of the consequences for our planet and people if we sit and do nothing?

An unfortunate consequence of doing nothing is that many people end up being in a state where they don’t realize what has been lost and that degraded water resources become an accepted part of their everyday lives. As populations expand natural ecosystems will become increasingly impacted as we build more roads, buildings, pipelines and other structures and we extract more resources to service these increasing populations. While we often talk about the economic benefits of ongoing development, we often overlook the possible  concurrent loss of benefits provided by natural ecosystems, such as clean water, fresh air, and resources such fish and timber.  Continual development and land cover change will particularly affect the quality of global water resources and cause points of contention around the world. Without clear objectives and efforts to conserve and sustainably use water human populations will face significantly increased costs to access diminishing water resources.

What kind of impact do you think the HWP can make both locally and globally?

People involved in the HWP will be leaders in society by demonstrating good practices in water usage and conservation. The HWP will also show how trained Citizen Scientists and scientists can work together to provide relevant and timely information on the state of water resources at both local and global scales. The outcomes of HWP research can then help inform local land managers and governments on how humans are impacting water resources, and hopefully influence best management practices.

5 top tips for CSLs and FreshWater Watchers?

  1. Plan for adequate time to reach the sample site and to take the measurements carefully and accurately without rushing. Make sure that you are prepared.

  2. Be aware of your surroundings when in the field. Not only for safety, but also to look for potential changes that may be overlooked when revisiting sample sites. Sometimes subtle changes can have important meanings.

  3. Double-check that you have made all your observations and measurements before leaving the sample site.

  4. Ask questions!

  5. Spend time on the FreshWater Watch website to find out about what others are doing in your area and around the world.


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