Ge­of­fery Gunn, a project of­fi­cer with the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment, takes a wa­ter sam­ple in Win­nipeg.

Canadian Geographic - - YOUR SPACE - —Vanessa Hr­vatin

Col­lect­ing sam­ples from the Lake Win­nipeg wa­ter­shed — Canada’s sec­ond largest, stretch­ing across four prov­inces and four states — is no easy task, but a group of high school stu­dents were up for the chal­lenge this past June. The Lake Win­nipeg wa­ter­shed mon­i­tor­ing Bioblitz was a cit­i­zen science project ini­ti­ated by the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment and Cana­dian Geo­graphic Ed­u­ca­tion. It saw data col­lected by 110 high school stu­dents at 23 sites. “The re­sults were pretty con­sis­tent and gave us great base­line data,” says Karla Zubrycki, project and com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager for the IISD Wa­ter Pro­gram. “This will give us a good in­di­ca­tion of any changes in the wa­ter­shed come Septem­ber when a new batch of stu­dents go out sam­pling.” Stu­dents col­lected data on phos­phate and ni­trate lev­els, wa­ter tur­bid­ity, species iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and pre­cip­i­ta­tion. The goal of the project is to be a hands-on ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence for stu­dents, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously cre­at­ing cred­i­ble data that will be ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic on open-data cat­a­logues. “The Lake Win­nipeg wa­ter­shed is so large that it’s very dif­fi­cult and ex­pen­sive to get a good pic­ture of it from a data view­point,” says Zubrycki. “Hav­ing cit­i­zens col­lect data will help us un­der­stand our wa­ter­shed so that we can make bet­ter man­age­ment de­ci­sions.” The stu­dents cov­ered a wide range of sites, in­clud­ing lakes, rivers and ponds. One school from Bal­go­nie, Sask., sam­pled Buf­falo Pound Lake — the source of drink­ing wa­ter for Regina and Moose­jaw — and were pleased to find high wa­ter qual­ity. The project cur­rently in­volves schools in Saskatchew­an, Man­i­toba and North Dakota, but Zubrycki is hop­ing to ex­pand the ini­tia­tive to in­clude schools in all four prov­inces and four states en­com­passed by the wa­ter­shed. “One of the key as­pects of this project is get­ting stu­dents to rec­og­nize that even though they’re in dif­fer­ent coun­tries or dif­fer­ent prov­inces, they’re all in con­tact with the same wa­ter,” says Zubrycki. “What hap­pens in Minot, N.D., af­fects the wa­ter in Win­nipeg.”

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