There used to be a mobile science education program that roamed Northern Alberta communities, they had a green van with a dragonfly stuck on a frog’s tongue as its logo, they were called Mad About Science. The program leaders would roll up to a new town every week and prepare for a whirlwind of adventures with local elementary school kids, and sometimes summer camps filled with eager young minds. Each day at the summer camp version had a different theme, wetlands, forests, microscopic worlds, cosmology (not to be confused with cosmetology, or the study of cosmetics/beauty), and more.Read more
Another year, another successful ice fishing event! Thank you to everyone that came out to the Lesser Slave Watershed Council’s (LSWC) 6th Annual Kids Can Catch Ice Fishing event in Joussard on February 18th! In case you missed it, here is a quick wrap-up of the day of fun and festivities!
Our day began with the smell of pancakes and sausages, a free breakfast hosted by the Big Lakes County FCSS! As people filled their bellies and visited with familiar faces, stations were set up all around the hall to entertain folks of all ages! We were grateful to have support from our friends at the Lesser Slave Forest Education Society that brought their fur kit, ice fishing game and a sensory activity which had people feel items and try to guess what they were! We had another fur kit from our board member and outdoor conservation enthusiast Keith Denoncourt! The LSWC set up a station which had people connecting the dots between the fish species in the lake and the different regulations for catching them! We also had a station for coloring and drawing your own watershed! For those that needed hints, we had our Watershed Wise magnet board set up too! And to top it all off, there was a photo booth with fishing props and giant stuffed fish!
Have you ever wondered what it is like to participate in citizen science programs? Or maybe head out on a frozen lake for science? Or maybe both?? Well, you'd be in luck! Today's story is all about a day in the life of a lake sampler... specifically in the WINTER!
First off, do you know what citizen science means? Citizen science means that members of the public volunteer to help gather information for scientific research. Anyone can do it! But the things you need to know and do for each project are different! Volunteers usually have straight forward instructions to follow or go through short tutorials and training sessions to make sure the information gathered is being done the same way as everyone else so that the information is comparable in the end. Next, have you ever heard about the Alberta Lake Management Society's (ALMS) different citizen science opportunities? Our friends at ALMS have a bunch of different programs and opportunities available for individuals or groups to help across Alberta! One of those programs is the Winter LakeKeepers program! The LSWC is a proud supporter and volunteer to the LakeKeepers program!
So.. back to that 'day in the life' stuff!
We start out at the LSWC office, making sure we have ice packs, sample bottles prepared and ready to go, and all the tools we will need to gather our information! It might be funny to think we need ice packs in the winter, but we need to make sure our samples stay cold before they make their way to the lab for analysis! We make sure to have a measuring tape, cooler and our bottles, long insulated gloves, an ice scoop, field sheets, our fancy probe and of course, an ice auger! Once we are all packed up, we start our journey to the lake!
Watershed Coordinator Kate Lovsin (L) and Executive Director Meghan Payne (R) filtering Chlorophyll-a, Winter 2022.
What's the deal with this 'ALUS'? Who is she and why am I hearing so much about her? If you haven't heard about it yet, ALUS isn’t a person; it is a program that is producer driven to help make positive changes on the landscape using nature-based solutions.
Okay, but what does that mean? Well, I'll give you the run-down!
The ALUS Program, originally started as the Alternative Land Use Services Program, set out as a community-based initiative to work with landowners to help find natural solutions to issues they were facing on their land. The program's chief goal is to promote environmental stewardship and provide landowners the opportunity to consider conservation as a means of land management that would benefit them, their land, and their operations in. The program is producer driven, meaning it runs on the schedule of the producer, based on their interests, and works to provide solutions on a project-by-project basis. It is by no means a one-size-fits-all model! ALUS coordinators are partners working hand in hand with landowners to make real change across Alberta, and Canada! ALUS is currently in 31 communities across Canada and has invested over $12 million in projects across Canada! With over 1,103 producer partners and 32,134 acres enrolled with ALUS since 2021, ALUS is thriving on support from its communities and partners!
So you might be thinking, what does it mean to get started with ALUS? What kinds of projects qualify for the program? And how will I find the time to do more on my farm? We get it. Going above and beyond for the sake of conservation isn’t always feasible. That is why programs like ALUS exist! Your ALUS coordinator is here to support you throughout your project, help you manage the administrative process, coordinate the project as little or as much as you need, provide support, and adjust the project timeline as needed. We understand that life (and weather) gets in the way. ALUS is flexible!
A few years ago my family from England came to visit in the dead of winter. They wanted a snowy Christmas, to pick their own tree from the woods, and to spend time on a frozen lake. My parents, siblings and I were excited to show them the magic of winter here in Northern Alberta, and were keen to show them that cold weather didn’t stop us from having fun! The youngest of my cousins was incredibly afraid of two things: snow blindness and thin ice, but taking him out onto the frozen lake was one of the best parts of their visit! They put on their gloves before their coats, and needed help to do up zippers, then complaining about being too warm in the truck (we did tell them not to put coats on until we got there, they just didn’t listen.) We slid forward, fell backwards and laughed at the poor English kids that looked honestly like Bambi on ice. I see kids doing the same thing on lakes, ponds and river all over our region, every year.
Learning to skate, to play hockey, and to walk on ice all on the same day made for a great adventure!
Whether you’re thinking about going out on skates for fun, to play a game of shinny hockey, or out ice fishing, please be careful! Here are a few ice safety tips to keep in mind while you’re out.
Check the colour of ice, colour is a great way for you to tell the strength of the ice!
- Clear blue ice is strongest.
- White opaque or snow ice is half as strong as blue ice. Opaque ice is formed by wet snow freezing on the ice
- Grey ice is unsafe. The grayness indicates the presence of water.
Ice needs to be thicker if there are multiple people skating or if you’re using any kind of OHV, ATV, or vehicle on the ice.
- 15 cm for walking or skating alone
- 20 cm for skating parties or game
- 25 cm for vehicles, OHV’s & snowmobile
- Obey posted signs about ice surfaces for activities
- Avoid any open holes or cracks
Pack out what you pack in
- Leave no human waste, garbage, or recyclables out there. Anything left behind in the spring will go in to our waterways and can negatively impact the health of the lake, fish and wildlife
- Avoid going out on ice at night
Go with a buddy, and make sure someone on shore knows when you’ll be home
- Avoid going out on the ice alone to ensure rescue is an option
- Discuss rescue procedures in advance to ensure all fishers know how to perform a rescue safely.
Carry rescue equipment
- ice picks, rope, a cell phone (in a waterproof container) and a first aid kit.
- Other safety equipment to be considered includes: flashlight, waterproof matches/lighter, tool kit, candles and survival blanket.
Out of sight, out of mind
You dump something down the drain, and presto, it's gone! Not really, but it does seem like a disappearing act! What goes down the drain in the homes of the people living in our watershed can end up in Lesser Slave Lake. We use water every day, and we affect its cleanness. It's easy to see garbage or debris floating in the water, water with soap suds, or even the sheen of oil on the water's surface. Contaminated wastewater affects all our waterbodies; making beaches unattractive, closing fisheries, and affecting tourism opportunities in our region. Imagine your favourite lake activity: swimming, laying on the beach, fishing, or maybe paddling.
We often don't think about where things end up once they are down the drain. So, where does the water go when you flush the toilet? Well, that depends. If you live in town it goes to the water treatment system, through a series of aerobic and anaerobic (oxygen/no oxygen) digestion processes before being released into the environment after passing water quality tests. Anything you put down the drain that employees or bacteria don't physically remove ends up in our waters. This is different that what happens out of town, and down the storm water drains. Some rural residences are connected to county sewage system as well, but chances are if you live out of town you have a septic system. In our watershed there is one waste water treatment plant that uses biological and mechanical processes to treat waste and discharges continually into a treatment wetland. This plant is able to filter pollutants including nutrients out of wastewater. The technology is better but the costs of building and using this type of system is a major barrier.
No matter where you live though, eventually, the water you flush could going to end up in your glass of water. I know that sounds gross, but it's true. Because of the water cycle, the amount of water on earth stays constant and continuously cycles around the planet, so we could be drinking water that was once in cacti in Arizona!
Many pollutants are not obvious to the naked eye. Some pollutants are easier to remove from water than others. Wastewater usually contains nutrients, which can exacerbate algal blooms. Though plants and fish need nutrients, excess nutrients overfeed algae which can deplete oxygen from the water as they decompose. Bacteria also decompose the organic wastes in our water. This process takes up a lot of oxygen and can impact the health of fish and other aquatic life in our lakes, rivers, and streams. Nutrients, effluent and other pollutants are ingested by small organisms, which are later consumed by ever larger fish and animals, this is called bioaccumulation. Because of bioaccumulation, animals (including humans) can be made sick, injured or even killed by pollutants.
So, what should go down the drain?
It's best if you only flush your body's waste and toilet paper, anything else can have negative impacts on both the plumbing/infrastructure and the natural environment. Water and anything typically mixed with water, such as toothpaste, soap, and shampoo, are the only thing that should go down our sink and shower drains. Preventing pollution in the first place is essential. We all have a role to play in ensuring toxins and excess nutrients do not enter our waters. When we use water wisely, we ease the burden on sewage treatment. Using water wisely means not wasting it and minimizing the number of contaminants entering our drains. Lake friendly practices can help us make choices to conserve and protect our precious water resources.
AGM UPDATE: BOARD INTRODUCTION, NO MORE MEMBERSHIP FEE
|2018/19 Board of Directors
We welcomed several new board members this year, including: Darcie Acton, (MD of Lesser Slave River); Cori Klassen, the Executive Director of the Lesser Slave Forest Education Society (NGO representative); Nona Elliot, a community member from Shaw’s Point (Cottage Owner & Country Residential representative); Jeanette Willier, a community member from Joussard (Cottage Owner & Country Residential alternate); Susan Nielsen, a producer from Big Meadow (Agriculture representative); and George Keay, the founding chairman of the LSWC, has re join us! (Tourism & Economic Development alternate). We welcome them to the table with open arms, and look forward to having their knowledge and experiences enrich the conversations around our table. We will share pictures of our new board following our Strategic Planning session in early November 2020.
This year is we removed the annual $5 membership fee, our Board of Directors cited concerns with accessibility and financial barriers to potential members. The membership bylaw was updated at the AGM on October 2nd and going forward an annually renewed membership form is the only requirement for general membership. If you’re looking for more information, including the full list of directors and most recent annual report, visit www.lswc.ca, call our office at 780-523-9800, email [email protected], or find us on Facebook!
SEEKING DONATIONS FOR NEW BURSARY
Starting in Fall of 2021 the LSWC will have a bursary available to students within the Lesser Slave Watershed studying sciences at a recognized post-secondary institution in Alberta. The award for the bursary will be determined annually, based on community donations. At present we are accepting donations toward the bursary fund, for more information on the bursary or to donate please visit www.lswc.ca/support. This bursary is offered in the memory of Brian Elliot and Brian Rosche, two of the founding Board members from the Lesser Slave Watershed Council. Both these two men contributed a significant amount of time and energy to the promotion of watershed literacy, projects to help us understand the dynamics of our watershed, and to the health of our watershed, and their contributions to the Watershed have not gone unnoticed. Recognized for their abilities to bring about the best in others, and engage with others in the responsible management of our watershed Mr. Elliot and Mr. Rosche’s work will be memorialized through this bursary. At present we are seeking donations for the bursary from community members, with applications opening up in the summer of 2021, with the bursary being awarded at the beginning of the school year.
|Watershed Coordinator accepting a cheque from West Fraser staff to fund our 2019 Kids Can Catch Ice Fishing Event in Joussard
|Executive Director accepting a cheque from Plains Midstream to support our ongoing Water Quality Monitoring Program
Without the support of local businesses, municipal and provincial governments, and watershed residents it would be impossible for the LSWC to take on the work we do across the watershed. More than $30,000 of financial support has come from forestry and oil and gas companies in the region, and over 1500 hours of volunteer time have helped us to continue to promote watershed stewardship, educate the public, and create opportunities for collaborative projects in the past year. We are so grateful to live, work, and play in the Lesser Slave region, and want to thank all of you for your ongoing support! If you have any questions about what we do, or would like to learn more about our ongoing programs please visit our website www.lswc.ca, call our office at 780-523-9800, email [email protected], or find us on Facebook!