Community Based Monitoring
Across Canada, community-based monitoring networks are emerging as a means of engaging citizen scientists in collecting, analyzing and sharing data about water quality and biological parameters.
Within Manitoba, many community and school groups have started water monitoring projects to engage students, landowners, cottagers, Indigenous nations and concerned lake-lovers. These citizen scientists are learning about the health of Manitoba’s waters and engaging in solutions as they collect water samples across the province.
Though active and enthusiastic, the Lake Winnipeg Foundation (LWF) observed that these groups were not currently co-ordinated within a larger network, and often did not have the ability to analyze their data and share information beyond their school or community. This is not for lack of interest – rather, local resources are limited and citizen scientists didn’t have the opportunity to understand how their local data is part of a larger story taking shape throughout Manitoba.
LWF is bringing these groups together to establish a strong community-based monitoring (CBM) network in Manitoba, supplied with standardized monitoring protocols developed by LWF’s science advisers. This CBM network will:
- Engage citizen scientists as champions for water health - particularly with respect to Lake Winnipeg, which is struggling with the negative effects of eutrophication;
- Identify phosphorus hot spots on the landscape to ensure funding and action can be targeted to areas of greatest impact; and
- Ensure a comprehensive, credible data set informs research and policy priorities.
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The Pilot Project - What did we do?
Together with partners at the University of Manitoba, LWF has provided strong leadership over the past year with the goal of creating a cohesive CBM network in Manitoba. LWF has coordinated the following action:
- Planned and executed a day-long workshop to discuss common challenges and opportunities for a CBM network in the province. Thirty-five people, representing 14 organizations, were engaged through this process.
- Researched and interviewed those involved in other successful CBM networks in Canada to learn about best practices and opportunities for improvement.
- Established a Manitoba CBM network Steering Committee, and met three times to plan the pilot field season, recruit and inform partners.
- Developed draft sampling protocols and training methods that will guide the work of CBM groups across Manitoba.
- Consulted with scientists at the University of Manitoba, Department of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and the Lake Winnipeg Basin Information Network (LWBIN) to plan the pilot field season.
- Launched the pilot field season with four key partners in the field (LaSalle Redboine Conservation District, South-Central Eco-Institute, Seine Rat River Conservation District, and Sergeant Tommy Prince School in Brokenhead Ojibway Nation).
- Analyzed over 200 water samples collected by community partners
- Initiated development of an online user-friendly interface for the LWBIN for ease of use of future CBM participants.
- Shared our initial findings and methods though national water stewardship networks.
- Strengthened existing relationships and developed new relationships with partners on the landscape. This includes soliciting interest from First Nations who are part of the Lake Winnipeg Indigenous Collective.
- Linked CBM network partners with Netley-Libau Marsh restoration initiatives, which aim to restore the water filtering capacity of the marsh and to sequester carbon as a means to help Manitoba meet its climate change objectives.
LWF will continue to work on collective priorities identified by network partners with the ultimate goal of sustaining a rigorous, resourced community-based monitoring network as a valuable source of freshwater data in the province of Manitoba.
As we move into 2017, LWF will continue to work on collective priorities identfied by network partners:
- Providing the staff support for ongoing strategic planning and communication
- Ensuring the CBM program is resourced with funding and staffing, including hiring a full time staff person to support the on-the-ground tasks
- Continuing and expanding the on-the-ground CBM program through:
- Engaging with additional conservation districts
- Recruiting local volunteers
- Continuing to analyze the findings for multiple audiences
- Sharing the analyzed data with partners, funders and decision-makers
- Working in partnership with CanWIN to create or acquire the tools needed to support data storage, management and sharing needs
- Working in partnership with the educational community to develop an educational stream of the CBM program, including First nations schools
For more information on the Manitoba Community-Based Monitoring program, please contact Kirsten Earl McCorrister at 204-956-0436 or email us at programs [at] lakewinnipegfoundation.org