Freshwater Science with Riparia, on the Poisson BlancLatest update April 15, 2019 Started on April 10, 2019
In August 2019, Riparia will bring 10 diverse young Canadian women on a five-day canoe expedition to the Poisson Blanc Regional Park to learn about freshwater science, and help document the status of local freshwater ecosystems.
With our expedition coming up in August, we're busy preparing! This past weekend we plotted out our plan to collect information about water quality during our expedition. Check out this short clip to get a glimpse into our planning process!
National Geographic has always supported the use of amazing new tools and technology to do science. This year, through their Science Education Exploration Initiative, they are gifting out a ton of Open ROV Tridents for explorers to use in their research and explorations. What is an ROV? The acronym is short for remotely operated vehicle; but these aren’t just any remotely operated vehicles, they are ones that can go underwater to allow us to see and understand what goes on beneath the surface. As an organization that does all of our work in freshwater ecosystems, we think this is both really cool and super important. Often people don’t think of freshwater systems as places with great visibility, so the idea of using an underwater camera in a lake isn’t necessarily intuitive. But check out the below picture of a lake called “Lac Vert” (i.e. Green Lake), that is just a few kilometers aways from the Poisson Blanc Regional Park, which we’ll be traveling to this summer with Riparia. ...Not a very good picture (taken years ago without the idea of posting it here as none of us have travelled there in a quite some time!), but... do you see how crazy green and clear the edge looks? Many part of this lake are SO GREEN and so clear. You can often see all the way to the bottom of it from your canoe!
We would love to use an ROV to explore the depths of this lake with the youth participating in our programs. Can you imagine how exciting it would be for our participants (young women aged 14-16, who typically don’t have access to outdoor programming) to snap underwater photos of a clear, Canadian lake? We’d also really love to work with the youth on our programs to take underwater photos that would allow us to monitor lake-bottom change over time. This kind of monitoring isn’t necessarily all that common in freshwater ecosystems, but really important here in Canada where a number of invasive algae are starting to take over numerous freshwater ecosystems, including some close to the Poisson Blanc Regional Park. One example of an invasive algae present in our region is the Spiked Water Milfoil - it actually gave nightmares to one of Riparia’s co-founders after she found last year that one of her favourite childhood lakes is practically no longer swimmable because of it (booo!!!). Catching and controlling these algae early can make the difference between having a lake with regular levels of oxygen or levels that are way too low for fish and other native biodiversity to survive. Utilizing cool technology like ROVs to help do that monitoring is the way of the future!
We, Dalal, Andrea and Mikayla, are passionate about freshwater. We love lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. We grew up playing in these ecosystems. In Canada, where we're from, there is lots of freshwater; but, it is unfortunately quite threatened. There's a decline in the biodiversity found in freshwater ecosystems, the amount of water found in our rivers is diminishing, and the quality of water is affected by all kinds of pollution.
Each of us dedicates large parts of our lives toward helping to protect freshwater ecosystems. Mikayla works as an environmental consultant. Dalal and Andrea are both freshwater scientists currently working on PhD degrees, doing research that helps improve our understanding of these ecosystems and how to take better care of them.
Although science can provide the information required to come up with strategies to better protect freshwater ecosystems, it's not sufficient on it's own. It also takes people that care about lakes and rivers, as well as the science going on. This is why we decided to start Riparia, a new female led Canadian not-for-profit that works to connect youth to science on the water. We bring youth on free multi-day canoe-camping expeditions in remote parts of Canada's beautiful freshwater network to learn about freshwater science, and participate in scientific data collection. Together, we explore what lakes and rivers are, what science can teach us about them, and work to collect data that will allow us to better understand and manage freshwater ecosystems in Canada.
In August 2019, funded by a National Geographic Society grant, Riparia will host it's maiden expedition. We're bringing 10 diverse young Canadian women to the Poisson Blanc Regional park where we'll spend five days on the water documenting the status of local freshwater ecosystems, and learning about freshwater science. Through our programming, we work to foster a next generation of science champions and love and value freshwater ecosystems.
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