Workshop Proceedings

On November 1, leading water experts, community-based water monitoring groups, government officials and first nation representatives gathered to discuss community-based water monitoring as an approach to solve the challenges associated with watershed management. The Building Bridges: Citizens, Science and Policy workshop hosted by Living Lakes Canada was the first ever, national community based water-monitoring (CBM) dialogue.

A buzz of excitement was in the air, as a wide range of cross-functional water groups and individuals began to intermingle and discuss their experiences and knowledge regarding community-based monitoring (CBM).  Living Lakes Canada’s, Kat Hartwig took the stage to kick things off and do what she does best, reminding us of the big picture. How water management and allocation in the face of climate change will be one of our greatest challenges, and the important role of citizen-based science and local decision-making in working towards solutions.

To get a general overview of Canada’s relationship to CBM, the results from a collaborative cross-Canada preliminary survey scan were shared by SFU Masters student, Tyler Carlson. Through investigating national CBM initiatives values, parameters being collected, protocols being used, how collected data is being used and how and who CBM groups are collaborating with, it was clear that CBM is growing in Canada and so it’s important to get it  right and to make sure that it is scientifically robust.  Showcasing the important relationship between the science community based monitoring, (CBM) initiatives and cross-cultural government agencies.  Tyler will continue to investigate the question, “Is Citizen Science Informing Water Policy in Canada?” with future additional surveys.

The national CBM overview provided a strong foundation moving into the panel discussions. The much anticipated, world renowned water scientist, David Schindler (University of Alberta) started the Perspectives: Why We Monitor and How We Decide Parameters and Protocols discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of CBM, and the importance of well organized, strong science based initiatives. See Dr. Schindler’s presentation slides here. Identifying roles for both the CBM and scientific communities.. Linda Green (URI Watershed Watch), echoed Dr. Schindler’s points, giving examples for how successful CBM can be with proper organization and education. See Linda Green’s presentation slides here. Greg McCullough (University of Manitoba) showcased the level of intricacy and parameter relationships that CBM can help us to understand. See Greg’s presentation slides here. Each speaker spoke to the benefits of having “eyes on the ground,” sense of place and local knowledge as advantages of CBM, and how beneficial the large sample sizes and QA/QC are to the studies that include CBM.

Data Storage and Analysis: How Do We Verify, Analyze and Share Given the Variety and Scale of Initiatives? Is a common question for most groups involved with CBM. Lisa Borre (Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies) showcased a data-sharing model that promoted collaboration, not just data sharing, but sharing of ideas. See Lisa’s presentation slides here.  Lana Lowe’s (Fort Nelson First Nation) CBM projects showed a need for a standardized place to put the collected data with access and steps that need to be taken for cross-cultural understandings in order for data sharing protocol (Data stream) development. Lana echoed a common challenge of financing being the largest source of instability. See Lana’s presentation slides here. Claire Herbert (Canadian Watershed Information Network) stressed the importance of defensible data through scientific based CBM protocols and provided solutions showcasing data depositories and interoperability between CBM nodes. See Claire’s presentation slides here. Bradley Peter (Alberta Lake Management Society) showcased the ALMS project, LakeWatch and how the large amount of CBM data is dealt with. See Bradley’s presentation slides here. All speakers commented on the importance of involving the citizens in the data entry process and the challenges with ownership of data.

Meghan Beveridge (Department of Natural Resources, NWT) case studied Northern Waters: Northern Voices, a cross-cultural CBM initiative, and the Mackenzie Data Stream as a tool for data sharing, with official launch expected in Winter 2016. As part of the Case Studies: Data to Policy, Meghan touched on the challenges of maintaining consistency and capacity within the CBM programs and how to foster greater ownership of the projects within the communities. See Meghan’s presentation slides here.

Hans Schreier (University of BC) reminded us of the importance of having local people involved in projects in their backyards by taking us on a trip around the world, from Nepal to Honduras, with different CBM initiatives. See Hans’s presentation slides here.

Providing a concrete example of how CBM initiatives are influencing policy, Terry Rees (Federation of Ontario Cottagers Association) spoke on the Lake Partner Program, that uses CBM to inform a provincial report card, with the data being used for local land use planning and climate change initiatives. See Terry’s presentation slides here.

Concluding the panel, Diane Giroux (Akaitcho Territory) spoke of traditional knowledge and how it is something you experience. How important it is to have the technical skills with CBM and take record of the traditional knowledge being shared as each works in reading and understanding the land. Diane used example of the Eyes and Ears CBM Program, which has people on the land taking record of TK and land use changes. See Diane’s presentation slides here..

Moving Forward: Identifying Common Interests and Resources and Possible Next Steps was lead by Jeff Schloss, who provided an extensive list of action items and CBM best practices. With examples from the Lake Lay Monitoring Program, it was clear that citizens and all stakeholders need to be involved with each step of the process: data collection, analysis and sharing. It was instilled how important it is to have a well-organized, scientifically robust and cost effective CMB program design. See Jeff’s presentation slides here. Through the workshop, bridges were built by showcasing how scientific communities are aiding in the development design of the CBM programs. Making these programs credible and defensible for multiple levels of governments to base their land use planning decisions from.

The Building Bridges: Citizens, Science and Policy workshop felt like a pivotal point for many CBM attending. Connections were formed, differing perspectives were understood and all participants were able to move forward, creating action steps to get the work done. With the support of well organized, scientifically robust programs and the capacity to carry them out, the future for CBM will be growing in a very promising direction.

Workshop Summary: Bullet Points

What was discussed?

  • Funding Sustainability
  • Building Technical Capacity
  • Defensible Data
  • Method/Data Compatibility
  • Traditional Knowledge
  • Data management and visualization
  • Trust/Buy-in
  • Community Empowerment
  • Use of data: Local/Provincial/Federal
  • Data ownership
  • Data sharing agreements
  • Stakeholder involvement in study design

What was missed?

  • Jurisdictional challenges
  • Incorporation of “non-scientific” “local” data (beyond TEK)
  • Common terminology, ie. Traditional Knowledge, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Indigenous Knowledge, etc etc.
  • Requirement for cultural shift

Future Projects/solutions:

  • National land-use change mapping
  • Opportunity for lessons from medical community re: Data sharing
  • Open dialogue – debunking the myths of citizen science
  • Federal support of CBM
  • Parallel sampling – leads to defensible data

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