2019 Nelson CABIN field practicum largest training yet


Living Lakes Canada (LLC) delivered its first CABIN training course of the 2019 field season in Nelson on June 12-13 using an adapted CABIN protocol to include eDNA analysis. The collection of eDNA from rivers across Canada is part of the new community-based project called STREAM (Sequencing the Rivers for Environmental Assessment and Monitoring), which is a collaboration between Living Lakes Canada, World Wildlife Fund Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada and the University of Guelph to collect data for stream health assessments. Learn more HERE

By LLC Program Manager Raegan Mallison

The Nelson 2019 CABiN field practicum was a success! The course drew 18 participants, the largest course Living Lakes Canada has ever led both in the Nelson area and across Canada.

Participants came from great distances including Utah and Alaska to join the course. We had local stewardship groups join including the staff from Friends of Kootenay Lake, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Lake Windermere Ambassadors. We had participants from industry, academia- professors and students and environmental consultants join us.

The range of experience was across the board, with some being familiar with the CABiN protocol and even helping to assist with monitoring prior to this training, and others brand new to field work.

We were fortunate to have Allison Lutz with Selkirk College join us to assist with teaching and learning the new DNA metabarcoding field techniques and decontamination protocols.

Three Living Lakes Canada summer interns were able to join us for the course. The summer interns will be assisting outreach and logistics planning to support the STREAM project and supporting CABiN users to submit benthic samples for DNA metabarcoding free of charge, not only in the Columbia Basin but across other priority watersheds this field season including: Skeena, Peace/Athabasca, Bow Valley, Alberta and Sudbury, Ontario.

We are excited to have them on board! Welcome Ashley Dubois, Kyle Prince and Lindsay Capito. For more information, check out their profiles on the About Us page on our website under “Team”. Read their first person accounts of participating in their STREAM training below.

We want to send out a big thank you to all those that participated in the 2019 Nelson CABiN training. For other CABiN field practicums this year please visit the LLC website for locations, dates and how to register.

Ashley Dubois, Living Lakes Canada Summer Intern

I am currently a fourth year student at the University of Alberta where I’m working towards a BSc majoring in Biology. The two day CABIN field course in Nelson, BC provided me with a great foundation for aquatic biomonitoring. I know learning the protocol for proper water chemistry sampling and benthic invertebrate collection will benefit me in the future for a range of career paths. There were many people attending the course who had extended knowledge and experience in the aquatics field. This provided an opportunity for networking and brainstorming about aquatics. That being said, I was one among many others who had little to no experience in the field, so this course is truly for anyone interested, regardless of prior experience. The instructors were extremely kind and approachable, as well as knowledgeable, providing a fun learning atmosphere for all participants. After the two days of CABIN field training, I now feel confident and excited to apply my new knowledge to my summer position with Living Lakes Canada.

Kyle Prince, Living Lakes Canada Summer Intern

The CABIN field course in Nelson, B.C. last week was a great way to consolidate all the information I learned during the online modules. It was awesome to have knowledgeable and experienced instructors to interact with and clarify any uncertainties. It was also great to finally get to outside and practice the skills required to complete a proper CABIN study. I enjoyed the wide variety of participants including consultants, NGO employees, professors, and some students too! It was a positive and engaged group which enhanced the course experience. I am excited to use my new certification and get back into the creeks as soon as possible.

Journey to Spain: Perspectives, Passion, and Paella

The venue for the 15th International Conference on Lakes & Wetlands in Valencia, Spain. LLC Photo

By Kootenay Lake Partnership Chair Jayme Jones

In May 2019, Valencia, Spain became the world capital of wetlands when they hosted the Living Lakes 15th International Conference on Lakes and Wetlands. As one of the five Living Lakes Canada members who travelled to Spain to attend, there are three key themes from the conference that stood out to me.

Perspectives. This was the first international conference I have attended that was broadly represented with delegates from around the world. The 200 delegates from 41 countries brought diverse perspectives that really increased my understanding on the state of water systems from every corner of this planet. I heard about peatland management in the Broads of England. I heard about the pollution in Lake Chapala – Mexico’s largest natural lake. I heard about projects to strengthen the condition of St. Lucia wetland in South Africa. Each of these perspectives share a commonality we all face: our water systems are challenged by alterations we have made to them. However, there are things we can do improve the situation.

Passion. There was so much passion shared about the projects that the various delegates are working on to improve their local waterbodies. A delegate from India shared a passionate story about her success in working with communities to restore mangroves in 4,500 hectares of important river mud flats. Not only does this project help sequester carbon dioxide to reduce the impact of climate change. It also empowers women to be Mangrove Stewards to support their livelihoods.  A delegate from Columbia shared a passionate story about his organization’s efforts to create green filters to reduce the domestic wastewater inflow to Lake Fúquene. Each conference delegate was passionate about some specific way to protect water.

The Albufera Ramsar Site. LLC Photo

Paella. Our Spanish hosts gave us a wonderful experience of the local Spanish culture. We had many opportunities to eat the traditional dish of Spain – Paella. Paella is a delicious dish of rice and seafood that is accompanied by a cold Spanish beer. It wasn’t just the Spanish food we were able to experience; we also explored a significant wetland near Valencia called L’Albufera. The Albufera is a managed freshwater lagoon and estuary. It was declared a Ramsar Site in 1990 as a wetland of international importance to birds. The Albufera is surrounded by rice fields that have altered the landscape for centuries. We visited an exciting project within the Albufera that successfully reclaimed some rice fields into wetland habitat. Not only has this reclaimed wetland increased the biodiversity of the landscape, it has also played a key role in purifying the water quality of the lagoon.

Participating in the Living Lakes International conference provided a global vision of water challenges and success stories. The entire Living Lakes Canada team built strong connections with the delegates from around the world. These connections will provide important opportunities for strategic alliances with water stewards around the world. Together, we can do more to conserve the world’s waterbodies, and so we will.

Jayme Jones is a former Program Coordinator for Living Lakes Canada. She now works as a Research Assistant for Selkirk College. 

East Kootenay lakes sampled for long-term trends

Ice-off sampling on Moyie Lake, B.C. LWA Photo

By Shannon McGinty, Lake Windermere Ambassadors Program Coordinator

During the spring freshet of 2019 the Lake Windermere Ambassadors had an opportunity to learn from experienced stewards with the BC Lakes Stewardship Society (BCLSS).

BCLSS was tasked by the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy to conduct standardized ice off sampling on three lakes in the East Kootenays: Lake Windermere, Columbia Lake, and Moyie Lake. This is part of the larger Long-Term Lake Trends Project.

The Ambassadors’ involvement in the project came about when BCLSS reached out to see if we would be interested in partnering for this sampling. As the Ambassador Program Coordinator, I worked with BCLSS President Norm Zirnhelt to coordinate volunteers and equipment prior to sampling, conduct the sampling, and ship the samples off to the lab. Coordination work consisted of:

  • Monitoring the lakes for melting trends
  • Setting a sampling date within two weeks of ice off for all the lakes (harder than it sounds!)
  • Finding and working with volunteers to operate boats on each lake
  • Gathering and ordering required equipment

After coordinating and the lakes melting, we were then able to conduct the sampling. We sampled Lake Windermere and Columbia Lake on April 19th and Moyie Lake on April 20th. Sampling consisted of:

  • Dissolved Oxygen, Temperature, Specific Conductance, and pH Field Profiles (taken every metre up to 20m and every 5 metres thereafter)
  • Sechi and Site Depths
  • Epilimnion and Hypolimnion samples for
  • Phosphorous
  • Nitrogen
  • Sulfate
  • Metals
  • Total Organic Compounds
  • Dissolved Organic Compounds
  • Silica Reactive Dissolve
  • Turbidity
  • Chloride
  • Phytoplankton
  • Zooplankton

The Ambassadors were able to participate in this program by allowing myself as Program Coordinator to contract out to the BCLSS partnership with Living Lakes Canada (LLC).

This provides great value to the Ambassadors as it allows for their staff member to audit their sampling skills and stay up to date on sampling methods by connecting with a professional who has over 30 years of experience in this field.

The timing of this project was perfect as I had just started with the Ambassadors in December 2018, and was about to begin my first sampling season in May 2019, immediately following the hands-on training with BCLSS.

Although the Ambassadors don’t sample all of the parameters sampled on a weekly basis, there was a lot of overlap in methods of collection and monthly sample collections that has been (and continues to be) useful for the 2019 sampling season.

The results from this project have been made public for all users to access through the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy website. The Ambassadors use this data to supplement our own Spring Freshet sampling.

Needs addressed through this project include:

  • In-person contact for training and other aspects of lake management
  • Lake monitoring training and assistance designing an appropriate monitoring program
  • Auditing to correct monitoring procedure issues and maintain quality assurance of data

To learn more about the Lake Windermere Ambassadors and to contact Shannon McGinty, visit their website: www.lakeambassadors.ca


Living Lakes Canada joins global water stewards in Spain

Valencia, Spain – May 15, 2019: Members of the Living Lakes Canada team just finished attending a Living Lakes International Conference in Valencia, Spain. This was a powerful experience that provided a valuable opportunity to listen, learn, and share experiences around water stewardship, especially around wetlands and climate change impacts. This conference was the 20th anniversary celebration of Living Lakes and was attended by over 200 delegates from 41 countries.

Living Lakes Canada team members presenting at the 15th International Conference on Lakes & Wetlands in Spain, starting second from the left: Avery Deboer-Smith, Claire Pollock-Hall, and Raegan Mallinson  LLC Photo

Living Lakes Canada was represented at the conference by Nelson, BC residents Avery Deboer-Smith, Claire Pollock-Hall and Jayme Jones, and Squamish resident Raegan Mallinson (formerly of Nelson).

“These four young women represented the Columbia Basin and spoke to an international delegation about their water stewardship work, sharing what they’re doing at a grassroots regional and national level,” said Living Lakes Canada Executive Director Kat Hartwig, who also attended the conference. “Climate change adaptation measures for wetlands and all the species that depend on them are a global problem and presented a common bond for all the participants.”

The Living Lakes Canada team learned about climate change impacts and water systems around the world, from peat extraction in England releasing carbon emissions to the mining impacts on lakes and wetlands in Mongolia, to how climate change and population pressures have impacted water quality and invasive species resulting in the population decline the manatee population in Malawi, Africa.

There were many positive and innovative solutions and collaborations presented. One example was how an organization in India trained citizen scientists to monitor and assist mangrove reforestation, as well as developed economic incentives to help support the local economies. An organization from Colombia shared success stories about cost-effective green filters developed to improve water quality in locations around the world.

The young delegates left the conference feeling more connected and empowered due to support from the global Living Lakes network, which connects concerned and engaged water stewards from around the world who are addressing water and climate issues.

“The Living Lakes Canada team will continue to work with and learn from water champions from other countries as well as share our citizen science success stories that have taken place right here in the Columbia Basin,” said Hartwig.

“We were very grateful that Kicking Horse Coffee helped support our participation in this important international wetlands conference,” she concluded.

Additional Conference Resources include:
General Meeting Minutes
Keynote Presentations
“Living Lakes Achievements and Goals 2019 – 2025” brochure

Elevating CBWM in Canada webinar — recording available

The “Elevating CBWM in Canada” webinar is an overview of a year-long collaborative initiative designed to celebrate and promote community-based monitoring of freshwater ecosystems in and across Canada. 

(An audio transcript is also available.)

In November 2018, a national roundtable discussion on the topic of “Elevating community-based water monitoring in Canada” was convened by Living Lakes Canada, WWF-Canada and The Gordon Foundation. All three organizations engage with Community-Based Water Monitoring (CBWM) in different ways and are committed to advancing collaborative and evidence-based water stewardship across Canada. The aim of the roundtable was to identify actionable steps the federal government can take to show leadership and support in advancing CBWM in Canada.

Out of that Roundtable came the following resources:

The “Elevating CBWN in Canada” webinar was hosted in April 2019 by WWF-Canada, during which the history and the process behind the initiative was revisited, the final recommendations were presented, and next steps were discussed.

B.C. students get their feet wet at a DNA metabarcoding demo

By Raegan Mallison, Living Lakes Canada Program Manager

A group of students who recently completed their first year in Selkirk College’s Integrated Environmental Planning Program attended a riverbed sample collection for DNA metabarcoding at Pass Creek, outside of Castlegar, B.C. last weekend (April 27-28).

The Living Lakes Canada demonstration was a taste of what is to come this fall when the students, as part of the program, will be certified in the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABiN) field practicum.

Living Lakes Canada has been training water stewardship communities, government, industry, academia and First Nation communities in the CABiN protocol for the last 6 years; and using the CABiN protocol for stream water monitoring efforts over the last decade. The CABiN protocol is a standardized method for collecting benthic invertebrates — the small animals on the bottom of the stream that are indicative of the water quality — to provide stream health assessments.

Selkirk College, with guidance and training from Living Lakes Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada, has been able to integrate this certification through the Integrated Environmental Planning Program.

During the demonstration, students were able to participate in the collection of the benthics in Pass Creek and learned about the new updated technology for the analysis of the benthics using DNA metabarcoding, which is a combination of DNA identification and automated DNA sequencing to generate biodiversity data for freshwater benthic macroinvertebrates. Changes in the makeup of these invertebrate communities can be excellent indicators of pollution and other environmental stressors.

Compared to current monitoring methods, which can be slow and costly, DNA metabarcoding technology has the potential to produce biodiversity data more quickly, more affordably and at a higher resolution. The results of DNA-based biomonitoring will support better environmental assessment, planning and regulatory decisions, which is essential as population growth, agricultural activity, resource development and climate change all put increasing pressure on Canada’s freshwater ecosystems.

The new partnership between Living Lakes Canada, World Wildlife Fund Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Dr. Mehrdad Hajibabaei of the University of Guelph, with funding from Genome Canada, will bring this new DNA metabarcoding technology to Canadian communities. Called Sequencing the Rivers for Environmental Assessment and Monitoring (STREAM), this project will pair the power of DNA metabarcodingtechnology with community groups across the country to allow for faster sample analysis of benthic invertebrate data that can be collected year-round while developing a national citizen science program.

As one of the groups participating in this national project, Selkirk College students will learn the CABiN techniques through collecting real samples for real analysis by the University of Guelph. These fall samples will be compared to the samples collected so far this spring to begin establishing baseline data and potential for seasonal variability.

If you are interested in taking part in the STREAM project and submitting benthic samples free of charge to the University of Guelph, and/or receiving CABiN training to learn methods for stream health assessments, please contact Living Lakes Canada Operations Manager Raegan Mallinson at raegan@livinglakescanada.ca.

To learn more about DNA metabarcoding and STREAM, visit https://livinglakescanada.ca/new-edna-project-stream-launching-summer-2019/.


Living Lakes Canada to celebrate many milestones at world wetlands conference

Living Lakes Canada is heading to Valencia, Spain for the 15th International Living Lakes Conference on May 7-9, 2019.

The conference, titled the “World Congress for Wetland and Lake Restoration”, will mark two other milestones: the 20th anniversary of the international Living Lakes network, and 15 years since an International Living Lakes Conference was held in Fairmont Hot Springs, B.C., which led to the formation of Living Lakes Canada in 2010.

“We’re very excited to be participating in this international wetlands event. We are able to do so thanks to the interest of Kicking Horse Coffee, which was a sponsor and participant in the Fairmont conference 15 years ago and has provided support for increased stewardship for our local wetlands,” said Living Lakes Canada Executive Director Kat Hartwig.

CAPTION: The Columbia Wetlands in the East Kootenay, BC are a RAMSAR-designated Wetland of International Importance still in need of protection and stewardship. Photo by Heather Leschied/Living Lakes Canada

The 2004 International Living Lakes Conference in Fairmont showcased the Columbia River headwaters and Columbia Wetlands, a RAMSAR-designated Wetland of International Importance. The CEO of Kicking Horse Coffee, Elana Rosenfeld, addressed the conference theme of engaged corporate and social responsibility for the environment. The CEOs of Mountain Equipment Co-op and Unilever Canada also spoke about the significance of the Columbia River headwaters and wetlands on a global scale.  

“It feels like we have come full circle in a way,” said Heather Leschied, Operations Director for Living Lakes Canada, “so it is quite meaningful that Living Lakes Canada will be travelling to Spain, not only to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the International Living Lakes network, but 15 years since the International Living Lakes Conference was held in Canada and was the inspiration for all of our Living Lakes Canada water stewardship work. These conferences support engaged, passionate people to share how their contributions to the health of watersheds are making a difference, and are incredibly motivating and impactful.”

Five of Living Lakes Canada’s team members will be attending the Valencia conference and highlights will include visiting local wetland restoration sites and connecting with Living Lakes International partners to share best community­-based water stewardship practices.

Living Lakes Canada will reciprocate by presenting on some of the exciting work currently underway in the Columbia Basin and across Canada:

Several of the Living Lakes Canada team members will be staying after the conference to join Living Lakes International on a trip to Sierra de Mariola and the ecological cellar as well as a trip to Marjal dels Moros Coastal Wetland. The team hopes to bring back lessons from this experience and integrate it into the work they are doing in Canada.

“Having the opportunity to showcase our work to international partners is invaluable. Our team works so hard and is so passionate about the change we are making through our projects,” said Living Lakes Canada Program Coordinator Avery Deboer-Smith. “We are also looking forward to learning from our international partners and creating new relationships that will advance Living Lakes Canada.”

Access the 15th International Living Lakes Conference website here. 


Webinar: Elevating Community-Based Water Monitoring in Canada


Please join us for a presentation and discussion about the exciting outcomes of a year-long collaborative initiative designed to celebrate and promote community-based monitoring of freshwater ecosystems in across Canada. We are pleased to present final recommendations developed to identify actionable steps the federal government can take to show leadership and support in advancing community-based water monitoring (CBWM) in Canada.

During this webinar we’ll revisit the history and the process behind the initiative, dive into the recommendations and discuss next steps.

Space is limited, so register today!

Ahead of the webinar, be sure to explore the final recommendations and discussion paper.

Local and Regional Conservation & Management for the Columbia Wetlands

The Columbia Wetland System, which stretches 180 km along the Rocky Mountain Trench from Canal Flats in the south to the head of the Mica Reservoir just north of Donald, is one largest wetland complexes in British Columbia and provides important ecological services to the Columbia Valley and beyond. The land tenure is complex mix of public and private lands. As a result of ecological importance of the Columbia Wetlands and the variety of land tenures, their management is multifaceted involving many different jurisdictions.

The Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partnership (CWSP) has compiled a database of reports related to the Columbia Wetlands. The database and this management plan review have identified almost 100 management plans related to the Columbia Wetlands. These include various land and/or water management, strategy, or action plans such as wildlife management area plans; park plans; invasive plant and pest management plans; official community plans; land use plans; and species management and recovery plans. A holistic review of all of these management plans and their implementation status would help identify which plans have the most impact on wetland protection, gaps and opportunities, and how CWSP Partners can collaborate to support common conservation goals.

The specific objectives of this management plan review were to: create a list of the management plans in the CWSP database and identify any missing plans; identify the key plans that have the most significant potential impact on management of the wetlands; and for the key plans provide a summary of the management goals and objectives, and implementation status.

For more information and to view the Synthesis of Local and Regional Conservation & Management Goals & Objectives for the Columbia Wetlands click on document below.




New eDNA project STREAM launching Spring/Summer 2019

STREAM (Sequencing the Rivers for Environmental Assessment and Monitoring) DNA, is a new community-based project which involves the collection of eDNA from rivers across Canada. STREAM is a collaboration between Living Lakes Canada (LLC) World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and the University of Guelph. The project will work with interested partners including community and water stewardship groups, academia, Indigenous communities, all levels of government and industry to collect data for stream health assessments.

This project will use an updated version of the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) protocol, developed by ECCC to collect eDNA samples using biomonitoring of benthic invertebrates, or the small animals on the bottom of the stream. Benthic invertebrates are strong indicators of water quality since the small organisms included in that group are highly sensitive to pollutants and other changes that impact aquatic ecosystem health. See infographics below.

The University of Guelph received a $2.6 million grant from Genome Canada to support eDNA sample analysis for communities for 3 years. The goal is to collect 1500 samples from 15 nationally distributed watersheds over 3 years (5 watersheds/year) with community-based water monitoring (CBWM). Participants will learn and build skills for stream health assessments, open sourced data inputs and access while using new, more cost-effective technology. Following the announcement earlier this year, the STREAM project will focus on 5 priority watersheds for Year 1 including the Columbia, Skeena Liard in British Columbia, the Bow Valley in Alberta and Sudbury in Ontario.

Living Lakes Canada will train and certify interested organizations using an adapted CABIN protocol to include eDNA analysis. Participants will receive their 2-day CABiN field practicum certification during the courses. Living Lakes Canada and partners will assist interested organizations in their first year of sampling, offering knowledge in site selection and monitoring. The organizations will then commit to maintaining the project in later years, submitting samples to the University of Guelph and commit to sharing data in open platforms.

Our first CABIN course is scheduled for the Columbia Basin for June 12 and 13 in Nelson, BC.

We also have scheduled courses in:

Canmore, AB July 16 & 17

Sudbury, ON September 17 & 18

If you have questions about this course, please email LLC Program Manager Raegan Mallinson at raegan@livinglakescanada.ca.

For more information on the CABIN protocol and biomonitoring, visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/canadian-aquatic-biomonitoring-network.html

For more information on course costs, modules and levels of training and registration visit:



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