STREAM & DNA metabarcoding

DNA metabarcoding is an emerging tool for monitoring present biodiversity. DNA metabarcoding uses bulk-benthos samples collected via the CABIN methods and gene sequencing linked to DNA/RNA barcode libraries to allow for faster, more complete profile of biodiversity content from very small samples.

This is a made-in-Canada technology and now has the opportunity to move beyond proof of concept to demonstrating the possible. The STREAM project is a validation project for the cutting-edge technology of DNA metabarcoding. 

Latest Updates

Program Summary

STREAM (Sequencing the Rivers for Environmental Assessment and Monitoring is a new community-based project that involves the collection of benthic macroinvertebrates from rivers across Canada to generate a better understanding of the health of river systems. 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.

In 2019, the University of Guelph received a $2.6 million grant from Genome Canada to support DNA metabarcoding sample analysis of benthic macroinvertebrates for three years. The goal is to collect 1,500 samples in partnership with community-based water monitors across Canada and provide sample analysis for free. Training in the modified DNA specific CABIN methods will be provided in 15 nationally distributed watersheds (5 watersheds per year from 2019-2021) based on data deficiencies and local capacity. 

Year 1 of the STREAM project focused on 5 priority watersheds: the Columbia, Skeena, Peace/Athabasca in British Columbia, the Bow Valley in Alberta and Sudbury in Ontario.

Year 2 of the project was delayed due to COVID-19 public health restrictions, but focused on 2 additional priority watersheds: The Upper Fraser-Nechako and the Upper South Saskatchewan. We also supported Year 1 participants with collecting and shipping their Year 2 samples. 

The following short film about the project was released on March 22, 2020 for World Water Day:

How the Program Works

This project uses an updated version of the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) protocol, developed by ECCC, to collect the benthics, which are the small animals on the bottom of streams. 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.

Living Lakes Canada trains and certifies interested organizations using the adapted CABIN protocol and assists interested organizations in their first year of sampling, offering knowledge in site selection and monitoring. The organizations then commit to maintaining the project in later years, uploading results to the CABIN database and sharing data in open platforms.

Participants learn and build skills for stream health assessments, open sourced data inputs and access while using new, more cost-effective technology.

See the video below for a discussion about the 2020 Watershed Reports and the role of STREAM hosted by WWF-Canada’s Freshwater Specialist Catherine Paquette and Living Lakes Canada Program Manager Raegan Mallinson, that aired on November 9, 2020, 

Past Field Seasons

The 2018 field season, LLC was in the Liard, BC watershed in Northern B.C. (Canada’s ninth largest watershed) working in partnership with the Dane Nan Yḗ Dāh Guardians to establish a biomonitoring program and host a two-day Program Manager/Field Tech CABIN field practicum. There was also a training in the Skeena watershed, Smithers, BC for a Field Assistant level CABIN practicum in partnership with the Environmental Stewardship Initiative of BC.

The 2017 Field Season included:

  • Sunshine Coast Biomonitoring and eDNA Pilot Project
  • Central Ottawa Biomonitoring and eDNA Pilot Project


We are encouraging anyone interested in understanding the health of their river or stream system to contact us to learn more about the STREAM project. There are multiple levels of possible participation.

If you are interested in collaborating to support the understanding of Canada’s rivers health please email Living Lakes Canada Program Manager Raegan Mallinson:


STREAM presentations our team has made

  • BC Lake Stewardship Society Conference: Understanding BC Lakes in Changing times — Lake Country, BC (2019)
  • CABIN Science Forum — Yellowknife, NWT (2019)
  • NWT Water Stewardship Strategy Workshop — Dettah, NWT (2019)
  • Living Lakes International Conference – Valencia, Spain (2018)
  • Environmental Stewardship Initiative Project proposal – Smithers, BC (2018)
  • Bow River Basin Council – Quarterly Educational Forum – Calgary, AB (2018)


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