STREAM & DNA metabarcoding

Environmental DNA (eDNA) is an emerging tool for monitoring present biodiversity. It uses gene sequencing linked to DNA/RNA barcode libraries to allow for faster, more complete profile of biodiversity content from very small samples.

Internationally, countries like Australia, the EU and Scotland are exploring working with eDNA. This is a made-in-Canada technology and now has the opportunity to move beyond proof of concept to demonstrating the possible. This will make benthic invertebrate analysis faster, more accurate and more affordable for community groups water quality monitoring initiatives.

STREAM (Sequencing the Rivers for Environmental Assessment and Monitoring: www.stream-dna.com) 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 eDNA sample analysis of benthic macroinvertebrates for three years. The goal is to collect 1,500 samples from 15 nationally distributed watersheds (5 watersheds per year from 2019-2021) through community-based water monitoring (CBWM).

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.

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.

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: raegan@livinglakescanada.ca

Presentations we have given relating to STREAM:

  • Living Lakes International Conference – Valencia, Spain
  • Environmental Stewardship Initiative Project proposal – Smithers, BC
  • Bow River Basin Council – Quarterly Educational Forum – Calgary, AB

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 Lower Post 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

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