2021 AWN Community Partner Meeting

 In News

Over the past year nearly every aspect of our work was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – from how we commute (we don’t!), to how we lend out equipment, to how we engage with our network.

This January, an impressive 75 representatives from partner organizations showed up to our two-part virtual network meeting, eager to build new connections and share ideas about how to support community-based water monitoring. Thank you to all our Community Partners for making this year’s regional meeting a huge success!

Monitoring Atlantic Canada’s fresh water: How can WE help? How can YOU help?

Our network is growing and a lot has changed since we last met. We asked meeting participants to share feedback about organizational needs (and dreams!) so that we can align our programming to better support your important work.

Here are the key takeaways from breakout group discussions about equipment, data, networking, and communications:

Thank you Libby Dean for capturing participants’ ideas in these beautiful visual summaries!

Are you excited about any of these opportunities for collaboration? Get in touch to discuss possible next steps.

Dispatches from the field: Water monitoring in the Atlantic Provinces and Quebéc

New Brunswick – Watershed groups are working together to demonstrate the value of community-based monitoring to decision makers and advance watershed protection legislation in the province. Groups are also collaborating to build capacity for water data analysis (great to see AWN’s workshop tools in action!) and are developing creative ways to co-develop public education resources about watershed health. Marieka Chaplin presented on behalf of the New Brunswick Environmental Network’s Watershed Caucus – access the presentation here.

Nova ScotiaNova Scotia Salmon Association is working with multiple partners on a four-year, large-scale project to improve the overall health of eight watersheds along Nova Scotia’s Southern Uplands. The project aims to improve habitat for endangered species such as Atlantic Salmon, Atlantic Whitefish, American Eel, and Brook Floater. But it’s not just the fish that will benefit from this project. Data and watershed-specific planning outputs will also support community-led projects in meeting bigger conservation goals. Access Amy Weston’s presentation here.

Prince Edward Island – The PEI Watershed Alliance has an impressive 13 collaborative watershed stewardship projects on the go. We won’t list them all here, but you can visit PEIWA’s website to learn more. Despite PEI’s strong collaborative community efforts, only 1.6% of the provincial budget is earmarked for the environment. Check out PEIWA’s presentation and recommendations for advancing community-based water monitoring on the Island here.

Newfoundland and Labrador – Between 2019 – 2020, Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Aquatic Connectivity Assessment Project brought together non-governmental organizations and Indigenous-led environmental groups to assess over 1,100 sites. That means approximately 750 culverts, 300 bridges, and over 100 physical barriers were sized up for intervention. Access Kirby Tulk’s full presentation here.

Québec – This year we were also thrilled to welcome the Groupe d’éducation et d’écosurveillance de l’eau (G3E) to share information about their community-based monitoring and citizen science programming. G3E works with 55 partner organizations to reach citizens throughout Québec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, and Manitoba. Access G3E’s presentation here.

Always good to connect with others and see what is going on in the region. Lots of great introductions for potential future collaborations!”

Water data updates

It’s been almost three years since Atlantic DataStream kicked off in Halifax. DataStream’s Patrick LeClair highlighted the impressive growth in data holdings to date (2.5 million + in Atlantic Canada!), shared updates on new training and education resources, and gave us a sneak peek at the team’s exciting plans for 2021. Patrick’s presentation can be accessed here.

Graph showing increase of data on Atlantic DataStream

Growth of Atlantic DataStream data holdings since 2018. Image courtesy of The Gordon Foundation.

Did you know? All four provincial governments in Atlantic Canada now contribute to DataStream!”

Atlantic Canada has a lot of water data, but WWF-Canada’s Watershed Reports show that some watersheds need more. AWN’s Laura Chandler dove into the data to discuss how communities can work together so that the health of every single watershed is understood. What’s next? Over the coming months, AWN will focus in on data deficient watersheds and do some good old-fashioned outreach to learn how we can support new and existing monitoring programs. Access Laura’s presentation here.

AWN isn’t the only one doing data detective work. Colleen McNeil with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) provided an update on research the federal government is undertaking in collaboration with Indigenous-led monitoring groups and provinces to understand who’s doing what in water within the Wolastoq/Saint John River watershed. ECCC welcomes feedback and ideas for possible next steps. Check out the results of their work to date here.

Making the business (and human) case for community-based water monitoring

The nation is abuzz with talk about the federal government’s proposed Canada Water Agency (CWA), but for many of us, policymaking can be a conceptual black hole. We asked Richard Farthing-Nichol from the Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW) to explain the CWA process and point to opportunities for watershed groups to engage in the national conversation. Richard’s presentation can be accessed here.

Geoff Gunn from the International Institute for Sustainable Development-Experimental Lakes Area (IISD-ELA) is exploring how community-based water monitoring groups can demonstrate that CBWM delivers value for money and should be sustained long term. Want to know what your water data is worth? Stay tuned for the results of IISD’s research and tools to help your group track and share your impact. Check out Geoff’s presentation here.

Check out this resource list  for access to presentations and contact info for speakers from our Winter 2021 Community Partner meeting.

What’s next?

Our team got right to work and has already submitted multiple funding applications to support growth in our programming based on what we heard in January. Moving forward, we also plan to host more frequent network-wide meetings to facilitate valuable knowledge and resource sharing opportunities among our partners. Stay tuned for updates on these next steps in the coming months.

We’re also updating our inventory of new and long-standing partners to better tailor how we support the network. If you didn’t get a chance during the meeting, please sign up to become a Community Partner! Our new Community Partner page lives here.

Big thank you to the guest speakers, participants, and facilitators for volunteering your time to make our regional meeting a huge success! And last, but certainly not least, thank you to Environment and Climate Change Canada, The Gordon Foundation, and WWF-Canada for making this event possible through generous financial and in-kind support.

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illustrated summary of topics discussed during AWN's network meeting including data, equipment, Atlantic provinces, networking

By Aislin Livingstone