Selkirk College Helps Lead the Way in Freshwater Research

In a program loaded with experiential learning opportunities, second-year students in the Integrated Environmental Planning Program spent the opening week of the semester taking part in leading edge freshwater research.

Students in Selkirk College’s innovative Integrated Environmental Planning (IEP) Program are contributing to a significant step forward in training for freshwater research in Canada.

During the first week of September, second year students in the two-year diploma program kicked off the academic year by fulfilling training requirements for the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring (CABIN) Field Assistant Program. Under the supervision of program instructors and personnel from Environment Canada, students spent two full days in Glade Creek and Norns Creek just outside of Castlegar. The class of took part in training that has been developed to provide a nationally standardized method to assess the ecological condition of freshwater in Canada.

“Selkirk College is the first post-secondary institution in British Columbia to be able to offer this training in-house,” says Selkirk College Instructor Allison Lutz. “It’s an added bonus that students in the IEP Program will now receive this certification as part of their graduation requirements.”

Bonding Research Across Canada

CABIN training is a standardized approach to water monitoring coordinated by Environment Canada and the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of New Brunswick. Prior to the introduction of CABIN, researchers were following different protocols, performing different suites of tests and storing their data in handwritten notes on their computers or in private databases.

The new system allows all agencies and industry to share similar data and produce comparable stream assessments. In order to allow these comparisons, standardized protocols must be followed in the field. In the CABIN Field Assistant Program students learn and practice those protocols.

Selkirk College instructors Lutz and Doris Hausleitner were also under scrutiny during the two days of training as they were tested by three Environment Canada personnel to become certified CABIN instructors.

“As an added challenge we also developed fillable field forms and required the students to use tablets to collect data and geo-reference field photos,” says Hausleitner. “Keeping up to date with current technologies is an important part of what we offer students.”

Both the instructors and the students came through the training session with high regard from the government’s observation team.

“The instructors did an amazing job at managing a large group in the field and integrating new technology at the same time,” says Stephanie Strachan, Provincial CABIN Program lead. “Now that they are certified trainers, I am pleased that they will be able to build CABIN Field Assistant Program certification into future IEP courses.”

The IEP Program is designed for learners with an interest in planning, protecting land, resources and the environment. The program provides employment-ready skills to tackle the dynamic sector’s challenges and master a range of applied environmental technologies. Students who took part in the semester’s first outdoor training session were buoyed by the lively start to their learning.

“The CABIN field training was a fun and interactive way to start the school year,” says second-year IEP Program student Angela Beaton. “It was very hands-on and a great way to dust off the skills I had acquired last year but didn't use this summer in my student work position. Having the Environment Canada professionals there to oversee the work we were doing was super beneficial as it made the whole experience even more valuable.”

Original article from Selkirk College