July 20th, 2024

Province teams up with U of L on research projects

By Lethbridge Herald on April 18, 2024.

University of Lethbridge photo - The provincial government is partnering with the University of Lethbridge with a $500,000 grant towards studying water storage, endangered species and other issues impacting the southern Alberta region.

The provincial government is partnering with the University of Lethbridge to study water storage, endangered species and other issues impacting the southern Alberta region.

The province on Wednesday announced a $500,000 grant to the U of L, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas Rebecca Shultz announced Wednesday in a release.

“This grant will help us better maximize and manage Alberta’s water supply, reduce emissions, recover species at risk and protect the environment in the years ahead. This is a great example of government and university scientists working together,” said Shultz.

The grant over three years will help to support a total of eight collaborative research projects investigating topics including the water storage potential of Alberta lakes, carbon storage and carbon sequestration potential of Alberta wetlands and terrestrial ecosystems, the impact of fire on carbon storage in Alberta peatlands and the diversity, abundance, and biomass of key insects in provincially protected areas.

The research, says the province, will also explore emerging questions and issues affecting the province including:

• How habitat restoration and oil and gas site reclamation can assist in recovery of endangered sage grouse.

• How changing weather patterns affect the productivity and carbon sequestration potential of native grassland and prairie wetlands.

• How changing water temperature and contaminants may impact rainbow trout and brown trout populations in important fisheries like the Bow River; and

• How human recreation and other activities are affecting the Upper Oldman Watershed.

“The ministry’s significant investment in eight innovative and provincially important research projects led by University of Lethbridge researchers working with Environment and Protected Areas colleagues is greatly appreciated. The research includes answering important questions about water resources and habitat management, carbon storage in landscapes, ensuring diverse and thriving insects, birds, and fish populations, as well as human actions and interventions that affect water and lands,” said U of L vice-president research Dena McMartin in the release.

Thee research projects will occur over the next three years and their results will be communicated through various academic journals, as well as on Alberta’s Environmental Science Program website, says the province.

The grant is part of a rotating program led by Alberta’s Office of the Chief Scientist.

The eight projects receiving full or partial funding are:

• “Quantifying and mapping carbon storage and water quality improvement services provided by Alberta’s prairie pothole wetlands.”

• “A remote sensing-based regional and temporal assessment of Alberta’s lake water resources.”

• “Carbon storage at risk: The impacts of fire on carbon losses from Alberta peatlands and assessing peatland vulnerability to high intensity fires.”

• “Response of ecosystem carbon sequestration to variation in water availability associated with El Niño Southern Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation climate phases.”

• “Response of endangered sage grouse to oil and gas reclamation in critical habitat in southeastern Alberta.”

• “Combined effects of water temperature and urban runoff-associated contaminants on rainbow trout and brown trout.”

• “Diversity, abundance, and biomass of key insects in wildlife food webs on Alberta Protected Areas.”

• “Sharing the Headwaters: Understanding anthropogenic factors affecting the ecology of the Upper Oldman Watershed.”

According to the U of L, “the projects target diverse areas of research. Drs. Matthew Bogard and Sam Woodman, a postdoctoral fellow, will collaborate with researchers from AEPA and Ducks Unlimited Canada to map and define patterns of prairie wetland carbon and nutrient stocks.

“In another project, Drs. Theresa Burg and Melissa Chelak, a postdoctoral fellow, will work with AEPA scientists to see how endangered sage grouse populations are responding to recent habitat restoration, namely oil and gas reclamation efforts,” said the university in its own release.

“Drs. Laura Chasmer, Chris Hopkinson and Craig Coburn will be focusing on the vulnerability of peatlands to wildfire. Peatlands in Alberta have been drying out in recent years, reducing their ability to slow the spread of forest fires and resulting in increased carbon loss into the atmosphere. In addition, Chasmer and Hopkinson will also work on a project to assess the province’s lake water resources.

“Climate phases, such as El Nino, can impact the productivity of native grassland and wetland ecosystems. Dr. Larry Flanagan and AEPA will examine how these year-to-year variations in weather contribute to fluctuations in productivity and carbon sequestration in these ecosystems and how these factors in turn can affect dryland farming, ranching, irrigated crop production and bird habitat.”

How rainbow and brown trout in urban rivers such as the Bow River are affected by the combined effects of exposure to two stormwater associated chemicals as well as increased water temperatures and decreases in dissolved oxygen is the subject of research by Drs. Steve Wiseman and Andreas Eriksson, a postdoctoral fellow, in collaboration with researchers from AEPA and the University of Saskatchewan.

Grasshopper expert Dr. Dan Johnson will be conducting extensive field sampling of Orthoptera to determine their diversity, abundance and biomass in wildlife food webs. Orthoptera includes insects such as grasshoppers and crickets.

A project team led by Dr. Jodie Asselin, an anthropology professor, in collaboration with government researchers, will look at the impact of human activities on the ecology of the Upper Oldman Watershed to assist in the development of policies that balance the needs of recreational users with the protection of at-risk species such as bull trout,” says the university.

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