Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink Opening Soon

Once weather permits, the Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink, located in Kiwanis Memorial Park North beside the Delta Bessborough Hotel, will be open to the public, with additional precautions based on the Government of Saskatchewan guidelines in place to ensure the safety of staff and visitors.

To open, the weather needs to consistently be below -10°C for several weeks, which typically occurs in mid-December. Announcements and updates will be made on our social media platforms and website.

We Want your Feedback on Enhancements in the Valley!

Southwest Trail & Site Enhancements: The area, adjacent to the Holiday Park neighbourhood, starts at the Gordie Howe Bridge and continues north to the Sanatorium Site. The project includes the development of 1.3 kilometers of new primary trail through the site, including enhancements to adjacent areas. The planned trail will be developed on the existing Spadina Crescent road (now closed to vehicles). Learn more and submit your feedback on the project:

Step 1: Watch the video showcasing the project and proposed design HERE

Step 2: Review the information document, containing drawings and maps HERE

Step 3: Fill the survey to provide feedback HERE – takes about 5 minutes

River Heights Trail & Site Enhancements: The area, adjacent to the River Heights neighbourhood, starts at Capilano Drive at the west end and continues east to Spadina Crescent, through Meewasin Park. The project includes the development of 1.4 kilometers of new primary trail through the site (where no trail currently exists), including upgrades to existing trail sections, and enhancements to adjacent areas. Learn more and submit your feedback on the project:

 

Step 1: Watch the video showcasing the project and proposed design HERE

Step 2: Review the information document, containing drawings and maps HERE

Step 3: Fill the survey to provide feedback HERE – takes about 5 minutes

Beaver Creek Open with Recommendations based on Snow Conditions

Beaver Creek is open regular hours, from Thursday to Sunday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.
 
Please note our trails have received very significant amounts of snow and there are several areas with large, deep drifts. Trail conditions are quite uneven and we recommend only experienced walkers and hikers venture out.
 
Due to drifting snow the blue trail will be open to snowshoeing only.
 
Please check in with the Beaver Creek Interpretive staff before heading out on site or call us for an update on trail conditions.

Email meewasin@meewasin.com for any questions.

Tree Wrapping for a Dam Good Cause

Beavers are a very important species to the Meewasin Valley, and we recognize and understand that the beavers have a place here in the Valley, as well as their need to take down trees to survive. We recently posted a video all about the importance of beavers!

Research shows that humans also greatly benefit from trees in their environment, which has lead Meewasin and the City of Saskatoon to introduce a lot of trees through the valley as well as in urban areas as canopy for the City. The work put in to planting and caring for these trees raises their value because they’ve been invested in. These trees, as well as trees that are in vulnerable areas (if they were to fall could injure someone on the trail) are the types of trees that need to be protected from beavers.

This fall, Meewasin hosted a volunteer event where participants wrapped trees with mesh wiring to protect them from beavers. We want to once again thank all of the amazing volunteers who joined us at the event and helped set up wrapping around the trees behind the Diefenbaker Centre in the Meewasin Valley.

Read the full blog about the tree wrapping event!

Tree Wrapping for a Dam Good Cause

Meewasin exists to ensure a healthy and vibrant river valley, with a balance between human use and conservation. A prime example of where Meewasin’s expertise is required to strike this balance is between the cute, furry, orange-toothed, tree-cutting rodents known as beavers, and the fallen, cut-down trees, which could pose a potential danger to visitors of the Meewasin Trail.

Eager Beavers Get the Tree

Beavers are native to the Meewasin Valley and the region, and they’ve been creating

Beaver Eating Branch
Beaver – credit Mike Digout

their homes and feeding their families with the wood of trees around their habitat for many thousands of years, and will continue to do so. Beavers are also denoted as a keystone species in our area, because their work provides shelter and habitat for many other species. Beavers are a very important species to the Meewasin Valley, and we recognize and understand that the beavers have a place here in the Valley, as well as their need to take down trees to survive. We recently posted a video all about the importance of beavers!

Leaf that Tree Alone!

Research shows that humans also greatly benefit from trees in their environment, which has lead Meewasin and the City of Saskatoon to introduce a lot of trees through the valley as well as in urban areas as canopy for the City. The work put in to planting and caring for these trees raises their value because they’ve been invested in. These trees, as well as trees that are in vulnerable areas (if they were to fall could injure someone on the trail) are the types of trees that need to be protected from beavers.

One way to protect these trees is to use protective mesh that the beavers aren’t able to climb over or chew through to get to it. Meewasin uses chicken wire-looking protective mesh that the beavers can’t chew through and is placed in a method that won’t girdle the tree.

Branching Out

This fall, Meewasin hosted a physically distant, outdoor volunteer event where participants helped to wrap trees with the protective mesh. We had just under 30 volunteers join us from the community, different organizations, and many participants from WILD Outside, a new conservation leadership program developed by the Canadian Wildlife Federation and funded by the Government of Canada through the Canada Service Corps initiative., where youth aged 15 – 18 get together to enjoy outdoor activities and serve their communities through conservation projects.

One volunteer from WILD Outside, Elisabeth, shares some thoughts about the impact “Such conservation efforts should serve the entire local ecosystem. This includes plants and animals, as well as people. We successfully balanced all three aspects; the beavers have enough food, native trees can thrive and the trail is protected from future tree obstructions. It was such a treat to conclude the event by watching beavers swim near their lodge.”

Another WILD Outside volunteer, Graeme, notes with pride that “Non-destructive methods, like tree-wrapping, can help provide a permanent solution. I think that tree-wrapping is an effective strategy. It prevents beavers from cutting down trees valued by the landowners, while still allowing the ecosystem those trees are a part of to flourish.” Graeme continues with some advising words, “I think that the public has a huge role to play in good urban-wildlife interaction. I believe it is our responsibility to be stewards of the natural world around us. With the help of the public, so much more progress in wildlife conservation can be made.”, he goes on to describe the impact wildlife can have people, “…Sometimes it can be the wildlife that helps us. My experience tree-wrapping was great, and one of the many highlights was being able to see the beaver family and other wildlife nearby. If people can gain a deeper understanding of the natural world through experiencing it, they can be more driven to help conserve it. The charismatic beaver can be an ambassador to the entire natural world, inspiring people young and old to become responsible stewards and benefactors of nature”

To add some further insight into the tree wrapping, volunteer from the WILD Outside crew, Katrina, explained some of the strategy that was implemented: “The concept that I really approve about this tree wrapping event was keeping the eco-balance. Though the purpose of this event was to protect trees from hunting beavers, we also respected the fact that beavers need to survive too. Therefore, we intentionally only wrapped the trees growing on the east side of the pond, leaving the west side trees for the beavers.”

WILD Outside Youth Leader, Raea Gooding, had some interesting observations about the activity as well, “As evidenced during our tree wrapping event on September 24th, everyone enjoys watching the beavers – they drew quite a crowd from volunteers and passers-by alike! I think urban wildlife management is a group effort, requiring citizens, organizations, and decision makers to be knowledgeable and responsible with wildlife. If those that appreciate seeing wildlife are educated on issues and potential solutions, and become part of the discussion, we can make sure we are creating a future of urban wild that works for everyone.”

To Wrap It All Up

We want to once again thank all of the amazing volunteers who joined us at the event and helped set up wrapping around the trees behind the Diefenbaker Centre in the Meewasin Valley. The trees and visitors to the trail will be able to enjoy the area without fear that the trees will fall on the trail or be gone due to resourceful beavers! Listen to the CBC radio interview with Meewasin’s Manager of Planning and Conservation, Mike Velonas, about the tree wrapping event. Join our volunteer list to hear about upcoming opportunities to get involved with Meewasin!

Meewasin Outdoor Public Art Tour

The Meewasin Trail may be known for providing opportunities to connect with nature, snap photos of bridges, and learn Saskatoon history, but there are also many artistic and culturally-rich experiences to have while visiting the Meewasin Valley!

Even when a world-wide pandemic has halted many of the street fairs, festivals, and you know, regular summer and fall activities – there is still so much to see in Saskatoon!

Activity, 45 – 120 minutes

Ranked as one of the sunniest cities in Canada that also surrounds a beautiful river valley, Saskatoon is fortunate to boast over 90 kilometers of trail to explore the nature stewarded by Meewasin. The Meewasin Valley offers seemingly endless opportunities to witness stunning views on a lovely day in Saskatoon.

If you’re looking for an all-season, physically-distanced-safe, picturesque activity that combines both nature and culture in Saskatoon, then you’re reading the right blog! In addition to viewing some of the hundreds of fascinating species that call the Meewasin Valley home, you can find a lot of interesting (often) locally crafted public art along the Meewasin Trail!

To simplify your planning, we are going to share the details on a focused, logically organized outdoor experience that with a little movement, will help discovery many neat gems that offer amazing visual stories that turn into Instagramable #MeewasinMoment-s!

Welcome to what we call the Meewasin Southwest Outdoor Public Art Tour!

The Coming Spring

We recommend beginning your tour at the Victoria Park Boathouse where you can start by taking in the views of the wide open river from the end of the dock. Making sure to be courteous to any paddlers, start walking East on the Meewasin Trail heading downtown. before long, you’ll notice (either by sight or by sound) the large, 27-foot tall wind arch featuring a wind chime with two spires made entirely of stainless steel, named The Coming Spring. The Coming Spring, by Canadian artist, Gordon Reeve, was commissioned by the Saskatoon Tribal Council and the City of Saskatoon, with funding from the Government of Canada. The concept was selected and developed with extensive input from the community and guidance from Elders and Indian residential school survivors.

Its creation is in response to the Truth and Reconciliation  Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, No. 79:  Participate in a strategy to commemorate the contributions and history of Aboriginal peoples to Canada. The longer, 47-foot spire, pointing north, symbolically represents the First Nations’ long history. The 39-foot spire, pointing south, symbolically represents the history of the Métis Nation. Suspended high on each spire are moving chimes. The rustling and bell-like sounds the chimes make suggest the voices of children heard at a distance, representing the children taken by the residential system from all of the communities in Treaty Six Territory.

 

The Zhongshan Ting

Next, just East of The Coming Spring, another large installation in Victoria Park sits facing the South Saskatchewan River. This multi-patterned pagoda (as it’s known in English) is a commemoration to the first Chinese immigrants and their contributions to the early Saskatoon. It is officially called The Zhongshan Ting, which in the Chinese culture, a zhongshan ting is a communal place of worship and fellowship. The Zhongshan Ting is a perfect place to find some shelter or rest from the sun or rain while retaining a great view of the river.

This piece was graciously donated to the City of Saskatoon by the Zhongshan Ting Society. They hope the pillared structure will be a place to learn about Chinese architecture and culture. The committee also wants to see it used for weddings, school field trips, and Tai Chi classes while offering beautiful views near the riverbank.

Continue walking towards downtown, passing by the outdoor gym and under the Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge, to find yourself transitioning into Riverlanding, which features colourful flags, coverings and features. As you walk East, you’ll notice the striking Pavilion Building that houses year-round washrooms and Riverlanding Snacks, then you’ll see the River Landing Spray Park, which is a display that educates about the Saskatchewan River Basin with a model showing geography and hydrology of the basin.

Launch Time

After passing by on the amphitheater, there is a winding trail that can lead you to the upper trail into downtown and towards the Meewasin Office building. Before climbing the winding trail, you’ll notice on the grass, a lineup of stones in the ground, which is a inquisitive display called Launch Time! Created by Prairie Design Group, a collective of four Saskatchewan artists (Mel Bolen, Charley Farrero, Michael Hosaluk, Sean Whalley). Launch Time is designed to engage the community, spark imagination, and encourage conversation on the role and purpose of public art.

The Design Group noted that “the work is evocative and playful, so that perceptions change and curiosity builds as the viewers move around the piece. Launch Time complements other aspects of the River Landing development, helping to make it a unique community space for all to enjoy.” Launch Time was commissioned by the Saskatchewan Arts Board as a Cultural Capital of Canada project celebrating the City of Saskatoon’s Centennial, and is also a blast to play peek-a-boo or have a fun photo shoot in with friends!

Prairie Wind

Once you’ve had a chance to let your imagination run wild and take a rest inside one of the Launch Time piece (or canoes?), wander up the rest of the winding trail up to the upper sidewalk, known as the Joni Mitchell Promenade – which pays tribute to the Saskatoon-native songstress. Head west towards the Remai Modern Art Museum, and prepare to be stunned by the art installment named Prairie Wind, which features 25 towering poles that are 15 metres tall and made of steel. The piece also features 16 state-of-the art LED floodlights at the base of the landmark which are controlled by a computerized system that allows the colours to change during different seasons and for special events. The base of the poles incorporate rubber bearing pads that allow the poles to move in the wind.

Prairie Wind was chosen out of 26 submissions for the design, fabrication and installation of a landmark in River Landing. The public, along with a community selection jury and City Council all provided input for the final decision. In the end, City Council chose “Prairie Wind” submitted by a team consisting of Lee-Koopman Projects from London, England, and Friggstad Downing Henry Architects of Saskatoon.

Tying back to the natural landscape adjacent to it, the plaza is made of a combination of poured concrete with stamped grass and river rock, connecting the urban environment with the prairie and the river. Prairie Wind draws its inspiration from the wind and the grasses that grow in abundance throughout the prairies and parkland surrounding the city. The experience of watching a field of tall grass swaying in the wind is one that is shared by all Saskatchewan people. As noted by the selection jury, “Prairie Wind serves as a visual link between the urban and the rural, the old and the new, the high- tech and the organic.”

Cut-out of Time

Lastly, meander towards the underside of the new Traffic Bridge off of Victoria Street. Turn your view away from the magnificent arches for a moment and notice the glimmer of the silver from the art piece named Cut-out of Time. This beautiful, carved display physically reflects the river, and symbolically reflects the significance of the river to Saskatoon’s development sits on the inner, north side of the bridge.

In December 2006, calls for submissions were distributed to invite “Expressions of Interest” to design, fabricate, and install an artistic interpretive element that reflects the significance of the river to Saskatoon’s development.  On March 26, 2007, City Council approved the purchase of the “Cut-out of Time” interpretative element by Elizabeth Yonza for tentative placement on the north side of the Riverfront path beneath the Traffic Bridge.

Now Go Explore!

There is a ton of cool displays to see in the city, including the University of Saskatchewan’s Sculpture Garden which is adjacent to the Meewasin Trail behind the Diefenbaker Centre, or the City of Saskatoon’s Public Art Collection but we’re happy you stuck around to learn about one of our favourite areas!

There are so many picture worthy spots to explore in the Meewasin Valley and the eight bridges are only the beginning! We hope you enjoyed our ‘tour’ and discover these new areas for yourself, or if you’re already familiar with the spots, that you learned a bit about some of the culturally-rich art installments in the Southwest area of Saskatoon! Now go explore and tag us on social media for a chance to get featured!

 

References:

https://www.saskatoon.ca/sites/default/files/documents/community-services/community-development/community_news_newsletter_fall_2018.pdf

https://globalnews.ca/news/2398743/new-chinese-ting-artwork-unveiled-in-saskatoon/

http://www.riverlanding.ca/project_update/phase1/prairie_wind/official_unveiling_programme.pdf

http://www.riverlanding.ca/project_update/phase1/riverfront_path_art/index.html

A Nature Lover’s Tips to Biking & Picking up After Your Pup

What do dog-poop bags and fat-tire bikes have in common?

The long answer is much more complicated than one might expect and not immediately obvious. The short answer is: both are seemingly innocent and both harm the environment.

Fat Tires, Far from Good Results

First, let’s talk about fat-tire bikes. I own one myself and it’s great. I get a better workout than I would from my regular bike and it’s got good traction in winter. So what’s the downside? Although with good intent, riders tend to carve out new trails wherever they go, flattening the vegetation, which puts fragile plants within an already fragmented ecosystem at a very high risk.

Meewasin asks that you stick to the trails and be respectful of both nature and other nature lovers. Exploring is good; destroying is not.

Who Gives a Crap?

The second seemingly harmless activity is the dumping of dog poo bags in natural areas throughout Saskatoon and area: on the trails, near the river, on beaches and even up in trees. Yes, in trees! I couldn’t understand why my fellow outdoor enthusiasts would think that this behaviour is okay. Are they horrible, nasty people?

No. Rather, these dog owners are likely well-intentioned people who have been conned by clever marketing and the terms, “biodegradable” and “compostable”.

Whenever something sounds too good to be true, it’s likely not true. There is no such thing as a free ride and someone or something always pays. In this case, it is the environment.

Some Bags Are Sustainable Though… Right?

What do those guilt-reducing terms, biodegradable and compostable, actually mean? Without getting too technical, “biodegradable” means that something will decompose naturally. In truth, everything in the whole world is biodegradable, if you wait long enough. A plastic bag can take up to 500 years to degrade in a landfill. Biodegradable bags, left out in the open, don’t actually break down; rather, they photo-degrade and become micro-plastics that continue to pollute the environment.

“Compostable” means that organic matter will rot. The problem with compostable bags and their contents is that they require industrial or commercial facilities to kill any pathogens. Such facilities are not available in Saskatoon. The City of Saskatoon does not allow compostable bags or their contents in the green bin and recommends putting animal waste in a plastic bag and disposing of it in the garbage (black bin). This begs the question, “what is the point of buying dog-poo bags when they just end up in the garbage where they neither biodegrade nor compost?” In other words, our good intentions are for nought.

Drop it Where It’s Hot? Maybe NOT

Since plastic bags are problematic and dog poo is biodegradable, is it better to just leave it where it drops and forego the bag altogether? Poop will decompose in no time, right? Yes, but dog poop may contain pathogens that can end up in the river or in other dogs’ stomachs (some dogs, like mine, eat other dogs’ poop). And, some of those pathogens, like hookworms, tapeworms roundworms, E.coli, giardia and other diseases can be transmitted to other people and pets in your household. Children and immune-compromised individuals are the most likely to suffer a parasitic infestation. So, it is still better to use a dog-poo bag than to leave the poo lying around outdoors. That, and the fact that no one wants to step in your dog’s doo-doo! Yuck.

So, What are the Good Options?

The more research I did for this article, the more I realized there are no quick fixes to the problem. I discovered that, beyond putting the poop bag in the garbage, other options for disposal include home composting, industrial composting, flushing down the toilet, mouldering, burying, re-using regular plastic garbage bags (rather than poop-specific bags), using special poop pick-up tools, purchasing or building a dog-poo-specific composting bin, and vermicomposting. You can even hire a professional dog-poop removal company who will come to your house and deal with all that poo. Even Saskatoon has several of these services. Is your head spinning yet? With so many options, what is the best thing to do?

Based on my research and City of Saskatoon’s waste management protocols, the best advice I came up with, while not perfect, is this:

  1. Encourage your dog to do its business in your yard BEFORE you take them to the dog park. Pick up the poo with a small spade or trowel and put it in a container that is exclusive to that use and of a moderate size. When the container is full, dump the contents in the toilet.
  2. Buy or build a dog-poop-specific composter. Here is where it gets tricky. Unlike regular composting, you will need to commit to pathogen testing and understand temperature requirements. Most of us aren’t master composters so you may want to wait until the City brings in an industrial model. If you still really want to compost dog poo but can’t test for pathogens, go ahead, but don’t put dog compost on the vegetable garden. Instead, use it on shrubs, flowers, and trees.
  3. If flushing dog poo is too gross for you or you don’t have the space for composting, the next best option is to put the poo collected from your yard in an appropriately sized plastic bag (i.e., don’t use a massive garbage bag to hold a few ounces of poo), preferably one that has already been used several times before for other purposes, and then put it in the garbage (the black bin). The City of Saskatoon requires that dog poo be bagged. This is not an ideal solution; the plastic bag and the poo it contains will take a very long time to decompose in the landfill as oxygen is needed for decomposition and there is no oxygen in the landfill. Some cities, like Vancouver, allow animal waste to go in the green bin because their composting facilities reach temperatures that can kill any pathogens, but Saskatoon does not accept animal waste in its green bins. If you have strong feelings about this, please contact the City and ask them to upgrade their composting facilities.
  4. If your dog refuses to poop in your yard, you have a couple options. When out in nature, I use the plastic produce bags that are ubiquitous in grocery stores. If I have to use a plastic bag anyway, I figure I may as well give a second life to one that would otherwise go into the landfill. Produce bags are flimsy, which is actually good in this case. If you don’t have any plastic produce bags because you use reusable produce bags, you are my hero! In this case, you may have to buy some. If so, buy the smallest, most environmentally friendly bag you can afford. This is much more difficult than it sounds; there are so many brands on the market, all espousing to be the most environmentally friendly. If possible, look for bags that comply with Canadian BNQ (CAN/BNQ 0017-088) and ASTM 6400 standards.
  5. Whatever bag you use, do NOT leave it on the trail or up a tree in the expectation that it will take care of itself by simply disappearing (it won’t!). And, let’s be honest with ourselves; we are unlikely to achieve perfection on the dog poop issue, but we can do the next best thing within our local constraints and limitations.

Conclusion

Many nature-lovers are aware and can agree: the spaces that provide us with a sense of adventure, clarity, and peace, are also in need of our help. Meewasin manages areas of natural landscapes and prairie that are endangered, and are saddened to see them additionally damaged because of human actions – even the seemingly harmless ones.

Meewasin and the Earth need our help. By understanding and changing the negative effects of our daily actions, and sharing that knowledge with others, we can all make a difference.

Many well intended, seemingly innocent actions can be harmful; like biking outdoors, while not realizing it’s damaging a sensitive ecosystem, or attempting to ditch all plastic but unintentionally resulting in a spread of dangerous bacteria from your pooch. Now that we know better, let’s advocate these messages to others, and get involved in the stewardship of natural spaces!

Most of this article was written by Patricia Albers, M. Ed.

Patricia is a recently retired professional who delights in all things natural. She has been involved in various environmental organizations for most of her adult life and is especially committed to preserving natural grasslands. She is a supporter of and volunteer with the Meewasin Valley Authority. As an artist, she finds both solace and inspiration in nature.

Resources:

https://www.saskwastereduction.ca/blog/green-living/2015/08/26/the-doos-and-don’ts/

https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/disposing-dog-poop-green-way/

http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/solid-waste/detached-homes/reduce-garbage-home/dog-poo/Pages/default.aspx

http://www.nzwc.ca/focus/resources/Documents/BASF_CCC_conference_Sep_2015.pdf#search=compostable%20plastic%20bags

https://ourpetshealth.com/info/how-to-dispose-of-dog-poop

http://www.nzwc.ca/Documents/RegulatoryApproachesforPriorityPlasticWastes.pdf#search=compostable%20plastic%20bags

https://consumerist.com/2015/02/03/feds-warn-that-claims-of-biodegradable-dog-poop-bags-may-be-full-of-you-know/

The Pet Poo Pocket Guide: How to Safely Compost and Recycle Pet Waste by Rose Seeman. Publisher: New Society Publishers (May 1 2015)

Testing for Potential Toxic Levels of Nutrient in the South Saskatchewan River

The South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards (SSRWSI), with the help of Meewasin are once again sampling for phosphorous in creeks that flow into the South Saskatchewan river. High levels of phosphorous have been seen to cause algal blooms, which effects water quality and the whole ecosystem. Other undesirable effects of increased phosphorus include: decrease in biodiversity, decline in ecologically sensitive species, increase in invasive plant species, increase in biomass, increase in turbidity, anoxic conditions, costly treatment of potable water, unacceptable taste or odour, and water that may be injurious to health. (South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards)

Why is Phosphorous Important to Sample for?

Phosphorus is a nutrient that supports plants and animals in the aquatic food web but in excess can contribute to algal blooms and low concentrations of oxygen in water bodies. We are interested in measuring the phosphorus levels to better understand the concentrations and how they vary throughout the summer.

The green scum formed by dense algal blooms does not only look and smell bad, but can make water toxic to humans and fish, causing illness and—in some cases—death. When algae die,

Photo of Algae Bloom by Dr. Jennifer L. Graham, USGS

they are decomposed by bacteria, which can remove oxygen from the water, occasionally killing fish. Algal blooms can also make water unfit for even recreational use. These tiny organisms can therefore have a huge impact on health, wildlife and economies that depend on fishing and tourism. (International Institute for Sustainable Development)

Algal blooms plague many bodies of water across North America due to excess amounts of phosphorus. Lake Winnipeg has been experiencing a steady increase in algal coverage over the last 30 years. It’s gone so far that in 2013 Lake Winnipeg was given the unfortunate distinction of being named the World’s Most Threatened Lake by the Global Nature Fund, mainly due to its algal bloom problem. (International Institute for Sustainable Development)

The Sampling Process

Water Sampling at Beaver Creek Conservation Area in 2019

Samples were collected weekly throughout May and are now being done once a month until freeze up as part of a two-year project funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada. This year, a flow meter was purchased and that added data which will give us more context for our results in 2020.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only SSRWI and Meewasin, specifically Resource Management Officer – Renny Grilz, are able to take all of the samples, to avoid the need for sharing equipment between volunteers and because of restricted access to sites. Kerry Lowndes from SSRWI shares her experience with the project. “We are so glad to be able to continue our work through COVID-19 and are appreciative of Meewasin’s help every year. Our hope is to have school groups experience the process and spread stewardship spirit across the river basin”.

Renny Grilz from Meewasin expressed excitement for the future, “We are always happy to partner in research with great local organizations such as the SSRWSI around the River Valley. We are so appreciative of the work they are doing and we hope to spread the importance of these agencies and promote sustainable practices for years to come.” Says Renny Grilz from Meewasin

Results – Thus Far

Last year, there were four water samples collected in each of the Beaver, Opimihaw and Fish Creeks (see table below). The Prairie Provinces Water Board provides a summer guideline for Total Phosphorus (TP) for the South Saskatchewan River of 0.246 mg/L (2015). Most samples collected were below guideline levels.

In 2019 we did not have the ability to measure flow and cannot draw conclusions using Total Phosphorus (TP) levels alone. Sometimes, small volumes of water may be higher in nutrients, but contribute very little volume to the larger system. For example, low flow in Opimihaw Creek could contribute to higher concentrations of TP but little to no contribution of nutrients to the river.

Last year’s sampling results for July- October

Reference: PPWB. 2015. Review of the 1992 Interprovincial Water Quality Objective and Recommendations for Change. Technical Report #174. PPWB Committee on Water Quality. Regina, Saskatchewan. https://www.ppwb.ca/uploads/media/5c817677b4579/ppwb-report-b-review-of-the-interprov-wq-obj-recomm-for-change-en.pdf?v1

The Importance of Grasslands

High concentrations of phosphorus may result from poor agricultural practices, runoff from urban areas and lawns, leaking septic systems or discharges from sewage treatment plants. (United States Environmental Protection Agency)

Native or seeded grasslands, which tend to be deeper rooted, can slow water down and help with complete nutrient cycling. Annual cropland, with its increased inputs, has the potential for more runoff allowing excess nutrients to enter lakes and rivers.

Grasslands are also a vital habitat for many species of birds, insects, plants, pollinators, and animals, and help with carbon storage, as well as reducing erosion.

Future Plans

Next May, we plan on sampling the same sites to compare levels of phosphorous and other general chemistry to ensure healthy ecosystems and wetlands. The goal is to ensure harmful nutrients aren’t overtaking the natural spaces, changing the water and effecting the whole ecosystem’ biodiversity, species, biomass, turbidity, anoxic conditions, making costly treatment of potable water, unacceptable taste or odour, and water that may be injurious to health.

Carrot River, North Sask River, South Sask River and Swift Current Creek watershed stewardship groups received funding to do phosphorus testing on lakes and creeks that enter the Saskatchewan River system.

Thank you to the South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards for partnering with this project!

References

International Institute for Sustainable Development. What Are Algal Blooms and Why Do They Matter? n.d. 21 July 2020. <. https://www.iisd.org/library/what-are-algal-blooms-and-why-do-they-matter>.

South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards. “Phosphorus Testing in Lakes and Rivers that Flow Into the Saskatchewan River.” Environment and Climate Change Canada, 2019-2020. 1.

United States Environmental Protection Agency. National Aquatic Resource Surveys. n.d. 22 July 2020.

Tick Sampling at Beaver Creek

Ticks are a commonly feared insect for the fact that they can carry diseases such as Lyme disease. Researchers Dr Maarten J. Voordouw, and others from the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina conducted research about ticks at Beaver Creek Conservation Area. Their research included documenting different environmental factors to try to determine which areas ticks thrive in the most.

The Study Method and Technique

An American dog tick found in the Meewasin Valley

On June 26th, 2020, the group of researchers from the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina went sampling for ticks at Beaver Creek Conservation Area. The day was sunny and due to the park closure the trails were devoid of visitors. To standard way to capture ticks is the dragging technique, which involves pulling a white flag attached to a dowel over the vegetation. Ticks are sit-and-wait predators that climb up the vegetation and wait with outstretched legs to grapple onto a passing host. The moving flag simulates a host and the dark-coloured ticks are easy to spot against the white background.

What’s the Purpose of the Study?

The point of the study is to look for the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis), which can transmit Lyme disease. However, as this tick species is not very common in Saskatchewan, trying to find it is like looking for a needle in a haystack. In contrast, the researchers had no problems finding the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), which is by far the most common tick species in Saskatchewan. More than 95% of all tick bites in the province of Saskatchewan involve this tick species, which is not competent to transmit Lyme disease. In the USA, American dog ticks are known to transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia, but previous research has shown that the risk of these tick-borne diseases in Saskatchewan is low (for reasons that are not entirely understood).

The Results

The researchers dragged the flags for a total distance of 2 km. The protocol requires the measurement of GPS coordinates every 25 meters as well as measurements on leaf litter depth, soil humidity, and canopy cover. After completing the 2 km transect, more than 60 American dog ticks had been collected and placed in vials filled with 100% ethanol. Storing the ticks in this way prevents the degradation of DNA and allows the ticks to be tested for micro-organisms in the future.

This work is part of a long-term tick pan-Canadian sampling effort to determine the risk of exposure to blacklegged ticks and Lyme disease, which varies greatly across Canada. Over the last 30 years, the blacklegged tick has invaded and established itself in Ontario, Quebec, the Maritime Provinces, and Manitoba. In contrast, self-reproducing populations of blacklegged ticks have not yet been detected in Saskatchewan or Alberta. One possible explanation is that the dry prairie habitat throughout much of southern Saskatchewan is not suitable for blacklegged ticks, which are found in more forested areas and are very sensitive to desiccation. For this reason, the risk of Lyme disease in Saskatchewan and Alberta is much lower compared to other Canadian provinces. However, there have been locally acquired cases of Lyme disease in Saskatchewan.

How Else do we Get Exposed to Ticks?

If blacklegged ticks are not established in Saskatchewan, what explains these locally acquired cases? The answer is believed to be migratory birds. During the spring, migratory birds are estimated to drop off millions of blacklegged ticks in Canada. Some of these ticks are infected with Lyme disease and they can survive in the environment and bite another unlucky host. So, while the risk of Lyme disease in Saskatchewan is low, it is important to remember that there is still a risk. One more reason for the researchers to keep monitoring the tick situation in Saskatchewan.

Conclusion

The University of Saskatchewan’s Tick Surveillance program

Although the risk for being infected with Lyme disease from ticks in Saskatchewan and the Meewasin Valley are quite low, it is still important to know how to identify and add to the research done on them.

If you find a tick on yourself or your pet, you can learn how to identify it, remove it, and submit for research on this Government of Canada page. The University of Saskatchewan also has a tick surveillance program, which you can contribute to by simply taking a photo. Learn more about on their webpage.

Most of this article was written by: Dr Maarten J. Voordouw, assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Microbiology at the University of Saskatchewan

10 Easy Ways to Celebrate Earth Day, Every Day!

Meewasin wants to share these 10 easy tips to celebrate and give back to the amazing planet that sustains our lives. We hope you use these tips not only today, but all the time! #EarthDayEveryDay

  1. Plant a garden and native species in your yard – they will help the local
    Prairie Crocuses are some of the 1st native plants to flower in the year, helping pollinators in the early Spring!

    pollinators, and have better chance or survival in our climate! The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan has some great resources to get you started.

  2. Avoid single use plastic – Use reusable water bottles, and try reusable bags and containers for shopping in bulk. (Confirm with your store before bringing reusable bags during the COVID-19 pandemic). Saskatchewan Waste Reduction is sharing ways to continue recycling during this time. Meewasin also has some great reusable products in our online store!
  3. Be mindful of the harmful materials that can easily get washed into the storm drains, which lead directly into our fresh water (the river!). This includes the litter from your yard, pet waste and runoff from maintenance, including from washing your car at home.
  4. Immerse yourself in the outdoors! Download our Backyard Bingo for some ideas on how to connect with nature and the ecosystems living in it, or watch our video on how to practice nature mindfulness.

    This is bee hotel built by U of S students! Check out the full story on our blog!
  5. Create habitat in your yard to make safe spaces for wildlife by building a bee hotel, bird box, or bat box. For more information, check out the City of Saskatoon’s Healthy Yards page.
  6. Utilize active transportation – good for both your health and the planet’s, active transportation is an important aspect to reducing your personal carbon footprint. Walk, roll or bike when you can!
  7. Choose local – the more local you purchase the less pollution and carbon emissions from packing and transporting get released. The Saskatoon Farmer’s Market is now online!
  8. Purchase second hand products – fast fashion is so out! Some research says a new pair of jeans takes roughly 1,800 gallons of water to make. Save some money while saving the planet and shop used! Thredup is an onlineretailer for your online shopping needs!
  9. Become a citizen scientist and help contribute to our understanding of the natural world around us by recording observations of plants, insects and animals using iNaturalist on the web or as an
    Join our Eco-Scavenger Hunt volunteer events, or use the iNaturalist app any time!

    app. Watch meewasin.com for our seasonal DIY Eco-Scavenger Hunts for species to look out for!

  10. Unplug appliances and devices when not in use + turn your lights off to help lower your energy consumption as well as benefit the nocturnal wildlife that call our city home. Appliances will still draw a small amount of power even when they’re switched off. These “phantom” loads, as they’re referred to, can happen in most appliances that use electricity. A power bar will make switching off easier.