Lesser Slave Watershed
Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a citizen scientist? This is what a day of winter lake sampling is like!
First off, citizen science means members of the public volunteer to help gather information for research. Anyone can do it! Our friends at ALMS have a bunch of different programs and opportunities available for individuals or groups across Alberta. One of those programs is Winter LakeKeepers. The Lesser Slave Watershed Council (LSWC) is a proud supporter and volunteer of this program.
We make sure we have icepacks, sample bottles, and all the tools we will need to gather our data. We double check our measuring tape, cooler, long insulated gloves, an ice scoop, field sheets, our fancy probe and, of course, our ice auger. Once we are all packed up, we start our journey to the lake!
The LSWC currently samples two sites on Lesser Slave Lake for this program: one site near Joussard and one near Canyon Creek. It is important we only go out to sample when the conditions are safe. Be sure to read up on ice safety before you go out!
Once it is safe, we head out onto the ice and make our way out to a cluster of ice shacks just off-shore. Next, we grab the GPS coordinates and drill a hole in the ice with our auger. We measure the ice thickness and note weather conditions. Next, we measure how deep the water is with our weighted tape measure. After those physical measurements are done, we move on to filling our sample bottles. This is where the long-insulated gloves come in handy, helping keep the cold out!
Once the bottles have been filled, we move onto measuring the chemical characteristics of the water. This is where our fancy probe comes in. We set up chairs and sit around our hole, just like we were fishing, but instead of fish, we are looking for data. At each meter from the top of the water to the bottom, we write down all our numbers. But what do the numbers mean? pH is a reading on a scale from one to 14 that tells us how acidic or basic the water is. Conductivity, which means the amount of electricity that water can conduct because of how many salts are in the water. Do not worry . . .the water can not electrocute you. These readings measure tiny currents.
Dissolved oxygen is another value we look for which says how much oxygen there is in the water for living things. Temperature is the last one, which helps us understand more about water!
When we are finished with both sites, we head back to the office to filter our chlorophyll-a sample! This sample helps tell what kinds of plant matter is growing in our water. We send out samples to a lab in Edmonton and that is that!
Want to participate in the ALMS Winter LakeKeepers program on your favorite lake? Contact ALMS at (780) 702-2567 or visit the LakeKeepers website for more information! https://alms.ca/winter-