Summer 2019

Newsletter Archive


Urban Wetland Research in YYC

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In 2017, Miistakis launched Call of the Wetland, a citizen science program to determine which amphibian species persist in the urban environment, and where, as an indicator of wetland health. The majority of the wetlands we have left in Calgary are built storm water ponds, and are not managed to support ecological functions and biodiversity. Through the Call of the Wetland program, Miistakis has collaborated with wetland researchers from Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary to enhance our understanding of how our urban wetlands are functioning.

Dr. Felix Nwaishi and students Michael Wendlandt and Murdoch McKinnon from Mount Royal University are testing water quality at the Call of the Wetland survey sites, to study the relationship between wetland characteristics and water quality. Michael and Murdoch are spending the summer sampling water at various urban wetlands in Calgary and analyzing samples in the lab for a suite of water characteristics, which can provide an indication of why amphibians are present or not at specific wetlands. Dr. Nwaishi's work also highlights the importance of small, connected wetlands as providing optimal ecosystem services, which contradicts the current standard practice of keeping single, large wetlands in development areas. Their research will aid the understanding of how stormwater ponds affect natural wetlands, and can inform the City of Calgary's stormwater strategy. The data they are gathering will provide essential information to the Call of the Wetland program.

Dr. Melanie Rathburn from Mount Royal University, is searching for tiger salamander eDNA (environmental DNA) at Call of the Wetland survey sites. Tiger salamanders are hard to survey because they are nocturnal burrowing animals and not commonly observed. But tiger salamander leave skin cells behind in the water which can be sampled to determine their presence using DNA analysis. Dr. Rathburn and students collected water samples and plan to isolate the tiger salamander eDNA, revealing which wetland have tiger salamanders. Dr. Rathburn's work will help us understand where tiger salamanders are occurring in Calgary's wetlands.

Dr. Regina Krohn, Dr. Judit Smits and Ahmad Yaghi from the University of Calgary, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, are studying boreal chorus frogs as indicators of urban wetland health. The team released boreal chorus frog tadpoles in cages at four wetlands in Calgary, two that are considered "healthy" and two that are considered "healthy with problems or unhealthy." The tadpoles are monitored for mortality, time to metamorphosis, body condition, and metals. Further, the team is studying endocrine disrupters that may be present in contaminated urban wetlands, affect predator avoidance behavior of tadpoles. Computerized tomography (CT) scans of tadpoles allow for analysis on a detailed visual of the tadpoles' organs and bones.

These research projects will provide important information to the Call of the Wetland's goal of providing the City of Calgary and Province of Alberta with the information and recommendations needed to better protect and manage our urban wetlands.