Thursday, 16 August 2018

The Rise of Citizen Scientists

marmot


“My seven-year-old loved this [Sask Parks bioblitz].She logged 41 observations and loved getting feedback from people and learning what things were. Can’t wait to do this again next year!” (EcoFriendly Sask Twitter feed) 

Do you like to dig in the dirt or would you rather scan the sky for birds? Do you like solving puzzles on the computer or wonder what is happening in your backyard overnight? All these opportunities and more are available every day as the public is invited to assist scientists in collecting and processing data and working on conservation projects.

Eyes and Ears
For more than 25 years, observers have provided Plant Watch Alberta with over 55,000 records of when plants start to flower. Many of those volunteers have been involved for over 10 years providing valuable indicators of variations in the weather and the risk of early spring wildfires before the forests turn green.

In 2017, the Royal Saskatchewan Museum held one-day bioblitzes in Regina and Cypress Hills. With 665 observations of 239 different species, the Regina bioblitz provided baseline data on the species that inhabit the area. There were some exciting discoveries in Cypress Hills where volunteer plant experts identified a number of mosses and liverworts that were either new to Cypress Hills or new to Saskatchewan.

Very little is known about Calgary’s frogs, toads, and salamanders. Calgary residents enjoying a walk along the Rotary Mattamy Greenway can help by using a newly developed app, Call of the Wetland, to identify and report when they either hear or see one of these amphibians.

Citizen science projects recognize the value of local knowledge, which can supplement and guide scientific research. The LEO network in Alaska “is a network of local observers and topic experts who share knowledge about unusual animal, environment, and weather events.”

Northern Leopard frog

Practical Applications
Many citizen science projects have a practical purpose. Residents living near Heathrow Airport in London, England, installed devices in their homes and gardens to record noise and its impact on people and wildlife. The data was shared with local authorities and fed into the consultation process for a third runway.

Over 4500 wildlife observations in BC’s Crowsnest Pass are being used to build support for a wildlife corridor and will assist in planning a future highway expansion. A project tracking wildlife crossings and collisions along the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border hopes to reduce the number of animals killed on the roads in that area.

Biologists, agencies, and communities involved in Grupo Tortuguero not only collected data on local turtle populations but also assisted in establishing marine protected areas and sustainable fishing practices.

road through snowy trees

Remote Control
You don’t need to be physically present to help collect data. A University of Wisconsin biologist who tracks deer, bears, and other large animals distributed thousands of motion-sensitive cameras to teachers, students, landowners, and nature-lovers. "By working with citizen scientists who put out these cameras on their own private property, we're now able to characterize areas that we wouldn't otherwise be able to go into," he says.

Soundscapes to Landscapes is mapping bird diversity in Sonoma County, California. Volunteers distribute and collect sound recorders around the area. Experts then train computers to identify the different songs, whistles, and squeaks that have been recorded.

You can be a citizen scientist from the comfort of your own home. Calgary Captured is looking for volunteers to identify the animals in photos taken by motion-activated cameras in 12 city parks. Zooniverse labels itself as people-powered research and hosts a wide variety of projects – count cells in modern and fossil leaves, classify galaxies according to their shape, or transcribe natural history museum data to make it more accessible.

Muscles
Sometimes eyes and ears aren’t enough. Conservation organizations need your muscles. You can plant sagebrush to provide nesting cover and winter forage for greater-sage grouse at Grasslands National Park or work with scientists from Calgary Zoo on the Canadian Prairie Dog Ecosystem Research Project. Volunteers with the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan dig out invasive flowering rush, while conservation volunteers with the Nature Conservancy of Canada help tear down or repair fences, install bird boxes, and clean up shoreline debris. Volunteer gardeners are gathering every Thursday morning to whip the Native Plant Garden at Regina’s Royal Saskatchewan Museum back into shape.

Aspen grove and smooth brome

Personal Benefits
Volunteering your time to help with a science project can generate huge personal benefits. Meghan Mickelson participated in a bioblitz at Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Dundurn property earlier this year. She says, “There is magic in discovering a new area: you never know what is around each bend or behind each grove of trees. . . . I love exploring, taking photos of flowers, bugs and the land.”

Tony Iwane started contributing photographs to iNaturalist when he retired. He says, “There is no question that iNat has changed the way I interact with the natural world. I find that now instead of just assessing whether something is ‘pretty’ or not, I’m much more inclined to stop and watch. I have much more respect for the natural world…There is nothing scientific about what I do, I just have a love of nature which iNat has flamed into an obsession! I now get triple enjoyment from the things I see, firstly the sighting, then working through the photos, and finally, sharing the observation with people who are interested. I value the identifications, the information available, and the fact that in some small way I may be helping.”

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

EcoSask News, August 14, 2018

butterfly on flower

Upcoming Events
Plants for Pollinators, Aug. 18 (Saskatoon) 
Learn what to plant and how to maintain a pollinator garden from 1-3 pm, Aug. 18, at the Garden Patch.

Household Hazardous Waste Day, Aug. 18 (Saskatoon)
Dispose of household hazardous waste in Saskatoon from 8 am – 2:30 pm, Aug. 18.

Composting 101, Aug. 21 (Saskatoon) 
The Askiy Project is hosting a Composting 101 workshop from 6-7:30 pm, Aug. 21.

Into the Gyre, Aug. 22 (Saskatoon) 
Learn more about Ocean Bridge – YXE at a screening of Into the Gyre, a 44-minute documentary about an expedition to study the location, extent, and effect of plastic pollution in the North Atlantic Gyre.

Wandering to Find Warblers, Aug. 25 (Regina) 
Join Nature Regina as they look for warblers and other birds in Wascana Park from 9 am to noon, Aug. 25.

How to Build an Insect Hotel, Aug. 25 (Saskatoon) 
The Garden Patch is hosting a kid-friendly workshop on building an insect hotel from 3-5 pm, Aug. 25.

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips
Saskatoon Young Naturalists 
Oct.11, 7-9:30 pm – Saw-whet Owl Field Trip
Nov. 3, 1-2:30 pm – Bird Feeder Workshop
Space is limited; register early to avoid disappointment.

Golden Eagles 
Aug. 16, 8 am – North Saskatchewan River Property at Maymont
Aug. 23, 8 am – Redberry Lake
Aug. 30, 8 am – Stuglin’s at Pike Lake
Retirees and partners who are interested in birds and the natural world are invited to participate.

Other Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
Aug. 18, 1:30-3:30 pm – Sheep at NE Swale
Aug. 25, 9-11:30 am – Factoria Warbler Walk
Sept. 2, 8:45-10:30 am – Warbler Walk at Forestry Farm
Sept. 8, all day – Fall Bird Count
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

butterfly on flower

In the News
Animals face new challenges with habitat fragmentation as they escape humans by becoming increasingly nocturnal

Repair cafes in the United States and some tips on how to get one started

A Toronto food court has eliminated 117 bags of garbage a day

Shipments of natural gas from northeast BC are heading to the Alberta oilsands and further east 

Finding and creating beauty in a broken world - an interview with Terry Tempest Williams

From devils to super-heroes - our complicated relationship with bats [book review]

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

EcoSask News, August 7, 2018

Jackrabbit (juvenile?)

Upcoming Events
Wild Wednesdays, Aug. 8 & 15 (Esterhazy)
Kids can learn about different animals and birds at Jean Pask Library, Esterhazy, from 1-2 pm, Aug. 8 and 15.

Nature for Kids, Aug. 9 (Yorkton) 
Kids are invited to come and learn about Saskatchewan’s owls from 2-3 pm, Aug. 9, at the Yorkton Public Library.

Meeting the 1.5 Degree Climate Target, Aug. 14 (Regina)
Regina Public Interest Group is hosting Dr. Charlie Wilson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (UK) who will discuss transforming energy demand to meet the 1.5°C climate target and sustainable development goals from 11-noon in ED Building 114, University of Regina.

Family Paddle, Aug. 17 (Regina)
SaskOutdoors and Fresh Air Experience are hosting a family paddle from 2-5 pm, Aug. 17.

U of S Lunch & Learn Series, Aug. 17 (Saskatoon)
Join the U of S Office of Sustainability from 12-1 pm, every third Friday of the month, for presentations and discussions on sustainability.

U of S The Fix, Aug. 17 (Saskatoon)
Join the U of S Office of Sustainability and university sustainability professionals over a pint at 5 pm, every third Friday of the month, to fix some of sustainability’s most complicated issues.

jackrabbit

Looking Ahead
Wascana Junior Naturalist, Sept.-Dec. (Regina)
Sign up kids ages 9-13 for the Wascana Junior Naturalist program on Tuesdays 6-8 pm: Sept. 18; Oct. 2, 16, 30; Nov. 13, 27; and Dec. 4.

Nature Saskatchewan Fall Meet, Sept. 14-16 (Swift Current)
Nature Saskatchewan is holding their fall meet in Swift Current from Sept. 14-16. There will be a presentation by Graham Saul, Executive Director, Nature Canada, and Branimir Gjetvaj and Trevor Herriot will present their book, Islands of Grass.

Conservation Marketing & Engagement Congress, Oct. 25-27 (Arlington, VA)
This sounds amazing - the first international Conservation Marketing & Engagement Congress.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In the News
3 steps towards clean energy in Canada.

Our individual purchasing choices do matter: Stop buying crap and companies will stop making it.

"Traditional economics has forgotten that our economies should have a purpose: they should deliver greater well-being, increasing prosperity, improved security and comfort, without imperiling the things that make life worth living. If all government decisions are made on purely financial terms, then ultimately those decisions will benefit finance and capital at the expense of people and nature."

Can mining social media help conservationists determine areas where wildlife faces extra stress from tourists?

Tracking wildlife with cameras not collars is cheaper and less invasive.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

EcoSask News, July 31, 2018

butterfly on flower

Upcoming Events
Earth Overshoot Day, Aug. 1 (Saskatoon) 
There will be information and conversation about Earth Overshoot Day from 2-3:30 pm, Aug. 1, at Turning the Tide Bookstore.

Prairies & Petroglyphs, Aug. 12 (St. Victor) 
Join the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan for a tour of St. Victor Petroglyphs Provincial Park from 3-7 pm, Aug. 12.

SODCAP AGM, Aug. 15 (Val Marie) 
South of the Divide Conservation Action Plan is holding its AGM from 1-7 pm, Aug. 15, in Val Marie.

Looking Ahead 
Green Economics, Sept. 20-21 (Calgary) 
The Sustainability Network is offering an intensive training in green economics for non-economists Sept. 20-21 in Calgary.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In the News 
Congratulations to individuals and organizations who received 2017 waste minimization awards from the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council

Salt water, old leaking wells and aging oil industry infrastructure could be serious problems in future

Wildlife needs infrastructure too - wildlife bridges + tunnels around the world 

Wild summer reading for kids

It’s time we reclaim our cities from car storage [parking] and use the space for what we need more of, from housing and bike lanes to sidewalk cafes and parks

Zero-waste camping tips

Zero footprints - photographers exploring climate change 

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

EcoSask News, July 24, 2018

stonecrop

Upcoming Events
Mending Meet Up, July 28 (Saskatoon)
Library of Things is holding a Mending Meet Up from 1-4 pm, July 28.

Northern Leopard Frog Project, July 31 (webinar)
Kimberly Pearson will discuss the northern leopard frog project in Waterton Lakes and Grasslands National Parks in a noon-hour webinar on July 31.

Free to be Me Animal Sanctuary, Aug. 1 (Moose Jaw)
Kids ages 6-10 are invited to join the Moose Jaw Public Library’s trip to Free to be Me Animal Sanctuary from 2-4 pm, Aug. 1.

Beyond the Big Dipper, Aug. 11 (Grasslands National Park)
View the stars and learn more about them from Royal Astronomical Society volunteers at Grasslands National Park on Aug. 11.

Looking Ahead
Conservation Expo, Sept. 6 (Regina)
The Saskatchewan chapter of The Wildlife Society is holding a conservation expo and networking event on Sept. 6 in Regina. Poster presentation title submissions must be sent in by Aug. 15.

Building Enclosures for High Performance Buildings, Nov. 15 (Saskatoon)
Building Enclosures for High Performance Buildings is a one-day course being offered by Passive House Canada in Saskatoon on Nov. 15.

Nature Conservancy Volunteer Opportunities
Help the Nature Conservancy of Canada maintain their properties by volunteering at one of their August events.

Aug. 11Campout for Conservation at Old Man on His Back – Clean up the bison handling facilities, repair fences, and build, repair, and install Ferruginous Hawk nest platforms.

Aug. 25Keeping it Clean at Shoe Lake – Remove shoreline debris from the Shoe Lake saline marsh.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar

In the News
Wascana Solar Co-operative and the Regina Catholic School Division are in talks about a joint project that would see solar panels put on the roof of Miller Comprehensive Catholic High School.

Thoughtful recommendations from the Saskatchewan Environmental Society on addressing climate change.

Farmers are very concerned about damage to their land following Husky’s salt water leak.

The United Church of Canada plans to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. The initial focus is on energy efficiency and building retrofits. [video]

When we subsidize roads . . . make it impossible to live without a car, we send people strong signals to buy and own cars, and to drive... a lot.

Wide arterial roads designed for heavy traffic usage (such as 22nd Street in Saskatoon) don't have to be death traps for pedestrians.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Prairie Beauty: NCC's Dundurn Property

Harebell

As we bump our way down a leafy lane, a white-tailed deer pokes its head out to see who’s come to visit. Verity Moore-Wright, Acting Director of Development, and Ryan Dudragne, Conservation Science Co-ordinator – LIS, have invited us (Andrew and Penny McKinlay) to join them on a hike around one of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s newest properties near Dundurn.

Rolling hills – stabilized sand dunes – stretch out to a clear blue sky. A red-tailed hawk soars overhead and there are treasures to be found at our feet. A patch of wild bergamot is flowering near the entrance to the property attracting long-tongued bees, bee flies, butterflies, and moths. Wasps may steal the nectar by drilling a hole in the nectar tubes.

Bergamot

We’re delighted to spot a hunch-backed Mormon cricket. It’s not a cricket at all but a shield-backed katydid. Although they have no wings, they can travel up to 2 km a day when they’re swarming, heading out in the thousands to find food.

Mormon cricket

There are plenty of other grasshoppers and katydids. We tend to think of grasshoppers as pests, but only a few of them destroy crops. There is such variety in their sizes, colors, and patterns.

grasshoppers

We weren't initially able to identify the following insect, but, with help from iNaturalist, we now know it's a Broad-winged Bush Katydid (scudderia pistillata) late instar nymph.

insect on wild rose

We need to watch where we step as there are plenty of cactus – both pincushion and prickly pear.

Prickly-pear cactus

pincushion cactus

The rush skeleton plant, with next to no leaves, is another plant that can tolerate dry conditions.

Rush skeleton plant

The red-blue checkered beetle stands out against the goldenrod’s bright yellow flowers. Pollen will stick to the long hairs on its body and legs and be passed along to other plants.

Red-blue checkered beetle on low goldenrod

A flycatcher keeps a close eye on us as we pass by, but many of the site’s inhabitants are harder to spot. They do, however, leave us clues – moose poop (these guys are part of Ryan Brook’s Saskatchewan Farmland Moose Project), a freshly dug badger hole, heaps of loose dirt left behind by pocket gophers. If you look really closely at the loose dirt, you’ll spot small round holes indicating the homes of tiger beetles. Ryan describes them as predatory bullies, dragging other insects into their hole or chasing them down.

Alder Flycatcher (?)

We’re hot and hungry after a long walk around the property but very grateful to Nature Conservancy of Canada for inviting us out to see the site and for the important work they do in protecting natural areas and maintaining biodiversity. And a special thank you to Ryan who was so helpful in identifying all the fascinating species we were fortunate enough to spot.

For more information about the Dundurn site and the work of the Nature Conservancy, take a look at the article we posted in May.

bee on purple prairie clover

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

EcoSask News, July 17, 2018

adult and young sparrow

Upcoming Events
Native Species Plant Garden, Thursdays (Regina)
A group of Nature Regina members are renewing the Native Species Plant Garden at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum and would appreciate help any Thursday morning between 8:30 am and noon until the end of September.

Metamorphosis, July 13-19 (Regina/Saskatoon) 
Metamorphosis, a film about how humanity is being transformed in new ways by the environmental crises we have created, is showing in Regina and Saskatoon from July 13-19.

SK Parks Virtual Bioblitz, July 15-21 
If you’re visiting a Saskatchewan park between July 15 and 21, be sure to take part in the virtual bioblitz.

The Amazing World of Falconry, July 22 (Saskatoon) 
Meet Lynn Oliphant’s peregrine falcons on July 22. Meet at Wild Birds Unlimited at 6:30 pm.

Amazing Facts about Animals, July 25 (Saskatoon) 
Sally Meadows will launch her new book, When Sleeping Birds Fly: 365 Amazing Facts about the Animal Kingdom at a come-and-go event at Wild Birds Unlimited from 6-8 pm, July 25. There will be hands-on activities for kids.

Looking Ahead
Boreal Forest Eco Kids Camp, Aug. 6-10 (Ness Creek) 
Camp at Ness Creek from Aug. 6-10 and your kids can take part in a boreal forest eco camp.

Summer Star Party, Aug. 8-13 (Cypress Hills Inter-Provincial Park) 
The Regina and Saskatoon Centres of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada present their annual Summer Star Party in Cypress Hills Inter-Provincial Park, Aug. 8-13.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

mallards and ducklings

In the News
The Last Mountain Lake Stewardship Group and SAWS have prepared a series of information sheets regarding the Quill Lakes drainage issue

A University of Saskatchewan professor has received a grant to test green roofs designed for cold regions

Help shape the future of Canada’s forests by responding to the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers’ survey. CPAWS is urging the ministers to adopt a bolder vision that recognizes the health of the ecosystem as a priority above all else

Nature Canada is offering to help nature/conservation groups with their public engagement

Research shows that predator removal is an ineffective and costly approach to conflict prevention and resolution [podcast]

The Norwegian government places an environmental tax on all producers of plastic bottles. The more they recycle, the more that tax is reduced

A single cigarette filter can contaminate hundreds of litres of water because of the chemical substances it contains and can take more than a decade to decompose

People are so annoying that animals are becoming more nocturnal

Bird diversity has already doubled as Madrid launches a strategic plan for biodiversity

Recycling plastic is to saving the Earth what hammering a nail is to halting a falling skyscraper

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

EcoSask News, July 10, 2018

solitary male pronghorn

Upcoming Events
Household Hazardous Waste Day, July 14 (Saskatoon)
You can dispose of household hazardous waste in Saskatoon from 8 am-2:30 pm, July 14.

Go! Science, July 19 (Swift Current)
Kids in grades 1-6 are invited to attend interactive science activities presented by the Saskatchewan Science Centre from 1-4 pm, July 19, at the Swift Current Branch Library.

U of S Lunch & Learn Series, July 20 (Saskatoon)
Join the U of S Office of Sustainability from 12-1 pm, every third Friday of the month, for presentations and discussions on sustainability.

U of S The Fix, July 20 (Saskatoon)
Join the U of S Office of Sustainability and university sustainability professionals over a pint at 5 pm, every third Friday of the month, to fix some of sustainability’s most complicated issues.

Healthy Planet, Healthy Life, July 23-27 (Regina)
Kids ages 5-12 are invited to discover the technology scientists use to measure changes to the environment at the July 23-27 Regina Public Library program presented by the Saskatchewan Science Centre.

Looking Ahead
The Dammed Rivers, Oct. 1-3 (Saskatoon)
Partners FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin in collaboration with the Canadian Water Resources Association will hold their annual conference Oct. 1-3 in Saskatoon. The conference will bring together experts from many fields related to the existence of dams. Early bird registration until Aug. 31.

Environmental Law Toolkit Workshop, Oct. 2 (Toronto)
The Sustainability Network is offering a 1-day workshop on Oct. 2 in Toronto on the legal tools available to protect our air, water, land, and human health.

pronghorn and fawn

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips
Golden Eagles
July 19, 8 am – Gabriel Dumont Park
Aug. 9, 8 am – Shorebirds and Early Migration
Retirees and partners who are interested in birds and the natural world are invited to participate.

Other Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
July 14, 10 am-1 pm – Botany Trip to Beaver Creek Conservation Area
July 22, 1:30-4:30 pm – Dragonfly Field Trip
July 28, 9 am-12 noon – Shorebird Driving Trip
Aug. 11, 8:15 am – Douglas Park Sand Dunes Hike
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In the News
Nature Conservancy of Canada has purchased 335 acres of native grasslands and natural wetlands in the Upper Qu’Appelle Natural Area close to Craven. The Natural Area is home to a number of species at risk, included Sprague’s Pipit, Chestnut-collared Longspur, and Baird’s Sparrow.

Lead poisoning from fishing tackle kills loons.

5 tips for having fun birding with kids.

Want to live a more sustainable life? Individual choice isn’t enough - you have to change the system.

What trash on Everest can teach us about tackling problem waste.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Every One of Us Can be an Eco-Warrior


“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver 

Do you know an eco-warrior – someone who is putting energy and determination into protecting and preserving our natural environment? EcoFriendly Sask has the privilege of not only meeting some of Saskatchewan’s eco-warriors but of helping them out financially. They may not get their picture in the paper, but in so many different ways they are working to make this world a better place for all of us.

From January to June 2018, we distributed EcoFriendly Action Grants worth over $23,000 to 34 different groups. Here is just a sampling to demonstrate the groups' initiative, enthusiasm, and commitment.

Digging in the Dirt
The Grade 5/6 class at Englefeld School researched native trees and shrubs with fruits and berries for the birds to enjoy, voted for their favourites, and planted them in a future off-leash dog park. They planted mountain ash, wild rose, hazelnut, burning bush, gooseberry pixels, highbush cranberry, honeysuckle, elm, maple, scotch pine, spruce, birch, flat-needled spruce, and false sunflowers, attaching tags with the tree’s name and some fun facts.


20 children and 13 parents celebrated Earth Day at Redvers Public Library. They planted and learned how to take care of a flower pot and then listened to stories about bees and how to protect them.


Political Advocacy 
Stand Up for Meewasin organized a social media campaign prior to the last provincial budget to promote continued provincial funding for Meewasin Valley Authority.


Climate Justice Saskatoon is interviewing residents of coal-mining communities and preparing videos to share what they’ve learned about the social and political barriers to transitioning to renewable energy.

Less Waste – More Worms 
Kiskahikan School, Weyakwin, has purchased reusable cups, dishes, and cutlery to replace the disposable ones that were creating waste in the landfill.


The Grade 6 class at Minahik Waskahigan High School, Pinehouse Lake, spent several months learning how to compost and recycle. Worm composting was a huge success: “at some point all the students were engaged with them and we spent a lot of time examining them and how they were decomposing the food. We weren't able to get a lot of food from our classroom snacks so students would bring in food from home. I also heard from parents that students had started to talk about recycling and composting at home.” Recycling was trickier as Pinehouse Lake doesn’t have a community-wide recycling program. Every week the students filled multiple garbage bags with materials that would otherwise be sent to the dump, stored them in the classroom bathroom, and the teacher would fill up her car and take them with her when she visited Saskatoon.


Food Renew is working with local food businesses in Saskatoon to save and renew food that would otherwise be wasted and thrown away. The rescued food will be collected by volunteers and delivered to community groups and organizations who need it the most.


Organizational Support 
A crew of volunteers helped Nature Saskatchewan reshingle the monitoring station at the Last Mountain Bird Observatory – and EcoFriendly Sask helped purchase the shingles.


Every year NatureCity Festival invites the whole community to get outside and grow a little wild. Over 3,000 participants took part in over 60 events in 2018. EcoFriendly Sask is proud to have sponsored this event since its inception.


Tuesday, 3 July 2018

EcoSask News, July 3, 2018

Swainson's hawk

Blue Hill Wind Energy Project, July 10
Nature Regina is urging concerned citizens to contact the Ministry of Environment by July 10 to raise concerns about the siting of the Blue Hill Wind Energy Project. According to Nature Regina, the site chosen is in a major migration corridor close to Chaplin Lake and over 200 bird species have been sighted in this nesting and staging area.

Email, write, or call (deadline July 10, 2018): Aimann Sadik, Senior Environmental Assessment Administrator, Environmental Assessment and Stewardship Branch, Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment, 3211 Albert Street, Regina, SK S4S 5W6 Phone: (306) 787-7706 Fax: 306 787 0930 Email: environmental.assessment@gov.sk.ca

Upcoming Events 
Invasive Plants: The Urban/Rural Interface, July 5 (Saskatoon) 
Learn about invasive plants while visiting 5 Meewasin-managed properties from 6:30-9:30 pm, July 5.

Garden Patch Bioblitz, July 11 (Saskatoon) 
The Saskatoon Nature Society and the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre are hosting a bioblitz at the Garden Patch from 6-8 pm, July 11.

Nocturnal Birds, July 12 (Saskatoon) 
Lyndon Penner will talk about birds that live in the dark at 7 pm, July 12, at Wild Birds Unlimited.

Bat Chat & Bat House Build, July 14 (Redberry Lake) 
Join Melanie Elliot, Batrick, and Elizabat to chat about bats, make a bat house, and look for bats in the park on July 14 at Redberry Lake Regional Park.

Geeking Out, July 14 (Prince Albert)
Kids from grades K-6 are invited to attend interactive science activities presented by the Saskatchewan Science Centre from 9-12 am, July 14, at the John M. Cuelenaere Library.

Summer Plant Walk, July 14 (Regina)
Edible Landscapes Permaculture Design is hosting a walk on July 14 to learn about local wild edible and medicinal plants in the Regina area.

Swainson's hawk

Looking Ahead
Waste Reduction Workshops 
Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council will be holding the following workshops:
Weyburn – Oct. 30
Prince Albert – Nov. 6
Kindersley – Nov. 14
Humboldt – Nov. 21

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In the News 
Economists question Saskatchewan’s government-funded anti-carbon tax study

In considering oilsands projects, First Nations face impossible choices: “They are saying in order for you to survive in the economic system we have imposed on you, you have to join us”

Biological poverty - Why we need cities where you can take your shoes off and reconnect with the ground [book review]

Red wiggler worms could make stinky outhouses a thing of the past

Resurgence Voices - podcasts from The Resurgence Trust on ethical living, ecoactivism, and the arts

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

EcoSask News, June 26, 2018

Red fox
What a fabulous tail!

Upcoming Events 
Repair Café Prince Albert, July 7 (Prince Albert) 
Share and learn skills to fix personal and household items at Repair Café Prince Albert from 1-4 pm, July 7.

Hort Week, July 7-13 (Saskatoon) 
Take in talks and workshops on insects, weeds, alternatives to pesticides, composting, and more during Hort Week, July 7-13, at the University of Saskatchewan.

Go! Science, July 10 (North Battleford) 
Kids in grades 1-6 are invited to attend interactive science activities presented by the Saskatchewan Science Centre from 1-4 pm, July 10, at the North Battleford Library.

Looking Ahead 
Beyond the Big Dipper, July 14 (Grasslands National Park) 
View the stars and learn more about them from Royal Astronomical Society volunteers at Grasslands National Park on July 14 and Aug. 11.

Cypress Hills Photography Workshop, Sept. 21-23 (Cypress Hills) 
Join Branimir Gjetvaj for a photography workshop in the Cypress Hills, Sept. 21-23.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In the News 
Tracking wildlife roadkills can confirm the need for wildlife crossings. The Northeast Swale Watchers are looking for citizen scientists to track roadkills in and around Saskatoon’s Northeast Swale. What other areas could benefit from a similar project?

The oil and gas industry’s methane pollution makes it as harmful to the climate as coal burning's carbon dioxide pollution.

An Ontario First Nation is launching an electric school bus.

Varennes, Quebec’s, new public library is net zero energy.

Over 50% of new cars in Norway are electric slowing demand for petroleum.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner). 

Red fox
Look at those legs!

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Noise Pollution

Kelowna Japanese Garden

“Next time you go for a walk in the woods, pay attention to the sounds you hear – the flow of a river, wind through the trees, singing birds, bugling elk. These acoustic resources are just as magnificent as visual ones, and deserve our protection” (Rachel Buxton, Colorado State University)

Listen – what do you hear – a baby crying, a motorcycle roaring, a siren, footsteps, a refrigerator humming? Animals developed ears before vocal cords and “hearing is far more universal than vision.” Noise alerts us to danger, helps us to communicate with each other, and provides pleasure. It’s vitally important for all living beings and yet we’ve taken it too far. One in four adults in the United States show signs of noise-induced hearing loss and noise pollution is causing stress and damaging the health and well-being of humans and animals.

Our ears are exceptionally sensitive. Microscopic hairs detect vibrations and relay sound to the brain. But if the sounds are too loud, the hairs can bend or break and can never be repaired. Humans can tolerate noise up to 85 decibels (vacuum cleaner 81.1-94.5, weed whacker 94-96) without damage, but anything over 65 decibels (city street corner 70, office noise 70) affects blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones in the blood. It’s important to also take into account intensity (loudness), frequency (pitch), and duration.

in taxi in traffic

Let’s take traffic noise as just one example of the health problems caused by noise pollution. The risk of heart disease is 20% higher if you live on a noisy street, and 50,000 people in the European Union die prematurely from heart attacks caused by traffic noise. You may think you’re getting used to the noise, but that doesn’t change your risk of a heart attack. Often ignored but equally unhealthy is in-vehicle noise pollution experienced daily by commuters, often for extended lengths of time.

The sounds we aren’t even aware of may affect us the most. Our ears are processing background noises while we sleep. “Even if you don’t wake up, it appears that continual noise sets off the body’s acute stress response. . . . It is this response that can lead to cardiovascular disease and other health issues.”

It’s not just humans that are affected by noise pollution. From spiders and grasshoppers to birds, prairie dogs, and whales, all living beings are suffering from an excess of man-made noise. Animals use sound to avoid predators, find food or mates, and maintain social relationships. Loud noises can scare animals off their territory, but even low-level noise has a significant impact. European robins have learned to time their singing to correspond to quieter times of the day, while great tits have changed the frequency of their call so it can be heard over low-frequency urban noise. Frogs change their pitch. This helps the animals to make themselves heard, but it may make them less desirable to mates who are judging their virility based on their call’s pitch or complexity.

frog

Background noise may stop baby birds from picking up on auditory cues to sit up and beg when their parents approach with food or crouch down and hide when predators appear. Prairie dogs spend less time looking for food and more time checking for danger when they’re in a noisy environment, and bats, who rely on sound to detect prey, may struggle to find food.

A study in New Mexico found that natural gas compressor sites had far fewer insects than sites without compressors. The number of wolf spiders, who rely on vibrations to detect prey, decreased by 44% for every 10-decibel increase in sound. Even animals that choose to remain in a noisy area may be suffering: “Many animals are living on the knife edge of an energy budget, particularly small animals who work to get enough food and not be eaten . . . . Seemingly small perturbations might just shift things in one direction and could put them on the wrong side of this knife edge."

We may think of oceans as a silent environment, but that’s not the case. Ship noise makes it hard for animals to communicate and to distinguish natural sounds from ship noises. This results in accidental collisions, a significant cause of death for right whales. The oil and gas industry uses very loud pulses of sound to detect oil or natural gas, and these can chase animals away from the area. Pulses of high frequency sound from military sonar are so powerful that “whole groups of whales and dolphins can beach themselves to escape the auditory assault. They can also disrupt communication and feeding behaviours and cause temporary hearing loss and permanent tissue damage.”

Parks and wildlife areas aren’t immune from noise pollution. A study of 492 protected areas in the US found that “human-caused noise pollution was twice as loud as natural sounds in 63 percent of the areas surveyed — in 21 percent of the areas, some of which were home to endangered species, it was ten times as loud.” The noise can have a major impact on the ecosystem as a whole. If it scares away large predators, the population of smaller prey will increase. If it results in less birds and pollinators, there will be fewer plants and without plant shelter the insect population will decline.

gardens & highrises

Addressing the Problem
There are many solutions to noise pollution. We tend to address the problem on a case-by-case basis – a neighbour’s leaf blower or nearby road construction, but that may not be the best approach. “Targeting the noise of individuals is ineffective, antisocial, and fails to eradicate the noise that really hurts people: environmental noise. Solutions to that problem must be systemic, requiring a large-scale, collective response across many different targets.” For example, Germany has banned lawn-mowing on Sundays, and the European Union has placed noise restrictions on household appliances, such as dishwashers and refrigerators. A return to low-tech tools, such as brooms, can significantly reduce noise levels. Bike lanes and rapid transit reduce traffic noise as do different types of road surfaces.

Limiting use of motorized boats and other recreational vehicles in wildlife areas and encouraging canoeing and hiking will protect wildlife. Shuttle services in popular parks will cut back on vehicle traffic, and noise can be confined to specific corridors by restricting aircraft to routes over roads. Quiet areas off the major coastal shipping routes could be set aside as wildlife refuges. Sound-reduction methods (sound barrier walls, mufflers, submersed oil pumps) on drill sites could reduce stress in birds.

Bison

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

EcoSask News, June 19, 2018

Red-spotted Admiral

Upcoming Events
Household Hazardous Waste Day, June 22 (Regina) 
City of Regina is holding Household Hazardous Waste Days on June 22 (4-7 pm) and June 23 (9 am-3:45 pm).

YXE Solar Power Plant, June 26 (Saskatoon) 
Find out more about a proposed solar power plant in Saskatoon from 6:30-7:30 pm, June 26.

Bicycle Tune-Up Workshop, June 28 (Saskatoon) 
Bridge City Bicycle Co-op is hosting an Intro Bicycle Tune-up Workshop from 6:30-8 pm, June 28.

24 Hours of Science, June 29/30 (Regina) 
Buy your ticket for the Science Centre Sleepover, June 29-30, with new activities every hour.

Looking Ahead
Nature Conservancy Volunteer Opportunities, July
Help the Nature Conservancy of Canada maintain their properties by volunteering at one of their summer events.
July 7Maymont Clean-up Crew – Clean up old fencing and garbage at Maymont
July 14Here Comes the Burdock Brigade – Help remove burdock at Fairy Hill

Wild Roots: A Summer Camp for Girls, July 30-Aug 3 (Saskatoon) 
SaskOutdoors and Wildernook Fresh Air Learning are offering a camp for 9-11 year-old girls who would like to spend more time outdoors from July 30 to Aug. 3.

Greater Short Horned Lizard Monitoring, August (Grasslands National Park) 
Volunteers are invited to look for Greater Short Horned Lizards and identify areas of invasive plants at Grasslands National Park in August.

Connecting Kids with Nature, Aug. 14-16 (North Battleford) 
Learn to adapt the school curriculum to outdoor learning at a 2-day camp with SaskOutdoors, Aug. 14-16.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar

In the News
Wascana Solar Co-operative says the time is now for solar power in Saskatchewan.

It’s time to protect the wilderness in Canada’s national parks.

Sharing our cities with urban wildlife - lessons from the skyscraper-scaling raccoon.

The pipeline project we're not discussing - Line 3 crosses Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The Transition to Renewable Energy in Saskatchewan

Columbia River wind farm

The University of Saskatchewan, in collaboration with World Wildlife Fund Canada, hosted two renewable energy panel discussions on May 28, 2018. The following article summarizes some of the key points raised by presenters.

Meeting Saskatchewan’s Long-term Energy Needs
Douglas Opseth, Director of Generation Asset Management and Resource Planning at SaskPower, started off the morning’s discussion by outlining the challenges the company faces in meeting Saskatchewan’s long-term energy needs. There is a growing demand for electricity; however, Saskatchewan’s coal and natural gas plants and wind farms are aging and SaskPower is spending a lot on maintenance and building new facilities. The company plans to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030 with 50% renewables (30% wind, 15% hydro, 5% solar and biomass), but the other half of the mix is more uncertain. SaskPower would like to continue using coal, which is available in province. It’s still unclear whether this will be allowed under federal regulations. Natural gas is a good fit with renewables as it’s flexible; however, there are concerns about a sufficient supply if everyone switches to natural gas and/or if there is increased concern about fracking.

Guy Lonechild, CEO, First Nations Power Authority, pointed out that many First Nations communities have no reliable source of power and continue to use diesel. Opseth explained that the northern transmission line is completely separate and is only connected to the south through Manitoba. It is a long line over rough terrain and experiences a great many lightning strikes. In addition, northern residents are more vulnerable to power outages as the majority heat their homes with electricity.

Solar Reserve

Lonechild would like to see the Small Producers program expanded to 1 megawatt as this could help relieve power fluctuations in many communities. He sees lots of opportunity for geothermal, which is expensive but could also supply heat and be used in conjunction with greenhouses. Lonechild views partnerships on renewable energy projects as a valuable opportunity for First Nations people to obtain education, training, and jobs. He pointed to SIGA’s success, identifying renewable energy as a new opportunity for Saskatchewan’s Indigenous people to be involved in the provincial economy. Lonechild also raised the possibility of increased self-government that would include environmental assessments and monitoring, wildlife management, and community energy. In closing, Lonechild emphasized bold thinking as we look to 2050 and beyond. He stated that Saskatchewan was a pioneer in carbon capture: why not look at battery storage?

Lonechild’s interest in community energy planning was shared by Ray Orb, President, Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities. Orb stated that rural residents recognize the climate is changing but are strongly opposed to wind farms. People on acreages moved to the country to enjoy the wide-open prairie view and don’t want to live across from a wind farm. There is more support for solar farms on wasteland and SARM has identified an opportunity for rural municipalities, such as Corman Park, to provide power to nearby cities. Orb also suggested looking at new hydro projects with their spin-off benefits of irrigation, drinking water, recreation, and flood mitigation.

Opseth explained that renewables present new challenges. SaskPower currently has full control over power generation. They’ll lose that control as they introduce variable energy sources such as wind and solar. This is particularly challenging in Saskatchewan which has a very flat load demand as most electricity is sold to commercial customers that operate 24/7 (as opposed to a more residential region where there are peaks at different times of the day). SaskPower was set up to be the province’s sole energy provider. Individuals and groups are now introducing self-generation; however, they all want SaskPower as a backup.

A member of the audience emphasized the need for increased efficiency and energy conservation. Opseth noted that Saskatchewan has more transmission lines than anywhere else in North America. SaskPower is looking at ways to reduce losses that are inherent in moving energy over large distances to a dispersed population. One option is greater regional production. The company is also doing more work with industrial customers to enhance efficiency and energy conservation.

Sandhill cranes

Habitat-Friendly Renewable Energy
The goal of World Wildlife Fund Canada is to work with key partners in all sectors to advance science-based, solutions-oriented approaches to conservation problems. The organization recognizes that a large-scale transition to renewable energy will require new uses of landscapes and seascapes and have started developing a tool that maps both sustainable energy potential and areas with significant conservation value. The tool isn’t intended to bypass the regulatory process but is instead a broad brushstrokes approach to identifying potential sites, saving time and money by avoiding conflict with community and wildlife interests and enabling developers, governments, and communities to make better and faster decisions.

The tool was initially developed for New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy and is now being rolled out to Alberta and Saskatchewan. Using a high conservation value framework (previously used by the Forest Stewardship Council), the tool maps species diversity, ecosystems, threatened habitats, ecosystem services, community and cultural values. It combines regulated (Saskatchewan’s wind directive, Alberta’s solar directive, historic sites) and non-regulated elements (important bird areas, endangered species, intact forests, potential for agriculture) with additional factors such as wind speed, hours of sunlight, distance from transmission lines. The focus in Alberta and Saskatchewan is on identifying opportunities for large-scale wind and solar farms.

The World Wildlife Fund is looking for partners, such as the University of Saskatchewan, to help them enhance the tool. For example, the community and cultural values need to be strengthened and they see potential for enhancing the tool’s predictive value based on past projects and shifting land use.

Photos: Esmeralda, Nevada, Solar Reserve; Columbia River Wind Farm