U-Links launches new Woodlands and Waterways EcoWatch program

By Mike Baker

U-Links Centre for Community Based Research is launching a new collaborative program to analyze the health of waterways and woodlands across Haliburton County.

Launched in conjunction with Trent University, Fleming College and local organizations such as the Haliburton County Development Corporation, the new Woodlands and Waterways EcoWatch initiative is a community-based environmental monitoring program. The initiative will utilize the resources and knowledge of students from Trent University and Fleming College to “assist community organizations [and] monitor the long-term health of the forests and lakes of Haliburton County and the surrounding region.”

The program is a further expansion of the Community Benthos Biomonitoring Pilot project that was initially launched in 2019. Over a two-year period, U-Links was able to study more than 11 lakes across the county, working with the likes of the Lake Kashagawigamog Organization, Gull Lake Property Owners’ Association, Kawagama Lake Cottagers’ Association and Halls and Hawk Lake Property Owners’ Association, and incorporating a framework for citizen science water monitoring and terrestrial biomonitoring.

“This initiative is invaluable and timely, as our lakes and forests continue to face ever-increasing pressures from climate change and development,” a recent U-Links press release states.

U-Links is one of the only rural independent community-based research centres in North America. The organization’s mandate centres on fulfilling community needs relating to scientific and environmental research.
U-Links staff helps organizations define their research questions, finds the students and faculty to undertake the research, facilitates the relationship between students and the host organizations, provides mentoring for the students and makes any research findings available to the public.

While this initiative is new in name, it’s a by-product of the successful pilot U-Links launched two years ago. Now, they need the community’s help to ensure it continues.

“Over the past two years, we have received in-kind and financial support to do the groundwork required to create this program and undertake the first two years of data collection and analysis,” U-Links say. “We need continued support from the community to support local research needs and to keep the Woodland and Waterways EcoWatch program running, and to help it grow.”

If you are involved with a lake association that would be interested in participating in benthos biomonitoring, contact program coordinator Brendan Martin at bmartin@ulinks.ca. If you are interested in supporting the program, contact U-Links’ administrative and logistics coordinator Daniela Pagliaro at admin@ulinks.ca.