Bringing STREAM to the House of Commons
On February 16, STREAM’s Scientific Leader, Dr. Mehrdad Hajibabaei addressed the House of Commons Standing Committee on Science and Research in a panel discussion about the role of citizen science in biodiversity research.
Dr. Hajibabaei was joined on the panel by STREAM’s partner organization, Living Lakes Canada. Executive Director, Kat Hartwig and Program Managers, Raegan Mallinson and Georgia Peck shared their perspectives on the importance of community-based initiatives in their programs at Living Lakes Canada.
STREAM’s efforts for freshwater biodiversity monitoring are deeply rooted in community-based science. The project’s unique methods combining community-based water monitoring with DNA metabarcoding technology is key to addressing the chronic lack of biomonitoring data and the country. Dr. Hajibabaei shared the impact of community on STREAM with federal politicians in Ottawa.
“We have engaged over 100 individuals from many communities, and they have collectively gathered over 1400 samples from 15 watersheds, nationally,” said Hajibabaei. This collective generation of knowledge helps us to sustain freshwater ecosystems, together.
Watch Dr. Hajibabaei’s segments in the recording from the House of Commons below:
Samples & Sequences
The lab team has been busy processing 2022 STREAM samples. This year, we have received over 200 samples from sites across Canada and have processed 150 of these samples to date.
Thank you to each community group that has participated in STREAM training and sampling in 2023! Reports will be released to community groups in early 2023.
The University of Guelph will be closed for the holidays from December 23, 2022 – January 3, 2023. As we move into the New Year, we look forward to continuing our collaborative work with you to monitor the status of freshwater health.
STREAM Over the Years
Ghost Watershed Alliance Society Film
One of our community partners, Ghost Watershed Alliance Society, began participating in the STREAM project in 2019. Based in the Ghost watershed, they have collected samples to assess the baseline health of the Bow River tributaries. Throughout their first field season this past fall, they created a video documenting their work, which you can watch below:
STREAM in the Media
On February 16, 2021, we published an online science communication piece in ‘The Conversation’ (Canada Edition). In this article, we discuss the STREAM project and how STREAM is being used to address data deficiencies and answer community-driven ecological questions across Canada. Read the article here.
Samples & Sequences
Since our last update, we have been busy processing 2019 STREAM samples and organizing delivery of 2020 samples. As of December 2020, we have sent a total of 30 STREAM reports back to community groups consisting of DNA data from samples collected across 242 sites from provinces including AB, BC, ON, NL, NB, QC and YT.
Despite limitations due to COVID-19, to date, we have received 229 STREAM samples for 2020 from 102 sites — this is an incredible effort considering training & sampling could not commence until the fall.
We will finish processing 2019 reports in the new year and work has already started to process 2020 samples. A huge thank you goes to our partners and the many community groups for their valuable time and efforts for what was a challenging 2020.
Delivery of 2020 STREAM samples. ©Mike Wright
STREAM Data is Flowing!
Since the Hajibabaei Lab reopened at the end of June, our lab manager has been working hard processing STREAM samples from 2019.
This week, we have sent out two STREAM reports to community groups and hope to have the majority of the remaining 2019 reports completed and sent out by the end of the year. If you are waiting for your STREAM DNA report, keep an eye on your email inbox over the next few weeks as we will be sending updates on when you will likely receive your report.
We thank our partners for their patience and support during these difficult times.
COVID-19 STREAM Update: Lab Re-opening
With this update, we bring some good news. The Hajibabaei Lab was granted permission to recommence laboratory processing, at a reduced staff capacity, from June 29, 2020. We currently have one person in the laboratory processing the remaining STREAM 2019 samples.
If you are planning on (and safely able to) conduct fieldwork in the meantime, we can still receive STREAM samples. Please get in touch for more information on shipping 2020 samples to temporary alternative shipping address.
COVID-19 STREAM Update
We hope you are well and staying safe amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the current situation, the University of Guelph is closed, meaning that the processing of STREAM samples has been put on hold temporarily.
The University of Guelph is actively monitoring the COVID-19 situation in consultation with Public Health and taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the U of G community. We hope to provide you with an update as soon as we have more information on when the lab will be open and running again.
Reminiscing about pre-COVID-19 life, we have put together a graphic to highlight the diversity of the people involved with the STREAM project. The graphic below represents the individuals who attended 2019 training sessions for STREAM. We are proud to be working with such a diversity of individuals from various backgrounds.
Springing into Action for 2020
With temperatures warming up and signs of life slowly returning to our watersheds, it is time to solidify plans for 2020 STREAM sampling.
Whilst we wait for spring to finally hit, freshwater specialist, Catherine Paquette from WWF-Canada has put together a map to highlight the 2019 coverage of STREAM training and sampling. The map showcases the sub-watersheds based within priority watersheds which have or will contribute samples for STREAM.
Living Lakes Canada are in the process of releasing 2020 training dates so keep an eye out on the STREAM website and the Living Lakes Canada site for more details.
Latest Issue of Water Canada
Water Canada is a magazine which features news pieces on issues and research in Canadian waters. The January/February issue features the work of Living Lakes Canada with Blueberry River First Nations (BRFN), regarding the partnership with the STREAM project.
To read this issue, click here.
Over 700 DNA samples were submitted to STREAM in 2019, ranging from watersheds in British Columbia to New Brunswick and beyond.
Sample processing is well under way, with nine DNA reports (~200 samples) already sent back to community groups before Christmas. Remaining samples are being processed but with 500 samples to get through, this process can take some time.
In the meantime, we have produced some word art (bigger the word = more common in samples) of the most common genera and species which appear in the 200 samples we have already processed.
We are working hard to generate the next set of results for STREAM and look forward to disseminating the results to community groups.
Spreading STREAM Success
Postdoc and project manager, Chloe Robinson attended the Latornell Symposium in Alliston, Ontario this week to present on the successes of year 1 for STREAM in the eDNA workshop.
It is always great to share good news, and having reached our target of 500 samples for year 1, this meeting was a fantastic opportunity to present some examples of our findings and further promote STREAM for 2020.
Through this meeting, we made two additional connections with potential community groups for 2020 and engaged ecological consultants with the concept of community-based DNA monitoring.
The meeting concluded with a productive discussion regarding approaches taken for DNA sampling, depending on habitat type and organisms(s) of interest.
We thank the Latornell organizing committee for hosting the eDNA workshop and for realizing the significance of STREAM for inclusion in the session.
And that's a wrap!
With year 1 of STREAM rapidly coming to an end, we thought we would provide an update on the samples we have received this year. To date, we have ~320 samples sent to the lab (see map below), with a further ~150 due to be shipped before the end of the year.
Samples have been sent in from a total of 15 different community groups/organisations from provinces ranging from British Columbia to Prince Edward Island, and we have also began to sample some of the trans-boundary watersheds in Yukon.
The lab is busy processing samples and producing the results for the STREAM reports, which will be circulated to community groups before Christmas. We are excited to generate the results and see feedback from the community groups in the upcoming months.
P.S. We are now on Instagram — you can follow STREAM at @STREAM_CBG to keep up with photos from the STREAM team of various aspects of training, sampling and analyses.
Samples Flooding in...
Our community groups have been working hard during summer and the start of fall collecting samples for STREAM. We are currently close to our target of 500 samples for our first year with more samples due to be collected before the winter. Results are starting to be collated into STREAM reports which will soon be released to corresponding groups, maintaining our 2 month window from sample submission to result generation.
CABIN training for 2019 has now come to an end. Dates for 2020 training courses will be released on the STREAM training page.
With the autumnal weather slowly turning Canada a lovely shade of orange, sampling kits will soon be hung up to dry for the winter, but not before a last push to collect more valuable STREAM samples.
STREAM training and sampling is currently in full swing across Canada, with samples arriving at the laboratory from British Columbia, Ontario, Québec and Alberta. From the current samples, we have managed to identify a wide variety of macroinvertebrates, including species within the traditional bioindicator orders Ephemeroptera (mayflies), Plecoptera (stoneflies), Trichoptera (caddisflies) and Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies).
We are currently working on producing our first version of the STREAM Report, which will include information on background of macroinvertebrate sampling, STREAM sampling protocol and key results from the DNA metabarcoding data.
To familiarize yourself with the DNA metabarcoding procedure, visit our Outreach page and take a look at the featured PDFs.
The CABIN certification as part of the STREAM project in Smithers, BC last week was a success! Representatives from 4 First Nations — Babine Lake Nation, Wet’suwet’en Nation, Gitanyow Nation and Gitxsan Nation as part of the Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI) were in attendance. Participants will work collaboratively with Living Lakes Canada to create biomonitoring study designs to answer land use questions related to stream health assessments. These Nations will collect benthic samples consisting of macroinvertebrates (bugs), which act as indicators of stream ecosystem health. To identify these bugs, the benthic samples will be analyzed using DNA metabarcoding by the University of Guelph.
Click here for more information on DNA metabarcoding and the STREAM project, or email Program Manager, Raegan Mallinson: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Selkirk College Training, B.C.
April 27-28 2019
With spring well and truly underway in Canada, it is the perfect time to start training budding citizen scientists for the 2019 STREAM sample collection.
At the end of April, Raegan Mallinson (Living Lakes Canada Operation Manager) visited a group of first year Selkirk College students, enrolled on the Integrated Environmental Planning Program, to train them how to collect benthos samples for DNA metabarcoding.
Raegan describes the success of the training in our latest blog post, which you can read here.
STREAM eDNA Workshop in Smithers, B.C.
March 28 2019
Members of the STREAM team were recently invited to present information on STREAM at a technical meeting in Smithers, BC. The drive behind this workshop was to showcase DNA metabarcoding and more specifically STREAM to First Nation and local community group representatives as a viable tool for ecosystem assessment of watersheds in BC and across Canada. We were hosted by Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) and joined by representatives from three Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI) First Nation groups as well as individuals from Morice Water Monitoring Trust and Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategies. The ESI is a new form of collaboration among the Province, First Nations and industry with the main goal being to develop a new, collaborative approach to establishing environmental legacies and to generate high quality, accessible and trusted environmental information.
Dr. Donald Baird kicked off the workshop with an informative presentation on DNA metabarcoding and its application in relation to assessing freshwater ecosystem health. Following this, Dr. Chloe Robinson presented the STREAM project, highlighting the goals, project timeline and how data produced will be accessible to stakeholders. After a productive Q&A session, training and protocols were discussed by STREAM project team members Raegan Mallinson (Living Lakes Canada) and Sheena Pappas (Environmental and Climate Change Canada) and we finished the meeting by discussing the launch of the STREAM website.
We are optimistic that the ESI will sign up to STREAM after hearing how the project can contribute towards their main goal and how the ecological questions community groups and First Nations have can be answered through using DNA metabarcoding in their local watershed.