Monitoring Moves Indoors for the Winter

Person looking at computer screen

Staff who work on our Integrated Watershed Monitoring Program (IWMP) are often asked: What do you do in the winter?

Through our Integrated Watershed Monitoring Program (IWMP), we study the living and non-living features in groundwater, streams, forests and wetlands. This long-term monitoring helps us understand how healthy the Credit River Watershed is and whether conditions are changing over time.

Whether the task is identifying plant species, collecting groundwater samples, or measuring stream temperature, you might be surprised to learn we are busy year-round.  After all, ecological monitoring doesn’t end when we pack up the van after a warm sunny day in the field. In fact, field work (or data collection) is just the beginning. While tasks like collecting stream water samples continue year-round, for the most part our work moves indoors for the winter.

There’s plenty of work to be done back in the office, especially considering the tremendous amount of information we collect. For example, in 2019 we collected nearly half a million water temperature records!

Back in the office, we need to enter all the information into a secure location – usually a database – to make sure our data is not lost or accidentally changed. The next step is to review and correct it. In the same way factory workers check the quality of their products on an assembly line, we do the same with our data. If we find an error, we correct it. This process gives us confidence in our data and the results we draw from it.

One of our winter tasks is listening to some of the 5,000 plus hours of recorded data from our acoustic recording units that we use to monitor wetland frog communities. But it’s not just frogs. While listening to last spring’s recordings from a wetland in Orangeville, we were thrilled to hear the call of a Yellow Rail. Yellow Rails are small, secretive marsh-dwelling birds. The Yellow Rail is a species at risk in Ontario. Its call is a series of “clicks” that sound like two stones being tapped together that can be difficult to hear in noisy environments. This was an exciting discovery since it marks the first record of a Yellow Rail by CVC.

Yellow Rail photographed by Dominic Sherony. 

The next step is to analyze and summarize our data to report on current conditions in the Credit River Watershed’s ecosystems. Another year’s worth of information adds to our growing data set that we use to determine whether conditions, such as groundwater levels or fish community health, are changing over time.

So, while you’re less likely to see our monitoring staff out and about during the winter, know that we are still hard at work. But don’t be surprised if we’re occasionally lost in a daydream of a future warm and sunny day when we’re back in the field.

Learn more about the Integrated Watershed Monitoring Program.

By CVC’s Adrienne Ockenden, Specialist, Watershed Monitoring

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