In a normal year, University of Guelph (U of G) students in the Limnology of Natural and Polluted Waters course would head outside together to learn about the effects of pollutants on the health of freshwater ecosystems. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted their semester, but U of G is making sure they get their fieldwork in — by mailing them freshwater field kits to use at home.
The field kits will include materials for students to participate in Stroud Water Research Center’s Leaf Pack Network® (LPN). Students will assemble artificial leaf packs using native dried leaves, place the packs in the stream for several weeks, and then identify the aquatic macroinvertebrates that have colonized the packs. The numbers and types of macroinvertebrates found will allow students to determine the health of their stream. (Students lacking safe and ready stream access will work with information about samples collected by their instructors.)
U of G students will share their data with their class and will also enter it in the Monitor My Watershed® data portal so that it can be viewed worldwide. LPN and Monitor My Watershed are part of WikiWatershed®, a web toolkit designed to help citizens, conservation practitioners, municipal decision-makers, researchers, educators, and students advance knowledge and stewardship of fresh water.
Tara Muenz, Stroud Center’s assistant director of education and LPN administrator, was excited to learn U of G is participating in LPN. She believes this is the first time LPN has been utilized in Canada at the collegiate level.
“The Leaf Pack Network offers individuals a real-world experience in stream health assessment, empowering them to use the data they collect to protect freshwater systems and to be additional sets of eyes and ears out there watching for potential pollution events.”
More information about U of G’s innovative approach to virtual learning is available here.