A whole new meaning to schools of fish

Classroom pets are not out of the ordinary – but have you ever seen a class raise 65 rainbow trout, then release them into the wild?

That’s exactly what 37 lucky schools across Alberta are up to this year with the Fish in Schools: Raise to Release (FinS) program. Through the program, teachers and students – from Kindergarten to Grade 12 – have the chance to watch the trout life cycle unfold – right before their eyes! It’s a unique opportunity to watch trout grow and learn about how they adapt to changing environments.

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Twenty Strong

Community-based wildland firefighting crew in the Slave Lake area is gearing up for fire season.

Fire season started March 1, and not soon after, so did a Slave Lake wildland firefighting crew of 20. But they’re not just any group of firefighters – they’re all local to in and around the Slave Lake area.

The 2015 Slave Lake Aboriginal Wildland Firefighting Crew

Wildfire operations officer Kevin Parkinson started building the crew in 2013. He knew there were 12 Aboriginal communities in the Slave Lake area with many experienced firefighters and he planned to tap into that.

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Spring hazards: Have fun and stay safe during seasonal adventure

Rawson Lake Slide from SE corner_DuaneF

Watch for late-season slides at Rawson Lake and many other popular Kananaskis Country trails. Photo: Duane Fizor.

It may seem counter-intuitive to have to think about bears and avalanche at the same time while exploring the outdoors, but that’s the beauty of adventuring in the Canadian Rockies in spring. Snow can linger in the mountains late into the spring and early summer, but when it’s warm and sunny out, and everything is starting to melt, it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security: summer is on its way, so we can forget about winter safety hazards, right? Unfortunately, no.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re out there before the snow goes:

Avalanche

Some of the most popular snowshoe and winter hiking trails in Kananaskis Country, even ones that are easily accessible from parking lots and highways, travel through or end in avalanche terrain. Our public safety staff in Kananaskis Region note that as snowshoeing becomes more popular, snowshoers are often venturing into avalanche risk without the proper gear or knowledge.

Check the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) ratings of the area you plan to hike or snowshoe (or ski), and note that anything rated as Simple terrain still has avalanche exposure risk. “The spring snow sport season in the Rockies runs from late March to early May, and very large ‘climax’ avalanches are more common during those months,” says Kananaskis Public Safety Specialist Jeremy Mackenzie, of avalanches that slide after a slow buildup over time. “These slides often reach the valley floor, with the potential to impact Simple terrain.”   Continue reading

Musselling out Aquatic Invasive Species in Alberta

When you think of Water Week, does the image of man and his best friend inspecting boats pop into mind? Probably not – however, celebrating Water Week isn’t just about conserving water; it’s also about keeping our water sources safe from invasive species.

The Alberta Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Program staff here at Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) is hard at work keeping Alberta’s waterways free of zebra and quagga mussels and they aren’t afraid to bring in extra bodies to help get the job done, even if those bodies have four legs and are covered in fur.

In 2014, ESRD partnered with Montana’s Department of Natural Resource Conservation, Alberta Irrigation Projects Association and Working Dogs for Conservation to pilot an innovative inspection technique.

 

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Water logging – the life of a limnologist

At Alberta and Environment and Sustainable Resources, we love the opportunity to celebrate our environment. This week is National Water Week and as we reflect we wanted to highlight one of the amazing water-focused jobs we have right here in Alberta, the job of a limnologist.

What is a limnologist?

It’s a question that may not come up at most people’s dinner tables. A limnologist is a person who studies fresh, inland water including lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. The focus of their studies is generally water quality and the movement of water and aquatic life.

What does a limnologist do?

Monitoring water quality and health is the core work of a limnologist. They provide scientific and technical expertise in water quality management and often work closely with the Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils to help them move toward their water management plan.

Part of being a limnologist is striving to work with the Water for Life strategy which encompasses safe, secure drinking water, healthy aquatic ecosystems and reliable water quality supplies for a sustainable economy. They also work with approvals which involves reviewing Water Act applications.

How do they work with stakeholders?

The government has five regional limnologists throughout the province. Because water is a complex thing to manage, limnologists work closely with the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency, the Alberta Energy Regulator, hydrologists and groundwater specialists to make sure they have the best possible understanding of one of our province’s most precious resources.

According to one of the department limnologists, Jana Tondu, the best part of her job is, “The satisfaction of being able to protect something that is vital to all life.”

A limnologist is just one of the many people that are working to ensure a healthy, secure and sustainable water supply for Albertans. Please visit the Environment and Sustainable Resource Development website for more information on what government is doing for our water resources.

Volunteer stewardship recognized at 2015 Order of the Bighorn Awards

Since its inception in 1982, the Order of the Bighorn has recognized the voluntary contributions of Albertans to the conservation of our province’s fish, wildlife and natural spaces.

This year was no exception. During the 18th Order of the Bighorn Awards on March 6, Hon. Kyle Fawcett, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, was joined by stakeholders who are committed to maintaining and building a healthy environmental future, to honour six individuals whose efforts emulate what the awards are all about.

Inductees included Bazil Leonard of Grande Cache, Gottlob Schmidt of Hanna, John Campbell Jr. of Calgary, Maurice Nadeau of Bonnyville, Tim Dietzler of Calgary and Tom Partello of Canmore.

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Firefighters are getting ramped up for fire season – and so should you

Firefighters prepare for start of fire season

Firefighters prepare for start of fire season

Fire season starts next month and firefighters are already training and preparing to help protect Albertans and communities from wildfires. Firefighters are positioned throughout the province, even in the winter, to respond to any wildfires. Alberta adopted the March 1 start in 2012 in keeping with recommendations made following the Slave Lake and area wildfires in 2011.

But what does this mean for Albertans?

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Alberta steps up to bat to prevent white-nose syndrome

There are about 1000 species of bats in the world, and most are beneficial. A little brown bat, for example, can consume more than 600 mosquito-sized insects in an hour. While these flying mammals aren’t blind there is no way they can see white-nose syndrome coming.

White-nose syndrome is a disease caused by a fungus that affects only bats using caves to hibernate. The fungus irritates the bats, causing them to  wake during hibernation, and without available food (insects), they starve to death.

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Catching a Memory

Story by Craig Brown – Information Officer at the Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Information Centre

Family Day long weekend has always been one of my favorites. It’s prime time to get out and see what Alberta’s winter landscape has to offer. My family has a tradition of coming together and doing something we wouldn’t normally do. Last year the usual ideas were thrown around. Skiing? Tobogganing? Skating? Then, someone suggested fishing.

Fishing in February seemed like an adventure but created even more questions. What did we need to know? What regulations would need to be followed? Would we need a licence?

The first thing I discovered was that since Family Day long weekend coincides with Alberta’s Family Fishing Weekend – no licence is required!

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Alberta Parks partners up for horse health

Horses

Horses stay at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park all year round.

Twice a year, University of Calgary veterinarians in training take a short drive from their northwest Calgary campus to Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park just outside Cochrane. There, in a historic stable and corral that overlook more than 3,000 acres of rolling grassland along the Bow River, they run the Park’s four horses through a complete checkup.

The partnership began in 2013, a week-long hands-on training rotation in equine medicine for second-year Faculty of Veterinary Science students, and a fourth-year equine dental session. It supplements regular vet appointments for all four horses on-site, and helps develop a full range of skills for students interested in careers caring for horses. Continue reading