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My AWC Summer
Friday Read | September 2022

Aneilia Ayotte, Science Communications Coordinator

Working with the Athabasca Watershed Council this summer has been such a wonderful opportunity. I am so happy that I was hired for this job, and I am thankful for all the experiences and knowledge that have been given to me. Some of the highlights of my work experience this summer were the pond days I attended, the tree planting at French creek and the installment of the pond leveler near Jarvie. Along with these, the certificates and training I received over the past four months are something I am proud of as well.  

As I mentioned, one of my favorite things about working for the AWC was being able to attend pond days. These days were a lot fun because they provided an opportunity to get out of the office and help kids learn in nature! At these pond days, I got to show students the watershed model and we taught them about the Athabasca Watershed. Spending time outside, near the lakes and rivers in the watershed, helped me to understand it more and gave me a better appreciation for it. This hands-on way of learning is so great for both the kids and the council/association/county members who teach them. 

A picture of me with the watershed model at a Pond Day: 

Not only were pond days fun, but the tree planting job we did up in French creek was also a blast! Petra, Sarah, Ashley, and I spent three days planting trees to reduce the amount of soil falling into the water near French creek. We also had help from Lisa Card (Highway 2 Conservation) and we ended up planting over 1000 shrubs along the banks. Some of the shrubs we planted were pussy willow, wild rose, choke cherry and saskatoon berry! Along with this being a ton of fun, it felt good knowing we were contributing to our watershed.  

Another project that the team and I took part in, was the installation of a pond leveler near Jarvie. There was a complaint made because a beaver had made a dam and it was blocking water flow in a creek near someone’s farmland. Therefore, they wanted to install a pond leveler.  A pond leveler is a large pipe that we put over and around the dam to ensure the water can still flow without disturbing the beaver’s habitat.  Initially this installation looked easy because we had equipment and lots of people and we figured we could just drop the pipe in the water. However, to position it right, someone needed to pull it across the swamp from the opposite bank. That someone ended up being me! I hopped in the water in my shorts and rubber boots and pulled that pipe with my bare hands. After some splashing around and a little elbow grease we got the pond leveler in place and hammered it down! This was definitely one of my favorite adventures with the AWC.  

Not all the work that the AWC does is outside in the water though. Petra, Ashley, and Sarah do an incredible amount of work in the office, because I was a part of their team this summer, that meant I did too! Some of the things I got to do were research, attending meetings related to our watershed and taking online courses. A couple of the courses I took were Bear Awareness and Swift Water Training. The certification I earned through these courses is not only helpful for work related activities, but also for my everyday life. Along with these courses, I got to attend meetings and listen in on significant projects happening in our watershed. It was interesting for me to hear from Alberta Environment and Parks and people in Fish and Wildlife. I enjoyed taking part in these meetings because they related to the research I was doing for the AWC.   

Some certifications I earned over the summer: 

The research I did over the past couple of months was on the Tawatinaw and Mcleod rivers and on benthic invertebrates in our watershed. Both topics were interesting to learn about, however my personal favorite was the benthic invertebrate information! I got to create a short presentation on these invertebrates and why they are important. This was a fun little project, and it is awesome to put on display some of what I learned this summer! 

Overall, I am sad to see my summer with the AWC end, however I am glad that I got to spend it with such a great group. The opportunity to work with the AWC has provided me with valuable work experience and it relates heavily to my chosen field of study. So, I want to thank Petra, Sarah, and Ashley for being a wonderful team and for welcoming me with open arms! Also, Alberta Conservation Association and Canada Summer Jobs Program both deserve a huge thank you for their financial contribution to my work experience this summer. Without them I would not have had the opportunity to learn so much about our amazing watershed!