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A Summer with the Athabasca Watershed Council
AWC-WPAC | September 2023

Kailyn Gibbons and Kendra Pritchard, Watershed Science Technicians

This summer, the Athabasca Watershed Council was able to employ two Watershed Science Technicians, Kailyn and Kendra. At the end of their terms with the watershed council, they each provided a short write-up of some of the highlights of the summer! Everyone at the Athabasca Watershed Council wishes Kailyn and Kendra the best of luck as they head into their last year of school!

Here’s Kailyn’s take on her time with the Athabasca Watershed Council:

This summer, I was lucky enough to work with the Athabasca Watershed Council (AWC) as a summer student. My time with the team was filled with opportunities to learn and engage through projects I worked on and events I attended. The team was welcoming and supportive, and I will miss working with them as I head back for my last year of my bachelor’s program in science.  

One of my main tasks was the creation of shoreline information packages aimed at informing landowners living or working by the shorelines (riparian areas) of the Athabasca watershed about riparian health, conservation, and restoration. This involved a lot of learning on my end since the word ‘riparian’ hadn’t even been in my vocabulary before this summer. But I appreciate having expanded my knowledge and being able to develop my research and writing skills to better gather information and communicate it to stakeholders of the area. My work on writing blog posts about my experiences and about responsible recreation was also important to my time with the AWC because I got to improve my writing abilities and help contribute to protecting the watershed while still enjoying everything it has to offer. 

I also had the chance to go out and engage with members of the communities in the watershed, through riparian plantings, Pond Days with grade 5 students, and taking part in the celebrations of the Fort Assiniboine Bicentennial Brigade. These events let me interact with different groups of people and have discussions around watershed health while helping me to adapt conversation to be relevant to diverse backgrounds and to build confidence in presenting to others. The Tawatinaw Watershed Working Group meetings also gave me new perspective into the collaboration needed between landowners, stewardship groups, and government to be able to implement cohesive environmental conservation and protection of our communities and local economies.  

I’m excited to take back to my classes everything I have learned and be able to use the skills and experience I gained to support my future career in environmental science. I definitely feel more prepared going forward in meeting new people, and I think this summer’s experience has significantly impacted how I will approach future experiences and my confidence going forward into environmental science. Not only did I learn a lot, but I have gained so much appreciation for the beautiful landscape of the Athabasca watershed and for all the people who call it home. I’m so thankful for all the experiences I’ve had and the interactions with the team and with community members that will support me as I continue on in my career. 

Here’s what Kendra had to share with us about her summer:

For summer students, the Athabasca Watershed Council offers amazing opportunities, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a part of this group for the past few months. Through my involvement, I’ve gone from having a vague understanding of the term “Watershed” to thoroughly appreciating its significance for the communities within the Athabasca River watershed boundaries. I love talking to my friends and family about what I’m learning and making sure they know how crucial it is to take care of our watershed. I mean, our drinking water comes from there, so it’s a pretty big deal!

As a science student at MacEwan University, I’m grateful for the opportunity to practice my research skills with the AWC and have gained some valuable experience related to my field. Throughout the summer, my efforts have been focused on writing a comprehensive report that brings together various sources to address the extent of available knowledge concerning benthic invertebrates in the Athabasca River watershed. This entails identifying potential gaps in data across the watershed’s ten subbasins and assessing the methodologies employed in the collection of these organisms. I delved into numerous academic papers, revealing a range of information and findings. Prior to my involvement with AWC, I overlooked that these tiny creatures could play such a crucial role in indicating the overall health of our rivers, lakes, and streams.

Other than reading papers and jotting down interesting studies to include in my benthic invertebrate report, I had the chance to complete the Swiftwater Safety Training Certification and collaborate with my team members. I had a great time planting trees in the Riparian zones of the Pembina River. Additionally, I found it really rewarding to collaborate with Ashley and Spirit North at Muskeg Creek in Athabasca. I helped kids in the program identify benthic invertebrates that Ashley and I sampled from the water using kick-nets. Getting out there and seeing a variety of these creatures in person was a refreshing way to connect with what I’ve been learning!

Overall, I enjoyed my summer term with the Athabasca Watershed Council, and I am sad to see it come to an end. A huge thank you goes to Sarah, Petra, Ashley, Caity, and Kailyn for supporting me throughout this summer term and furthering my knowledge about our watershed. I’m thankful for the opportunity to work in a place that values inclusivity and teamwork.

I’m looking forward to staying in the loop with all the cool projects that the Athabasca Watershed Council is involved in!

This work wouldn’t be possible without the financial support of the Alberta Conservation Association