Our latest profile features Kristen Vinke, M.Sc. student at the University of Prince Edward Island.
Kristen is the team leader for our fourth team: “Team Norman”.
During my undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary, I became interested in aquatic ecology which lead me to summer jobs and internships involving freshwater science, including stream assessments using aquatic invertebrates. I chose the north for my Master’s because of the intriguing landscape and culture, which I discovered while canoeing the Mackenzie River a few years ago.
My Master’s project involved collecting invertebrate larvae from the bottoms of streams and adults along the banks of six streams in the Sahtu area, including two creeks in the town of Norman Wells. A local Dene summer student, Carrie Campbell, assisted with this work. The first objective was to determine whether subarctic stream assessment (using aquatic invertebrates) could be improved by modifying some of the sampling protocols that are commonly used in the south.
The subarctic biogeoclimatic features have resulted in unique traits in the aquatic invertebrate community, such as extended diapause and dominance of cold or freeze-tolerant species. These traits result in different species composition, diversity, abundance and life cycle timing, compared to the south. Sampling protocols should be tailored to the unique features of the north if accurate data are to be collected. Therefore I am comparing standard ‘southern’ protocols to modified protocols to see which ones capture the most diversity and are able to distinguish different kinds of streams the best.
Additionally, the Sahtu had a biomonitoring program called the Bosworth Biomonitoring project, where local students participated in data collection. However, the program emphasized water chemistry rather than invertebrates, so a high school-level guideline for sampling, processing and analyzing invertebrate data was needed.
Using the ‘best protocols’, combined with input from the community, teachers, and students from four of the five Sahtu communities (as well as one community in the Deh Cho area, Ft. Simpson), I developed a stream biomonitoring program that may be used in their science curriculum. The goal is for the students to use these guidelines to annually monitor the health of local streams. Additionally, the benthic and terrestrial samples from this summer will add to species inventories for the Sahtu area. The samples were gathered from a range of stream habitat types to try to capture as much of the diversity as possible.