Tatamagouche Summer Free School

Friday, August 18, 2006

Interview: Heather Andrachuk

Interview by Yuill Herbert.

Can you describe your work?

I work on long-term ecological monitoring programs that are useable and applicable across Canada. Long-term ecological monitoring is a way to detect and track changes in an ecosystem. The programs that I'm involved with are referred to as citizen science, which is a form of community-based monitoring. This is a way to involve multi-party stakeholders in what's happening in their local environments, in a tangible, accessible manner.


Can you describe what you have set up at Waldegrave Farm?

It's a 20mx20m forest monitoring plot. It was based on a standardized protocol that's used nationally, so we can compare what we found here and what changes occur over time to what's happening in other places in Canada.

We tagged each tree in the 20m square, measured it's diameter, and noted its species.

How would you describe the forest (in spiritual, economic,or ecological terms)?

In ecological terms (which I'm most familiar with), it's a mixed-wood forest. This means that there is a mixture of coniferous (cone-bearing or "softwood") trees and deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in the autumn or "hardwood"). There has been some kind of disturbance in the area that we set up the plot. This is evident in the amount of fallen and dead standing trees as well as the fact that there is a lot of regeneration on the forest floor.


Why are you passionate about your work?

I think that citizen science, and community-based monitoring in general, are a fantastic way to actively engage people of all ages, capabilities, and education in reporting on what's happening to the environment around us. This is an important and empowering way to help citizens to inform policy and decision-making.

What kind of changes will be tracked in the plot?

The way that the plot was set up today allows us to monitor a lot of aspects of forest health. We can look at tree growth, health, shrub and seedling regeneration, lichens, salamanders, and soil decomposition to name a few. It's exciting to have a research plot and learn about what kinds of changes occur naturally and what are not "normal" changes.

Describe the phenological programs that you introduced here.

They're part of the citizen science programs that I work on. They're called the NatureWatch programs (www.naturewatch.ca) and are a way to track climate change and biodiversity "on the ground." Volunteers across Canada are tracking frogs, plants, earthworms, and when lakes and rivers freeze and thaw. FrogWatch has people reporting on when and where frogs and toads are calling. PlantWatchers track when certain plants (selected as good indicators of climate change) are blooming. WormWatch participants get their hands dirty by digging for earthworms. And IceWatchers report on the freeze and thaw dates of lakes and rivers. The way to track and report is simple, so anybody and everybody can participate. It's a great way to learn about your local environment at the same time as helping to contribute to information about climate change.


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