Volunteers pick up sampling slack in wake of COVID-19
WOLFE LAKE, Aug. 31, 2021 – If he’s being honest, Gordon Moore is looking forward to getting back to normal.
Before the pandemic, the Wolfe Lake Association’s water quality director had a pretty good gig with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority: about once a month, RVCA staff showed up with their equipment and he drove them around the lake in his pontoon boat so they could collect their samples.
RVCA staff did all the work, while he enjoyed a day on the water with pleasant company and some interesting conversations.
These days, it’s a different story. With the spring’s COVID-19 restrictions preventing staff from congregating on the boat – and limiting the number of students RVCA could hire – volunteers like Gordon have been asked to fill in the gaps. No longer just the driver, Gordon has been tasked with doing it all.
RVCA’s acting surface water quality co-ordinator Haley Matschke drops off the equipment in the morning before she and her team head out to sample a neighbouring lake. She gives him a quick refresher on using the equipment, then Gordon spends five or six hours in the boat documenting levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, dissolved oxygen, water temperature and more. He returns the equipment and data to Haley at the end of the day.
“It’s a little nerve wracking,” laughed Gordon, who has lived on the lake year-round since 2010. “You’re nervous you’ll forget something or do something wrong.”
So far, so good – but he’s ready for the old system to return.
“I’m looking forward to just being the driver again,” he said.
This is just one of the many ways RVCA has had to adapt to pandemic restrictions. In the case of lake sampling, about 15 volunteers like Gordon have stepped up to ensure water quality issues continue to be monitored, and that new problems are discovered early.
Other programs have not been able to pivot quite so seamlessly. City Stream Watch, for example, relies on groups of volunteers to help with invasive species removals, garbage clean-ups and stream health monitoring. The program has been temporarily paused until it’s safe to bring large groups together. City Stream Watch program manager Jennifer Lamoureux is hopeful they will be able to restart the program next spring.
In the meantime, the RVCA is thankful for all the help it can get to ensure a healthy, thriving watershed for all.
“We’re so grateful to the volunteers who were willing to pivot to keep our programs going,” said Haley. “We know it’s not an easy job. The watershed is a better place with these volunteers watching out on our behalf.”
For more information about water quality monitoring visit www.rvca.ca/watershed-monitoring-reporting.