Lakeland College agricultural sciences and environmental sciences students are working together to restore the ecological integrity, natural structure and function of two wetlands on college land.
The wetland restoration projects are a collaboration with ALUS Canada, the Vermilion River Watershed Alliance (VRWA) and the Battle River Watershed Alliance (BRWA).
“We need a lot of land to farm and to use all this land we need to give back. More farmers want to practice sustainability and stewardship in their operations, which are practices that are not common yet. This project is a great opportunity for us because it gives students a foot in the door,” says Liam Peterson. Peterson is a second-year animal science technology
(AST) beef major and the sustainability and stewardship manager for the Student-Managed Farm – Powered by New Holland
(SMF) beef research unit.
“This experience is very eye-opening and it is the most practical project I have had the opportunity to work on at Lakeland. The organizations want to move forward with our ideas and fully develop them, which is cool because they are taking our recommendations and us seriously,” says Keeley Bromling, a BASEM student.
The wetlands are located on pasture land, south of the Vermilion campus. A project proposal submitted to ALUS in March 2018 recognized the cattle as the cause of the wetlands’ poor conditions.
With a producer perspective, agricultural sciences students devise restoration solutions based on recommendations from environmental sciences students. Environmental sciences students work with the perspective of an environmental consultant. The solutions are presented to the project partners for further consideration.
In September, students determined the first course of action for the wetlands. “In spring 2019 we will fence off the wetlands to stop the cattle from causing more damage. One of the wetlands is a natural slough and the other is a manmade dugout. In the slough, we’re installing wooden posts with wildlife friendly fencing - a barbed fence with a barbless top. Metal posts and a wildlife friendly fence will be installed around the dugout,” says Brandee Charlton, a second-year AST livestock major and the sustainability and stewardship manager for the SMF sheep livestock unit.
They are also planning to install a watering system in the manmade dugout. In October 2018, the agricultural sciences students viewed four different systems they could potentially purchase.
Bromling added the environmental sciences groups continue to observe the pugging around the wetlands and the status of a Canada Thistle infestation, test bank stability and water quality, and clear dead trees and fallen branches.
The watering system and fencing is the first step, explained Jessica Emmott, an agricultural sciences instructor and a project advisor. In the coming months, Emmott will continue to work with James Woodhouse, environmental sciences chair and a project advisor, as well as ALUS, the VRWA and BRWA to determine the one-, five-, and 10-year goals for the project. The partner organizations continue to oversee the project plans, and offer expert advice and financial support. ALUS will also periodically make on-site visits to assess the restoration progress. The wetlands could be used by VRWA as demo sites for local producers to evaluate how they can produce valuable ecological services on their farmland.
Photos: (Top-Bottom): Agricultural sciences students meet at one of the wetlands they'll be restoring over the next few months. Environmental sciences and agricultural sciences students meet to discuss the wetland restoration project.