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Understanding Freshwater: Connecting with and Protecting our Ecosystems

Posted on October 31, 2022

Freshwater. What is it, why is it important, and most importantly, how can we protect it?

These are the questions that students tried to answer on Freshwater Ecology Day as they moved through a series of hands-on activities to better understand freshwater.

A group of students stand around presenter holding a small net and bucket.

On October 6 we welcomed students from 7 schools from grades 7-12 to spend a day learning about water issues, research, and protection here in Manitoba. Students from as far as Grand Rapids, and as near as Charleswood participated in the event.

A total of seen learning stations ran throughout the day. Six by people from across the scientific community. From IISD – Experimental Lakes Area, South Central Eco-Institute, University of Manitoba – Manitoba Great Lakes Program, and FortWhyte Alive. One station was led by two young Anishinaabe land-based educators, who shared Indigenous perspectives on water.

Thank-you to all the presenters involved. It’s because of you that students left with a deeper understanding of water, their communities, and the importance of protecting our environment.

As each student went through their day you could hear the impacts that this diverse activities had on them. For some this was a chance to connect what they’re learned in class to the world, for others, a chance to connect with their own heritage.

A group of students stand around presenter and some equipment.

"I wish all school days could be like this" -Freshwater Day Student

The stations at the 2022 Freshwater Ecology Day included:


Riverwatch Water Chemistry

Students learned about the importance of chemistry in water quality monitoring by testing lake water pH, dissolved oxygen, ammonia and phosphorus with Kent Lewarne from South Central Eco Institute.


Aquatic Invertebrates

Students discovered what the crustaceans, molluscs, and insects of the water can tell us about water quality with FortWhyte Alive.

A group of students sit around fire with presenters.

Indigenous Perspectives on Water

Dylan Kensick and Taylor Galvin welcomed and included students in their station around a warm fire, with tea and sharing about how they integrate their own Indigenous traditions and land-based practices with protecting water.

“After today, I want to learn more about Indigenous water teachings” - Freshwater Day Student

Experimental Lakes Research

Cassidy Mazur of IISD- Experimental Lakes Area engaged students with an interactive watershed model showing how pollutants move around on the landscape. IISD-Experimental Lakes Area is one of the world’s most influential freshwater research facilities, specializing in studying whole ecosystems to determine the impacts of human activities, and how we can make changes to help in protection and recovery.

Students sit and listen to presenter standing in front of screen.

Lake Winnipeg Research

Dr. Stephan Pflugmacher-Lima shared research on the use of plants to clean water in remote areas of Manitoba, and Claire Herbert will shared how drone technology and satellite images are helping us to understand the water quality issues in Lake Winnipeg.


Shoreline Restoration

FortWhyte Alive’s Eric Olson got students into waders and boots and involved them in planting live willow stakes into an eroding section of shoreline. Planting native vegetation is part of a strategy to control erosion and increase biodiversity.


“When they got to plant willows, and collect invertebrates. During these experiences, the students found it so interesting to learn about the ecosystems, and the healthy relationship of all organisms found there.”

-Freshwater Day Teacher

Three students at the edge of a lake preparing to do restoration work.

Specialty science days like Freshwater Ecology Day are made possible thanks to the Honda Canada Foundation.

We acknowledge the support of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Nous remercions le Conseil de recherches en sciences naturelles et en génie du Canada (CRSNG) de son soutien.