SUMMER FIELDWORK by Alyssa Johnston

My ARP aimed to investigate the response of common rain garden species to different application rates of biochar in an engineered bioretention soil.  Rain gardens are bioretention systems used for stormwater management in urban centres. Bioretention soil (e.g. mixture of compost, topsoil and sand) within rain gardens effectively filters sediments, heavy metals and nutrients from infiltrated stormwater. Rain gardens also contain a variety of plants which assist in additional uptake of nutrients and metals. Minimal maintenance and other inputs are required from these systems resulting in harsh growing conditions for plants (e.g. intermittent drying and wetting). The use of native plants that are more suited to local conditions and organic soil amendments that produce more hospitable conditions are important to utilize in these systems.

Biochar is an organic matter that is heated at high temperature with little to no oxygen. When added to soil it can provides beneficial properties. These include improved soil fertility and plant growth, increased microbial activity and increased water and nutrient holding capacity which is effective in retaining nutrients and contaminants from runoff. With these known benefits that biochar can provide to soil and plants, my research set out to better understand native plant response to biochar in an engineered bioretention soil.

Near the end of June, I set up a randomized potted plant experiment using two native plants, Carex obnupta and Juncus effusus, 3 different biochar ratios (0.5%, 1.5% and 5% weight for weight) and a control (0% biochar), with 5 replicates for each plant-biochar/control combo. I followed municipal bioretention soil specification to engineer the bioretention soil that was used in the biochar-soil mixtures. Once the biochar-soil mixtures were weighed, mixed and put in pots, soil samples were taken and sent to the lab to assess basic soil fertility (N, P, K), pH, organic matter content, C:N ratio, cation exchange capacity, as well as the sand, silt & clay composition.

Each week over the summer, I measured height, percent cover and took observational notes on colour and any noticeable damage to the shoots to identify if the selected biochar rates were suitable to enhance the survival and growth of native plants in an engineered bioretention soil. At the end of September,  I harvested the plants and took soil samples to be analyzed at the lab. At the BCIT lab, I separated, processed and dried the aboveground biomass (shoots) from belowground biomass (roots). After drying I obtained the final biomass weight of both the shoots and roots. The data I have collected will hopefully be able to contribute to increasing the performance of rain gardens as bioretention filters by using biochar to improve physical, chemical and biological capabilities of the growth media and their ability to support a diversity of native plants.

SUMMER FIELDWORK by Cassie Friesen

Western Painted Turtle Predation Research

This summer I have been working on the Sunshine Coast for my Applied Research Project (ARP). The best part about my research is that I get to work with turtles every day! My research is investigating predation of the endangered Western Painted Turtle species here on the Coast and will focus on a long-term solution to protecting these turtles.

The Western Painted Turtle is the only remaining native freshwater turtle here in B.C. Previous work has been done to increase its nesting habitat by installing various turtle nesting beaches. These were created in hopes to increase the populations reproductive rates. But these beaches now create a problem, and experience higher rates of predation due to densification of nests.

For my research I implemented two enclosure designs at various installed turtle nesting beaches along the Sunshine Coast. These enclosures are designed to allow for free roaming access to the turtles, while protecting the hatchlings and eggs from avian predators, such as ravens. I monitor these sites in person weekly and have multiple wildlife cameras set up to capture all the critters that pass by. Thankfully I had my experiment all set up before COVID-19 restrictions (early March) so I was able to carry on with my work without too many issues. I currently live on the Sunshine Coast while my experiment continues, and I hope to see significant results in the fall.  

Vancouver Island Field Trip 2019

Visiting Cathedral Grove

This March, the first year cohort of MSc Ecological Restoration students joined the undergraduate ER students on a field trip up the east coast of Vancouver Island, starting in Victoria and ending up at Campbell River. As well as having a chance to explore the beautiful landscapes of the Island, we toured various restoration projects and learned about techniques and challenges from the practitioners on the ground.

Continue reading

Field Course 2019 – Part 2: Terrestrial Module

In the second half our 2019 Field Course, the first-year cohort shifted focus from Aquatic to Terrestrial survey techniques.

We covered bird and vegetation surveys on campus at BCIT, but on our final weekend in the field we ventured further from town, traveling out to a field site near Mission, BC.

We set out small mammal traps on two grids, one in a second growth stand and the other in a remnant patch of old growth forest.

Continue reading

Field Course 2019 – Part 1: Aquatic Module

The group on the final day of the field course – damp but still smiling!

Each year, the first-year cohort of ER Master’s students complete a Field Course to gain hands-on skills in sampling techniques and a practical understanding of study design for various types of surveys.

The course is divided into Aquatic and Terrestrial modules. This year, it ran on Fridays-Saturdays through March and April, which made for a hectic end-of-semester. On the other hand, it got us us outside in the field a fair amount which was a great change of pace.

Continue reading