Bristol Creek

November 4, 2013

When the Morell River Management Coop’s Project Coordinator Becky Petersen headed out last summer to do a habitat assessment of Bristol Creek on Prince Edward Island, she left the usual tools of the task at home—paper, clipboard, pencils.  Anyone who has done this work knows it can get messy and frustrating, trying to keep papers organized and dry while working in the middle of a stream, or later, the time consuming process of entering data to a computer back at the office.

Petersen, instead, was armed with technology that would make her job not only easier and faster, but also would collect a dazzling volume of data. Once downloaded to a computer, the data could be refined and manipulated to reveal everything possible about Bristol Creek.

In 2012, MRMC received funding from the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation, including funds raised through the partnership with the PEI Liquor Control Commission through the Island Rivers – Worth Protecting program, for a three-year restoration project to support the recovery of salmon to Bristol Creek. Salmon presence has been extremely limited in recent years.

Assessment of the physical habitat is an essential step in such restoration projects, and there has been significant progress in developing technologies for this field purpose. Last summer, Petersen had the benefit of a handheld Trimble Juno GPS receiver that was running on ArcPad software. Petersen had crafted the assessment questions using ArcStudio software then loaded them into the GPS unit before heading into the field.

She describes how the system worked:

“In the stream, a line is started on the GPS and a section of stream walk is walked, and habitat conditions are observed by the assessor. When a significant change in the habitat occurs—indicated by a significant change in either the riparian zone plant community, channel or bank structure, a stream crossings or barrier—the line is ended, and a blank copy of the assessment questions automatically appears on the screen. The questions are answered by checking boxes or entering text and/or numbers right into the GPS unit.

“Later, the GPS unit is connected to a desktop computer with ArcGIS, and the data is downloaded as line files directly onto a map in ArcGIS desktop software. The questions with all the answers are automatically connected to each line in a table. There is no need for data entry.

The scores are then calculated for each line segment, according to the values entered in the assessment questions. The scores are colour-coded. And there you have it—a map with different sections of stream lined in four different colours.”

The scores are divided into four classes:

·         Red means immediate attention is required

·         Orange says the habitat is significantly compromised

·         Yellow indicates moderate habitat quality

·         Green shows habitat is in the best possible condition

Petersen has a deep appreciation for the technology pieces she used last year. “The big value of the process and assessment results is in the colour-coded maps that generate an overview of the quality of habitat in each section of stream. They provide information that can assist with management, planning and the prioritizing of resources,” she concludes.

The technology used by Petersen last year was on loan through the generosity of the PEI Wildlife Federation. But it’s fair to say the Morell River Management Coop was “sold” on the positive experience and valuable results. They have just purchased their own Trimble Juno 3B (a newer model) with the latest version of ArcPad software.