Environmental Monitoring Field Protocol Options


Environmental Monitoring Field Protocol Options


Meghan Robinson

Host Organization

U-Links Centre for Community Based Research
Amanda Duncombe-Lee

Supervising Faculty

Tom Whillans

Reference Number




Location of Document



Haliburton County




Service-learning is a great opportunity for students to get valuable field skills for credit, in addition to the normal academic skills that are gained by researching and writing academic reviews, papers and lab reports for college and university courses. Trent University has an incredible environmental science program, yet only has a few options for service-learning opportunities for students. Service-learning benefits students and communities which is much different than student volunteerism where the benefits are mainly gained by a community or organization.

Designing service-learning courses for Trent University students can help them to gain valuable field skills that many environmental sector employers are looking for, in today's job market. There are many environmental monitoring protocols that could be learned and executed by students, toward a credit at Trent, while also helping communities that have specific environmental monitoring needs gather specific baseline data sets. Many of the necessary monitoring protocols would be suitable for an environmental monitoring fieldwork service-learning course for Trent students. At the same time, students could also assist community organizations by helping them to start their own monitoring or citizen science programs.
Organizations like the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust or assorted lake and cottage associations in the Haliburton area have already expressed interest in learning how to properly and effectively monitor their natural environments. There are a range of concerns that could be monitored such as water and air quality, the effects of shoreline clearing, fish abundance, nesting birds, and tracking the spread of invasive species. There are several aquatic and terrestrial invasive species of concern in the Haliburton area that are becoming more of a threat, as the effects of climate change are bringing them further north than ever before. Species distribution and populations are changing as global temperatures rise, warming new areas and opening up new habitat for many different species.

Developing monitoring protocols for terrestrial and aquatic invasive species would be beneficial for the communities surrounding the Minden and Haliburton areas, to track the spread of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species and how rapidly they are spreading up north. A course on this topic would help students learn through fieldwork while gaining credit at Trent and would help communities track the advance of many invasive species at the same time.
The largest challenge in running a service-learning environmental monitoring course during an academic year is the timing. In the fall semester, many protocols could be followed but, as the semester progresses, the threat of very cold weather, snow, freezing rain and ice could impede overall sampling efforts in many ways. The winter and late summer semesters would not be practical to run environmental service-learning courses as it would not be the proper timing for the sampling of many species. The first summer semester would work, however, enrollment may be lower because many students return home for the summer season.

The Haliburton area is close enough to Peterborough that Trent University (and Fleming College) students, could spend time setting up and executing monitoring activities while still being able to arrive back at the University by the scheduled end of class. Scheduling could involve a full 7-8 hour day, where 3 hours could be allocated for “lecture” and the “field work” portion of the course could be scheduled for an adjacent 4-8 hour period. In 7-8 hours, a school bus of students would be able to drive up to 2 hours away, sample an area for 3 hours and then travel back to campus for the remaining 2 hours, ensuring that there is allowance for delays. The bus time could be utilized by having lecture material covered, related to the monitoring activities or providing students with a bus assignment that could be handed in at any destination. Alternatively, lecture could take place during the class the week before a field trip if students are not expected to do weekly field trips.

There may also be an option of busing a class of students up to the Haliburton area for a weekend stay for monitoring activities over two days, separating terrestrial and aquatic monitoring activities over the two days. The class could be divided so that half of the students conduct the terrestrial monitoring one day and the other half of the class could conduct the aquatic sampling protocols. The following day the students could switch and complete the remaining protocols not covered on the previous day.

A summer course, similar to Trent’s ERSC 3220H, could run for eight to ten consecutive days, giving students more extensive training and experience learning and conducting assorted environmental monitoring protocols.


Trent University

Date Created




Meghan Robinson, Environmental Monitoring Field Protocol Options, Trent University, 2019