I am the Executive Director of the Cold Regions and Water Initiatives at Laurier, and came to Laurier from five years of working with the oil sands industry on a new monitoring framework.
My research interests focus on developing integrated approaches to watershed management and cumulative effects assessment in aquatic systems (surface water), and one of my recent papers described a tiered and adaptive monitoring program.
In any water basin there are eleven different types of existing monitoring programs that lack a common framework/foundation/philosophy or basis in regulation. The framework tried to integrate them all into a single regime driven by a single set of data. This makes monitoring more focused, effective and responsive.
Currently, most monitoring is done without a clear link to decision making. I contributed to a recent paper, "An Adaptive Environmental Effects Monitoring Framework for Assessing the Influences of Liquid Effluents on Benthos, Water, and Sediments in Aquatic Receiving Environments," which aims to provide this framework. This specific paper is a philosophical overview of the integrated framework that lays out the rationale for the tiers of monitoring, and the various trigger systems that operate the integrated framework. There are six tiers of monitoring (example, surveillance, focused investigation of cause, levels of intensity of effort, etc.). There are a series of triggers (monitoring, management, forecasts, etc.) that change the intensity and focus of monitoring, based on the level of concern evident from monitoring data.
I supervised Tim Arciszewski who completed his PhD at the University of New Brunswick in 2014 worked on an early version of the development of adaptive monitoring triggers. He went on to a two-year post doctoral position at Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance.
Initially, the surprise in this project was the willingness and readiness of natural resource industry to adopt the philosophy, although in retrospect, the cost-effectiveness of focusing effort where there is the most concern is a natural fit.
We have completed a more comprehensive description of the framework and we are looking to pilot test it on a real world management challenge. Before we take this next step, one of the remaining challenges we have is to look for ways to integrate indigenous governance, monitoring and management into this framework.
The key message readers should take away after reading the article is that there are more than 10 different types of environmental monitoring (i.e. Status and trends, baseline, environmental effects, cumulative effects, risk assessment); the framework integrates the various monitoring programs into a single integrated framework driven by a single set of data.
Cumulative effects assessment and management is a high profile international issue as people grapple with deficiencies and challenges with alignment across stakeholders. I hope this paper contributes towards an understanding that there is a strong path forward that will improve environmental management. There is also a clear pathway to evidence based decision making in environmental management.
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