Environmental Science

  • Manuel Garcia-Melgares posted an article
    Scientifically defensible watershed reports for over 230,000 km2 of Alberta see more

    The Alberta Water Tool provides accurate, scientifically defensible watershed reports for over 230,000 km2 of Alberta


    Victoria, February 4th, 2019 Foundry Spatial is pleased to announce that it has completed and released a major expansion to the Alberta Water Tool, which now covers the entire Athabasca River Basin in Alberta.


    First launched in 2016 to provide water management planning capabilities to industry and government stakeholders, the Alberta Water Tool provides a platform for industry, government, and the public to easily access water information in support of environmentally sustainable water management.


    The Alberta Water Tool is a web-based decision support tool, providing accurate, scientifically defensible watershed reports at any location across more than 230,000 km2 of Alberta. These reports combine information on water supply generated from hydrology models, with information regarding existing water allocations and environmental flow needs for any region of interest. In a matter of seconds, users have actionable information which would otherwise take five to 10 days of effort for a professional to produce.


    Over the course of 2018, the Alberta Water Tool produced 1,447 watershed reports. This represents an opportunity value of more than $7 million, which has benefitted water users, government regulators, and the environment.


    Expansion of the Alberta Water tool was supported by the Alberta Upstream Petroleum Research Fund administered by Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC) and the Sustainable Water Management in the Athabasca River Basin Initiative – a project delivered by WaterSMART Solutions with funding from Alberta Innovates, Alberta Energy Regulator, Alberta Environment and Parks, ATCO, Repsol Oil and Gas, Suncor Energy, and Westmoreland Coal Company.


    Fast facts:

    • The Alberta Water Tool is available across more than 230,000 km2 of Alberta, including parts of the Peace, Athabasca, North Saskatchewan, and Red Deer River watershed.
    • Reports can be produced for 240,000 unique watersheds.
    • The Athabasca expansion includes the lower portion of the Athabasca River, and also provides current and future hydrologic variability information for the Athabasca watershed, from the Athabasca River Basin Initiative.
    • More than 11,000 water licenses are represented in the Alberta Water Tool.


    For more information on the Alberta Water Tool, please visit: https://alberta-watertool.com


    Media contacts:


    Foundry Spatial

    Ben Kerr




    WaterSMART Solutions

    Mike Nemeth




    Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada

    Lauren Gilmore, Communications Manager



  • FTS Administration posted an article
    Firefighting crews battling wildfires on the front lines need the latest environmental data see more

    Source: Field Service Digital

    Author: Nevin Thompson

    Field Service in the Line of Fire—Real Fire, That Is

    Thanks to searing temperatures and unusually dry conditions, the summer of 2018 saw a rash of devastating fires across the globe. In California alone, wildfires have burned more than 1 million acres so far.

    And in years to come, expect massive fires to erupt even more frequently. By one estimate, giant fires are occurring five times more often than in the past.

    Advanced IoT and telemetry technology, however, are powerful new tools for monitoring fire dangers and helping crews respond to outbreaks, and rapidly changing weather conditions, in real time. Keeping that tech fine-tuned and functional requires the ingenuity and determination of teams of resourceful service technicians.

    Tracking Fire Danger via the Cloud

    Firefighting crews battling wildfires on the front lines need the latest environmental data to ensure their success, and Forest Technology Systems (FTS), a Vancouver Island-based company, helps provide it through a network of remote automated weather stations spread across North America

    Data from the roughly 2,400 remote weather stations across the U.S. is transmitted via satellite uplink to the National Weather Service. By monitoring humidity, precipitation, solar radiation and other conditions, these weather stations help government agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and CalFire rate fire danger, predict fire behavior and deploy resources to combat forest fires.

    In addition to its year-round weather stations, FTS provides its customers with quick-deploy portable weather stations that can be set up by one person in 15 minutes to monitor a controlled burn or the minute-by-minute fluctuations of a dangerous wildfire.

    “If you’ve ever driven down the highway and have seen one of the roadside signs that indicate fire danger according to color — green, yellow, orange and red — data from an FTS weather station helped determine the rating,” says Zoë Fyfe, senior product manager at FTS.

    Extreme Heat, Gators and Mountain Lions

    According to federal regulations, each remote weather station’s sensors and instrumentation must be maintained once a year to ensure accurate data monitoring, no matter where they may be located. That’s where Jeremy Lichtenfeld, FTS’s service manager, and his stalwart field technicians come in.

    “I’ve been to pretty much every U.S. state except for Hawaii and Alaska, and I’ve used snowmobiles, ATVs and even airboats in Florida to maintain or install equipment,” says Lichtenfeld. “While I’ve hiked up buttes, most of the monitoring sites in California are 4X4 accessible, but it still can be hours off-road.”

    Lichtenfeld says FTS service techs typically travel in teams of two or three when installing or maintaining remote installations. Some of the occupational hazards the technicians have to deal with include encounters with alligators, rattlesnakes, bears and mountain lions, as well as toiling in extreme heat.

    “We have wilderness training, including wilderness first aid,” says Lichtenfeld. “We use iridium or cell phones to check in every 30 minutes or more. Before we go out we try to establish connections with local (land management) agencies.”

    Typically, Lichtenfeld says, teams can fit all the tools, replacement parts and first aid they need in a 4X4, but they sometimes need to use a helicopter when they have to actually install new devices, such as the 20-foot mast that is an integral part of a weather station.”Slinging equipment under a helicopter can get really expensive,” he says.

    An Eye in the Path of the Wildfire

    Besides its stationary and quick-deploy weather stations, FTS has also developed a new camera-equipped “remote automated observations system,” or RAOS, that takes advantage of cellular networks, when available, or two-way connectivity offered by the Broadband Global Area Network.

    “Fire behaviorialists use the remote cameras on the RAOS to determine where a fire will move next, and you can also catch forest fires in their infancy” says Fyfe. “Smoke can obscure the ground, making fires difficult to spot from the air. Having a camera on the ground makes it easier to determine what’s happening and deploy resources effectively.”

    Fyfe says advanced environmental monitoring is helping officials make decisions more quickly, especially at the interface of forests and human settlement, where fires can be especially destructive.

    “In remote areas that are hard to access, until now we’ve been transmitting information in the most cost-effective way,” says Fyfe. “When people start to encroach on these wild areas, there needs to be increased monitoring.”

    One problem, according to Fyfe: Different organizations tend to gather their own data without coordinating how to share it, making decision-making difficult. But she expects that in the future that will change.

    “It’s not enough that data ends up in the cloud,” she says. “Instead, edge devices such as environmental sensors will use a common protocol so data can be shared more easily. We need to get information to people faster so they can make intelligent decisions.”


  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    The building’s official opening is Sept. 7. see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Carla Wilson

    Royal Roads blends old and new in environmental science campus

    In just a few weeks, students and faculty will be filling the new $24.8-million Centre for Environmental Science and International Partnership at Royal Roads University. Classes start Sept. 4. Staff and faculty are moving in now and workers are taking care of finishing touches. The building’s official opening is Sept. 7.

    This is the latest project at Royal Roads, where the old garage and stables in the Mews, once used by the Dunsmuir family, has been converted for its new role. The project covers 51,666 square feet, with its new contemporary styled south-wing addition of 18,503 square feet.

    The facility includes three new state-of-the-art laboratories.

    Each classroom and common area has the latest audio/visual and information technology.

    “That means faster and more secure internet connectivity throughout, as well as a faster and more secure IT infrastructure in each classroom to allow students and instructors to easily share large documents and video files from any of their personal devices to in-class screens and projectors, to each other and to the cloud,” Carolyn Levesque, Royal Roads senior portfolio director, who oversees all capital projects, said in a statement.

    “Each classroom will also have the IT capability to host and participate in livestream online video conferencing to interact with students in other classrooms or even other institutions, locally, nationally or internationally.”

    The new Terry Power Strategic and Advanced International Studies outdoor classroom is an open-concept space next to the new development. It has been built with natural materials, including all-weather seating areas for up to 50 students, Levesque said.

    On-campus undergraduate programs in fields such as environmental science, tourism, business and international student programs will be using the building, which includes open spaces where students can meet.

    Several environmental features were incorporated:

    • It will have lower energy and emissions output than the smaller original Mews. Royal Roads anticipates saving 1,230 gigajoules in energy and expects to reduce by 44 tonnes of total carbon emissions annually. That accounts for about three per cent of the university’s total target of cutting greenhouse gases by 33 per cent, the school said in a statement.

    • “Smart glass” has been used because it adjusts its tint to block glare, ultraviolet radiation and solar overheating of spaces. It will also help reduce the numbers of birds flying into windows, the statement said.

    • Motion-controlled lights turn on only when people are using a space and half of the building’s electrical outlets will also turn off when a space is unoccupied, in order to cut down on wasted electricity. And CO2 sensors ensure that mechanical ventilation is activated only when spaces are occupied.

    • LED lights — more efficient than fluorescents — are used indoors and outdoors.

    • Outdoor lights have shields around them and direct their beams downward to avoid sending light pollution into the night sky.

    • Upgraded insulation means less heating and cooling will be needed to maintain indoor temperatures.

    • Nearly 60 per cent of the total floor area is made up of the existing wood-frame structure.

    • Water-bottle refill stations were installed to reduce one-time plastic water bottle use.

    • There are six electric vehicle chargers in nearby parking areas, along with bike racks, shelters and showers.

    The $24.8-million cost includes construction, new equipment, high-tech infrastructure, furniture and native plant lanscaping. Funding came from the federal government, the province, philanthropist Sherman Jen and from the university.

    The two-storey Mews is a federally recognized heritage building. It stands southwest of Hatley Castle on the Hatley Castle National Historic Site, which stands out near Esquimalt Lagoon.

    Built in the early 1900s for industrialist James Dunsmuir who inherited his family’s coal fortune, Hatley Castle is a landmark in Colwood. It was constructed in a Tudor Revival design by architect Samuel Maclure. The Dunsmuir family lived on the property of more than 560 acres until 1937.

    The property was purchased by the Department of National Defence in 1940 and it served as Royal Roads Military College. Royal Roads University was founded in 1995.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    A free new tool allowing government, First Nations, industry and members of the public to access... see more

    Victoria, BC – Aug 3, 2016 – Award-winning environmental science and consulting firm Foundry Spatial today unveiled a free new tool allowing government, First Nations, industry and members of the public to access detailed information on water supply in the Cariboo region of the province.

    The Cariboo Water Tool presents monitoring information from 1,500 stream flow, groundwater, water quality and weather measurement stations in the central portion of the Fraser River watershed. It also uses innovative technology to estimate mean annual and monthly discharge for user-defined watersheds at over 180,000 locations, and provides an overview of watershed characteristics including vegetation and topography, along with an overview of current climate and projected climatic conditions.

    “The Cariboo Water Tool is very fast and easy to use,” says Ben Kerr, CEO and Senior Water Scientist at Victoria-based Foundry Spatial. “Traditional hydrologic data analysis requires days or weeks to generate information to prepare and adjudicate water license applications. With the Cariboo Water Tool, users can get meaningful information within a few seconds.”

    Water license applicants can use the information from the Cariboo Water Tool to help them during the water use application process. Likewise, regional water managers can use modeled flow and environmental flow needs information to support their water allocation decisions. This allows users to not only see what the long term average water availability for their location of interest is, but also to estimate what is happening at locations where there is no monitoring data.

    “The Cariboo Water Tool joins a suite of GIS-based tools we developed to support decision-making on water-use planning and approvals,” says Kerr. Building on the success of the Northeast, Northwest, and Omineca Water Tools, and the Water Portal, the Cariboo Water Tool summarizes information on all water-use licenses, and provides government decision-makers with guidance on environmental flows and potential water supply in a format that is transparent, readily accessible, and easily interpreted.

    Developed by Foundry Spatial for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, together with the Ministry of Environment and the BC Oil and Gas Commission, the BC Water Tools are unique in North America as water resource decision-support tools.

    Quick Facts:

    • The information used in the Cariboo Water Tool was developed through a modeling process that used 119 hydro metric stations in BC, the Yukon and Alaska.

    • The Cariboo Water Tool allows users to generate reports describing the hydrology of over 180,000 watersheds in the region.

    • The Cariboo Water Tool includes information on currently active water approvals issued under the Water Sustainability Act.

    • The Cariboo Water Tool includes historical and current environmental monitoring data from over 1,500 locations in the region.


    Cariboo Water Tool: http://cariboo.bcwatertool.ca

    Omineca Water Tool: http://www.bcwatertool.ca/owt

    Northwest Water Tool: http://www.bcwatertool.ca/nwwt

    BC Water Portal: http://www.bcwatertool.ca/waterportal

    Alberta Water Tool: http://alberta-watertool.com



    David Sovka



    Based in Victoria, BC, Foundry Spatial is an environmental science and consulting firm. Our expert team of scientists and programmers builds helpful tools that turn raw data into meaningful information for smart, sustainable, resource management decision-making. We have a proven track record, having delivered hydrology modeling and decision support tools for more than one million km2 of Western Canada. For more information, visit www.foundryspatial.com