NSERC Chair for
Women in Science & Engineering

ICAN-WISE 2017 Feature

Amanda Ronnquist

Amanda spent her summer with Dr. Cherie Westbrook at the University of Saskatchewan exploring the hydrologic properties of beaver sites in Kananaskis Country: what features (retention capacity, wood materials) allow dams to persist during flooding? A combination of field work and geographic information system analysis helped with this interdisciplinary project in geography, hydrology, and biology.

Weeks 1-2

The first two weeks has involved primarily desk work and familiarizing myself with my project. My time has been spent going through data, reading relevant papers, and formulating a working plan for how I am going to use the data to answer my thesis question. Careful records of information and the construction of an ongoing bibliography will help simplify later referencing.

Weeks 3-4

I have been working on the task of comparing the earlier imagery with that after the flood and taking notes on any changes observed. Other parameters such as number of ponds and surface area of open water are also recorded at this time using ArcMap. With hundreds of sites this process is very time consuming but essential in order to have the necessary data for the later analysis.

Weeks 5-6

My time is currently been spent out in the field in the same areas that I have been looking at on imagery. Vital knowledge has been obtained by visually comparing areas on foot to how they appear in the imagery. This photo shows me assisting in the surveying of a relict beaver dam.

Weeks 7-8

Determining the discharge of an outlet stream in a fen that contains a large series of both intact and breached beaver dams. The discharge is obtained by taking a transect of both flow velocities and depth measurements across the stream.

Weeks 9-10

Ground truthing some of the sites I have been analyzing on imagery. Time is spent taking photos, vegetation samples, dam size measurements, and recording extensive notes on any presence of beaver and flood damage.

Weeks 11-12

Returned to Saskatoon to continue working with imagery on ArcMap. Received 300 GB of data containing imagery of the study area immediately after the flood of 2013 to use in my comparison. I will include approximately 200 different beaver sites to create a large sample size for the later analysis.

Week 13

Visiting beaver sites from my dataset. Now with multiple sets of imagery of the same sites I can visualize how the landscape is changed over the years with the influence of beaver and compare that to how it appears presently.

Week 14

Learning how to identify signs of recent beaver activity to determine if the sites are inhabited or abandoned. Some indicators of an active site include fresh mud on the dams, recent chewing and debarking of sticks, scent mounds, and the presence of fresh scat.

Week 15

A large beaver dam located on the inlet of a lake. Site visits such as this one can give insight into the parameters that may be useful in later analysis. Its location at the lake inlet may potentially play a role in its persistence through the flood and will be looked into during later analysis.

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