DUC Podcast

Listen as we explore issues, ideas and research about wetlands in Canada.

Wetlands are some of the most bio-diverse habitats in the country. Wetlands are vital to the health of a wide variety of mammals, birds, amphibians reptiles plants—and, of course human beings. We’re interviewing research experts and frontline workers from Ducks Unlimited Canada in lively, engaging exchanges. They’ll keep you up-to-date and up-to-speed on the best information and stories about these vital Canadian ecosystems.

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Episode Five – October 2017

Niverville’s Jim Buys: finding a creative solution for a growing municipal problem.
©Lisette Ross

This episode begins with a remarkable story about vision, persistence and, sewage. It’s the tale of the little town of Niverville, Manitoba and its groundbreaking solution to dealing with night soil. Next, as winter approaches we ask the question everybody thinks of when they stroll past frozen ponds. It’s about ducks and feet. Let’s dive right in.

Niverville sounds like the name of a town in a fairytale. But the community, nestled in the Red River Valley, had a giant-sized problem with a sewage lagoon that no longer could serve the farming burg’s burgeoning population.

In 2011 Niverville had to decommission its overtaxed and 37-year-old pond of poop before it could build a new one. But, what to do with the 48,000 cubic metres of biosolids – human waste – that had built up in the facilities’ two containment cells? Bureaucrats and engineers told the town fathers they had two options. Cart the biosolids to a landfill site or spread it over farmland, valuable farmland, farmland the Niverville sludge would put out of commission for months.

Jim Buys, the town’s Chief Administrative Officer wasn’t happy with either traditional and expensive option. A trade show meeting with  Native Plant Solutions, the consulting arm of Ducks Unlimited Canada, pointed to another option. The ecological consultants and Buys came up with option three, a ecological white knight ready to slay the giant that lay fallow in the town’s south end.

For the first time in North America they wanted to use cattails and other plants to remediate the biosolids that burdened the borough. The process is called phytoremediation, a natural process that had been used when sewage lagoons were built, but never to put them out to pasture, or, really out to wetland. Niverville and Native Plant Solutions worked with scientists at the University of Manitoba, to determine the best way to plant, harvest and monitor the aquatic plants.

Those plants would extract metal contaminates and nutrients like phosphorus from the bothersome biomass. That way it would be safe habitat for wetland flora and fauna. At least, that was the theory.

It was risky journey. It took a lot of experimentation and research. But the town’s journey was, in fact, a fairytale full of hope, heroes and happy endings.

Then, picture this: it’s winter and there are ducks on a frozen pond. Tell me you didn’t ask the same question I asked Jim Devries, a research scientist with Ducks Unlimited Canada’s Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research.

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Guest Bio:

Jim Buys
Chief Administrative Officer, Town of Niverville

Jim has served as the Chief Administrative Officer/Town Manager for Niverville since 1985. During his tenure, the Town has experienced significant population growth, being recognized as Manitoba’s fastest growing urban municipality. Jim, working with his councils and staff, has placed a strong emphasis on sustainable environment development within all departments ensuring the prudent utilization of our natural resources. From land development to waste management to operational services, staff are encouraged to strive for resource balance enabling the community to practice responsible environmental stewardship.

Jim and his wife Claire are the parents of four children who were introduced at a young age to nature by hiking, canoeing and cross-country skiing throughout Manitoba’s incredibly diverse landscape.  Currently they live on an organic farm just outside of the community which is operated by their son. The family has grown to include eight wonderful grandkids.

Jim Devries, PhD
Research Scientist, Ducks Unlimited Canada

Jim Devries joined Ducks Unlimited Canada’s Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research (IWWR) in 1991 and has been in his current role since 2014. He is responsible for co-ordinating applied research within Western Canada. This includes helping to identify research needs, designing research studies, analyzing research results and communicating research results to our staff and the wider scientific community.

Jim conducts extensive field work and analyzes large databases that relate local and landscape level habitat conditions to waterfowl productivity and responses in biodiversity metrics. Jim is also involved in translating the results of IWWR’s recent field investigations into the Waterfowl Productivity Model (WPM), a planning tool designed to estimate waterfowl productivity gains resulting from landscape change including the impacts of conservation programs.

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Episode Four – September 2017

This episode is all about getting intel on birds: what they look like, where they hang out and where they go when they migrate.

We start with the fine art of bird banding. Researchers find a bird they want to track and, as Beyoncé might say, “put a ring on it.” We’ll discover the history, purpose and process of avian bling.

House wren with band
Bird bands, like the one pictured on this house wren, help conservationists uncover important information.
©DUC

Then, we travel to Cape May, New Jersey where we chat with a birding expert and author who wants to help us identify birds in their habitats. Richard Crossley has created a series of books, including one on ducks, to help us do just that.

One of the best ways to ID waterfowl is to forget their colouring and focus on patterns, says Richard Crossley.
One of the best ways to ID waterfowl is to forget their colouring and focus on patterns, says Richard Crossley.
©DUC

Guest Bios:

Like the waterfowl populations he helps to protect, Pat Kehoe knows no boundaries. As DUC’s director of international partnerships, he travels throughout North America helping build and develop conservation relationships.

Richard Crossley is an internationally acclaimed birder, photographer and award winning author of The Crossley ID Guide: Waterfowl. Crazy, wildly passionate, driven and single-minded are just a few of the words used to describe his love of birding and the outdoors.

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Episode Three – August 2017

Common eider hen.
©CIC

Eider feathers, or down, aren’t just for duvets. In fact, a hormone in those feathers called corticosterone, can indicate the stress eider ducks have been under as they molt. Yukon-based eider researcher Jane Harms explains that stress can be due to nearby predators or sometimes changes in their environment. So, not only can the stress hormone indicate eiders’ health and their ability to reproduce, it may also be an indicator of climate change. Get under cover and tune into the tale.

Fredericton High School students with drone.
Pictured left to right are Fredericton High School students David Nash, Nathan Hoyt, Will Marshall and Brandyn Cooke. Using 3D printing and software, robotics, coding, as well as their problem-solving skills and ingenuity, this group developed a drone attachment capable of collecting water samples.
©Fredericton High School

Wetlands are delicate ecosystems. So the last thing researchers really want to do is churn up those wetland waters just to sample them. But what if a flying robot could do that for them? How? We do a flyby visit with a young inventor, Nathan Hoyt, who worked with a small team of high school students to figure it out. Plus, they’re making a business out of it. Listen in. We promise we won’t drone on.

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Guest Bios:

Jane Harms is the program veterinarian with the Department of the Environment in Yukon.

Nathan Hoyt is a student at the Fredericton High School and is now a co-owner of  Eco Drone Water Collection. If you’d like to learn more about his fledgling company visit ecodronewatercollection.com.

Episode Two – July 2017

©Sean Landsman

Why do maritime fish fight currents, waterfalls and man-made barriers to get to inland ponds and lakes to spawn? What barriers do they face? How does that odd behaviour help the ecology of wetlands? And, how can we make their job easier? We talk with Nic McLellan, the Atlantic Science Coordinator for Ducks Unlimited Canada, to find out. Plus, we discover what tracking road race runners has to do with counting fish.

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©DUC

Did you know ducklings have their own social network? No spoilers, but you’ll be amazed by how those little ducks make sure they all share the same birthday, thanks to a quick chat we had with Dave Howerter. He’s the Director of National Conservation Operations at Ducks Unlimited Canada. Dave’s up on the equivalent of bird Twitter.

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Guest Bios

Nic McLellan
Conservation Programs Specialist, Atlantic Canada

Nic McLellan grew up in Sackville, NB where he developed a keen interest in biology and the outdoors.

Prior to his current job at Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), Nic worked on several research projects with the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. These projects involved a variety of bird species including shorebirds, songbirds, seabirds, and waterfowl.

David Howerter, PhD
Director, National Conservation Operations

Dave Howerter is an accomplished scientist with a track record of successfully managing a complex scientific program, demonstrated ability to build teams, build consensus, and develop partnerships. Dave is responsible for all programs national in scope related to engineering, education, international partnerships, government relations, research and conservation planning.

Episode One – June 2017

In this episode you’ll meet carp in a marsh and a researcher in the field. First, the carp.

In it’s heyday, the 1930s, the Delta Marsh, near Lake Manitoba, was home to a huge numbers of waterfowl. It was one of the great duck hunting destinations in North America. And, it attracted royalty, celebrities and hunters from all over the world. That was, before the carp. The invasive species muddied the marshes water, stirred up the bottom and generally made life miserable for the aquatic plants that called the marsh home. No plants, no ducks. Then scientists perfected the carp barrier and the marsh is bouncing back (see how it works). You’ll hear the story of a remarkable recovery.

Next we pay a short visit to Matt Dyson a University of Waterloo field researcher. He tells us what it’s really like in the woods, bogs and muck of the north as he does the real, on the ground work of a deep woods scientist.

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Guest Bios

Dale Wrubleski, PhD
Dale is Ducks Unlimited Canada’s lead research scientist at Delta Marsh. Trained as an entomologist, Wrubleski has more recently become an expert on native fish species and on the invasive carp that threaten the famed Manitoba wetland.

Glen Suggett
Glen grew up near the shores of Delta Marsh in the 1970s. Over the years, he’s seen the health of the iconic wetland deteriorate, as well as unsuccessful attempts to improve conditions. Rather than become discouraged, Suggett’s a part of the team working to restore Delta Marsh for the next generation. Together with Gordon Goldsborough, PhD, and members of the Delta History Group, Suggett authored Delta: A Prairie Marsh and its People, a book that introduces readers to the people who have relied on and enjoyed the marsh over the years.

Gordon Goldsborough, PhD.
Few people know the history of Manitoba’s Delta Marsh as intimately as Gordon Goldsborough, PhD. A Winnipeg-born research scientist and natural storyteller, Goldsborough’s connection to Delta dates back to his days as a student at the University of Manitoba. As a water quality specialist, and professor at his alma mater, Goldsborough enjoys sharing the many reasons why Delta Marsh is so important for people and wildlife.

Matt Dyson
Matt Dyson’s Twitter feed, much like his life, is anything but boring. The University of Waterloo student’s tweets alternate with images of cougars and ravens eating duck eggs. The photos of ravenous predators—captured by trail cameras—are part of Dyson’s ongoing doctoral research that takes him to northern Alberta each spring. While battling the landscape’s rugged elements, he’s studying the impact a changing boreal forest is having on predators—and in turn, on duck populations.

Read more about the science in Episode One: