UBC engineers work to protect ecosystems

New research looks at impact of construction on natural habitats

  • Oct. 1, 2018 12:00 a.m.

Working with Bow River stakeholders in the Calgary area, UBC Okanagan researchers are investigating ways to reduce the negative impact of construction on sensitive aquatic ecosystems.

“Any work conducted near waterways has a certain amount of environmental risk,” explains Greg Courtice, a doctoral student in the School of Engineering at UBC’s Okanagan campus. Courtice and his supervisors, Professor Deborah Roberts and Instructor Bahman Naser, are working with Bow River stakeholders to better understand the impacts. At the same time, they hope to develop sustainable methods to mitigate the risks.

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Courtice says addressing this issue has many challenges and ultimately becomes a ‘give and take’ scenario between the level of sediment control and the length of time spent working in the water.

“The harm from suspended sediment comes from a combination of how intense the release is and how long the exposure occurs,” he adds. “The more we try to control sediment, the longer we have to interact with these sensitive ecosystems.”

Courtice, Naser and Roberts are examining the mechanisms which cause sediment impacts to reduce environmental risk through adjustments to construction processes. Construction in or adjacent to rivers can negatively impact aquatic ecosystems by disturbing sediment, which can be harmful to fish and fish habitat into the waterway.

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“If we better understand these sediment releases, and the exposure risks they create for the aquatic environment, we can better assess our environmental risks. From there we can determine the most appropriate concentration and duration balance while designing more sustainable solutions that work better for both the community and the environment,” says Courtice.

This work has been funded by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council in partnership with DFH Enterprises Inc. and donations from the Bow River Trout FoundationBody

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