Science Forum Presentations


Characterizing Water Quality in Tributaries of the Milk River

Sandi Riemersma, Palliser Environmental


Please pass the salt: Investigating the source and variability of salts in the Milk River

Brain Gaas, Alberta Environment and Parks


Impact of stormwater discharge from small towns on area creeks; and how to improve urban stormwater quality and quantity, and save money

Wendell Koning, Alberta Environment and Parks 


Silver Sage Conservation Site:Conversion of cropland to native grassland for species-at-risk habitat and grazing opportunities

Lee Moltzahn, Alberta Conservation Association/ MULTISAR


Grassland weather, insects, and some lessons from the results of the 2018 tour of the Milk River Natural Area and Kennedy Coulee Ecological Reserve 

Dan Johnson, University of Lethbridge



Diversity of insects of the Milk River watershed, with respect to relationships with vegetation and as food for birds and other wildlife 

Dan Johnson, University of Lethbridge

Dan Johnson is currently Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Lethbridge, with research in grassland insects, biogeography, biodiversity, environmentally sustainable agriculture, entomology, rational pest management, biological control, ecology, insect movement, biometeorology, alternatives to chemical pesticides, insects as vectors of plant diseases, methods of forecasting, wildlife ecology, environmental safety, and analysis and modeling of environmental and experimental data. He is currently Principal Investigator and National Coordinator of the Canadian Zebra Chip and Potato Psyllid Monitoring Network. He has conducted research and taught short courses in China, Africa, and Southeast Asia. He currently teaches university courses in data analysis, biogeography, and environmental science. Previously, Dan was a senior scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, overseas with the US Agency for International Development and Canadian International Development Agency, and Canada Research Chair for Sustainable Grassland Ecosystems (CRC Evolution and Ecology). He was a member of the Alberta Environmental Appeals Board for two terms. He organized and chaired the 2005 world meeting of the Orthopterists' Society, held in Canmore, Alberta. Dan is happiest when talking to students or interested members of the public, but has also published over 100 scientific articles, and an additional 200 other articles. He recently established and co-edited the public outreach column “Public Professor” published in the Lethbridge Herald, 2010-2013 (140 articles). Dan grew up on grassland in South Dakota, and has lived in Alberta for 30 years. Dan attended University in Minnesota initially, and graduated from the University of Saskatchewan (BSc High Hon. in Biology; second concentration in Geography), and University of British Columbia (MSc and PhD in Plant Science, at the Institute of Animal Resource Ecology), where he received NSERC and Killam Scholarships.

Insects, along with related arthropods, play crucial roles in the food webs, nutrient cycling, pollination, decomposition, and predator/parasite relationships in grassland ecosystems. Beetles, butterflies, moths, ants, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, aphids, plant bugs, flies, bees, spiders, and even scorpions are prominent and active features of grassland and riparian biodiversity around the Milk River. Species-level examples are presented with tips in how to identify and understand the importance of key species found in this area.


Controlling Japanese Brome and Downy Brome in Native Grasslands using Simplicity Herbicide

Lee Moltzahn, MULTISAR, Alberta Conservation Association

 Lee Moltzahn has been a rangeland agrologist with MULTISAR with the Alberta Conservation Association since 2010. Lee was raised in the small, rural community of Nobleford where a love for the prairie landscape was first cultured and grew. Lee is married to Tina and along with their daughter, Camryn, they reside on a small farm along the Oldman River in the Fort Macleod area.

The spread of two grassy, noxious weeds, Japanese and downy brome, in native rangelands has caused increased concern among landowners, leaseholders, and land managers. In response, MULTISAR resource managers developed a field trial to test the effectiveness of Simplicity Herbicide in suppressing or eradicating annual bromes. Two locations were chosen in the Milk River Watershed with both fall and spring chemical treatments, as well control plots.


Insect food availability and utilization for sharp-tailed grouse in Alberta using stable isotopes, crop contents, and insect survey and biodiversity 

Sejer Meyhoff, University of Lethbridge

Sejer is a MSc candidate supervised by Dan Johnson at the University of Lethbridge. He is doing research on insect food webs related to upland game birds.

Insects are a critical food source for plains sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus jamesi) at various life stages and at different times of the year as a high-nutrient food source. Grouse appear to utilize insect food resources in proportion to their availability on the landscape and grasshoppers (Orthoptera: Acrididae) are often found to be consumed in large quantities. There are over 40 species of grasshopper on Alberta grasslands, and many possess varying life histories and phenological traits that result in their abundance and scarcity at different times during the warm season. This variation is a result of insect biodiversity and creates a resilient high-quality food source for sharp-tailed grouse. Habitat alteration, grazing regimes, and agricultural pest management strongly influence insect species composition on landscapes. 


Adoption of Precision Agriculture to Reduce Inputs, Enhance Sustainability and Increase Food Production – A Study of Southern Alberta
Lorraine Nicol, University of Lethbridge

Dr. Lorraine Nicol is a research associate in the Department of Economics at the University of Lethbridge. She comes from dryland farm roots in Saskatchewan and as such, continues her involvement in farming through her research. All of her work centres on water management in southern Alberta. Her research has focussed on irrigation water management, water markets, and challenges involved in reallocating water amongst municipalities. More recently she has begun concentrating on adoption of precision agriculture technologies. Ultimately her research aims to improve water management for the betterment of farmers, municipalities and the environment.

Precision agriculture (PA) has significant potential to reduce agricultural inputs, enhance agricultural sustainability, and increase production in order to meet the growing world-wide demand for food. This study focuses on southern Alberta, the largest, most fertile and productive agricultural region in Canada. Given the high concentration of agriculture in this region, the potential benefits of precision agriculture could be significant. A greater understanding of the adoption of precision agriculture is therefore warranted. This study explores the current and future potential of achieving these input reductions, environmental sustainability, and productivity outcomes by studying the adoption of PA in southern Alberta.


Water quality and pesticides in the Canadian Prairies: Status, challenges and solutions

Claudia Sheedy, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

 Claudia is a research scientist in environmental chemistry with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lethbridge, Alberta.  Her main scientific interests consist in water quality and trace residue analysis of agricultural contaminants such as pesticides, veterinary antibiotics and hormones in environmental matrices.  Her current projects focus on the presence of pesticides in surface waters, the development of novel analytical methods for determining the impacts of agriculture on water quality, the development of pesticide risk reduction strategies and modelling of the fate and transport of pesticides in water across Canada.

Claudia is from Quebec City.  She obtained her B.Sc. in Biology and Agronomy from Université Laval in Québec, her M.Sc. in Immunochemistry from the University of Guelph in Ontario, her Ph.D in Antibody engineering from the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa (with University of Guelph).  Claudia also worked in Italy and Czech Republic.

This presentation highlights the various threats to water quality in the Canadian Prairies, with an emphasis on the occurrence of pesticides in a variety of water matrices including rivers, urban creeks, wastewater treatment plant effluents, groundwater and snow.  Current challenges our farmers are facing with regards to pesticides and pesticide resistance are reviewed, and potential solutions to reduce the risk of water contamination by pesticides are discussed. In particular, we examine issues related to neonicotinoid insecticides and the herbicide glyphosate, and report on the development of efficient and robust pesticide rinsate biobeds specific to the Canadian Prairies climate conditions and pesticide use.


 Water Quality Trends in Milk River

Sandi Riemersma, Palliser Environmental Services Ltd

Sandi graduated from Trent University in Ontario with a Joint B.Sc. in Biology and Environmental Science and received her M.Sc. from the University of Calgary in Environmental Engineering.  After working for the provincial government for 5 years, Sandi founded Palliser Environmental Services Ltd. in 2004.  Her work focuses on all aspects of watershed management: environmental monitoring, reporting, planning, and restoration.  Sandi has worked with the MRWCC since its formation and is the founder of the long-term water monitoring program in the watershed. Today, Sandi will present on water quality trends in the Milk River.

This presentation provides an overview of water quality observed in the Milk River during the last 11 years.  Trends in water quality stemming from natural process and water management are further discussed with reference to the Milk River as a transboundary watershed.  Comparisons are made to Water Quality Objectives, established as part of the Milk River Integrated Watershed Management Plan (2015), and to relevant provincial guidelines. 


Growing with the flow - Environmental growth of E. coli

Lisa Tymensen, Agriculture and Forestry

Dr. Tymensen is a Research Scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s Irrigation and Farm Water Branch located in Lethbridge Alberta. She completed her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology in 2007 from the University of Calgary. Lisa joined the Water Quality Section in 2011 and is currently involved in research to assess and minimize agricultural impacts on the environment and human health. She will be talking today about some of the microbial source tracking research she did in partnership with the MRWCC when she first joined Albert Agriculture. Lisa will also be talking about some of her more recent water quality research that evolved from that partnership.