Networking DUC Wetland Centres of Excellence, 2016-2017

Project by Ducks Unlimited Canada.

Location: current Wetland Centres of Excellence are found in NB, QC, ON, MB and BC. They are planned or in development for NL and SK.

For more information on this project, please contact Merebeth Switzer, National Manager, Education, Mississauga, ON.

Purpose

The Wetland Centre of Excellence (WCE)/ Centres d’excellence des milieux humides (CEMH)  program is based on DUC’s recognition of the education, conservation and community benefits of the Tantramar Regional High School wetland partnership. Since 2003 DUC has raised funds and provided support and recognition across Canada to selected schools with similar programs. There are now 20 WCEs and several more are planned or under development.  Each year over 400 – 600 WCE students engage in wetland studies and conservation projects and a few may receive a stipend to be team leaders or research interns.  WCE students at most sites also lead younger students on wetland field trips, reaching 5,000+ students annually.

DUC provincial offices support WCEs locally but the connection amongst them nationally has been limited. We would like to change this. In 2005 DUC brought together teacher and student representatives from the five founding WCEs in NB, ON & MB and conducted a similar workshop for Ontario’s WCEs in 2013. These proved to be valuable experiences but implementing a similar, national-scale workshop is not practical at this time, given the number of WCEs and their more immediate needs.  In addition improved communication tools and social media can be used to create better connections for the schools and students involved.

We will implement our plan to develop these tools to strengthen the network and connect the WCEs nationally.  As this work progresses we will be seeking a national program sponsors for our Wetland Centres of Excellence to ensure sustainability beyond 2017.

Contribution to Goal #3 of the 2012 NAWMP Revision: “Growing numbers of waterfowl hunters, other conservationists, and citizens who enjoy and actively support waterfowl and wetlands conservation.

Wetland Centres of Excellence increase support for waterfowl and wetlands conservation in a number of ways:

  1. WCE programs develop a high profile in their local community increasing awareness and ownership of the local wetland. For example, the Timiskaming WCE at Hilliardton Wetland has evolved into a community effort to expand its bird-banding work within the community and promote ecotourism at the site. In Rivers MB the WCE has engaged the entire community, as well Sagkeeng First Nation, Assiniboine Community College, Brandon University, Little Saskatchewan Water Conservation District and others. In less than two years this has resulted in nearly 100,000 trees being planted on land surrounding the wetlands, an agreement by the city to remove red clover and allow restoration planting with native species after a presentation by WCE students, and plans for trails throughout the community to link the schools to the wetland. A variety of other initiatives are also being explored.
  2. WCEs have long-term impact on many of the students who participate in the program, whether by creating, or strengthening, their interest in wetlands, waterfowl and conservation. Students have gone into related fields of study (Fish & Wildlife Management, ornithology, planning & public policy, etc.) and have taken part as advocates for wetland conservation with DUC at events on Parliament Hill and the Ontario legislature.  Our understanding of the long-term impacts comes from anecdotal reports but is supported by graduate student research with WCE participants & graduates at three different WCEs in NB, MB and ON. Most recently students in the 200+ member Environment Club at the University of Western Ontario have approached us with interest in implementing a WCE in association with their university. This was initiated by a former WCE student indicating the likelihood that her past WCE experience has influenced her desire to continue her commitment to similar conservation efforts.

Contributions to conservation, restoration or enhancement of habitat

Wetland Centre of Excellence (WCE) projects have included: construction & restoration of at least four large wetlands; wetland clean-ups; construction of outdoor wetland classrooms, viewing towers, trails, dipping docks, interpretive kiosks and bird banding huts; tree and wetland plant planting, shoreline stabilization, and other habitat improvement; nest box construction,  installation, monitoring and maintenance; resources inventories; invasive species removal, etc.. Each year similar projects are planned and undertaken by WCE students, generally in partnership with conservation organizations and their community.