Environmental monitoring is a broad field which intends to answer both very specific questions such as "what is the concentration of lead in the water and is it above a threshold of safety" to very broad questions such as "what is the condition of a particular ecosystem and is it changing?" Answering such questions with an effective monitoring strategy takes very different approaches. The lectures, discussions, readings and field exercises for this course are intended to expose the student to a wide range of monitoring strategies and current environmental issues.
This course will introduce students to broad principles within the field of environmental monitoring followed by lectures using case studies to discuss principles of contaminant monitoring, use of bioindicators, remote sensing and building partnerships using community-based monitoring. We will discuss how these methods may be used to monitor amphibian populations and their habitats. The field component will focus on the use of amphibians as bio-indicators of the integrity of freshwater habitats near Lake Balaton. On-site habitat assessments will be complemented by quantitative field work using Visual Encounter Surveys (VESs) and the amphibian road call count (RCC) method.
Specifically, the course will focus on the following areas:
1) Most monitoring programs fail to meet their stated goals because of insufficient work being done before the monitoring program is implemented. We will begin the course by discussing key issues that must be addressed for a successful study.
2) Building on the first lecture, we will discuss appropriate study design to ensure that the data derived from a monitoring program is capable of answering the questions of concern. This sounds obvious, but is where many monitoring programs fail.
3) Techniques in contaminant monitoring will be the focus of the third lecture and will draw on case studies including lead enrichment in ice cores in the arctic to contamination of freshwaters by pharmaceuticals.
4) The effects of contamination and a changing environment are often most readily understood by their impact on sensitive bioindicators. We will examine a suite of bioindicators to measures of ecosystem change and environmental contamination, with special emphasis on amphibians.
5) Measuring environmental changes is often more practical and cost effective using remote sensing. We will look at some remote sensing techniques with an emphasis on current satellite platforms and their capabilities for detecting environmental change.
6) Monitoring is expensive, and often too resource challenging for any one person or agency. Partnerships using a volunteer- or community-based approach have been successful at overcoming these problems for some monitoring programs. We will discuss the pros and cons of a volunteer-based monitoring program and will use the Marsh Monitoring Program in Canada as a case study which will provide some background to the field component of the course.
7) How various monitoring techniques fit together to provide a comprehensive ecosystem-based monitoring program will be the subject of the last lecture, using Sirmilik National Park of Canada as a case study.
8) The field component of the course will involve 'hands-on' approaches to assessing habitats and estimating abundance of various anuran species along a series of ponds leading into Lake Balaton. It will also provide students with an opportunity to improve their ethics in conducting field ecology research.