Lake Winnipeg Foundation application – The 2018 MAGNUS Catalyst Award for Top New Hire

Chelsea is at the forefront of a growing movement of citizen scientists taking action in their communities. Her contributions to the Lake Winnipeg Foundation and the Lake Winnipeg Community- Based Monitoring Network are connecting like-minded water stewards across Manitoba – building our collective understanding of our local waterways in order to address Lake Winnipeg’s most pressing challenges.

Congratulations to Chelsea Lobson, Career Focus Green Jobs participant, on winning the 2018 MAGNUS Catalyst Award for Top New Hire! Read Lake Winnipeg Foundation’s winning submission below and find out how Chelsea is making a difference to Canada’s bio-economy.

Submitted by:

Lake Winnipeg Foundation logo

Company culture:

The Lake Winnipeg Foundation (LWF) advocates for change and co-ordinates action to improve the health of the world’s 10th largest freshwater lake. Founded in 2005 as a volunteer coalition of concerned citizens, LWF today is a respected environmental charity working collaboratively with non- profit, academic, industry and government sectors, First Nations, and the public.

Photo of Chelsea Lobson in the fieldWith a permanent staff complement of only six, LWF’s organizational culture is defined by collaboration, adaptability, nimbleness and co-operation . Chelsea Lobson embodies these attributes. She joined LWF in January 2017 as the team’s Community-based Monitoring (CBM) Co-ordinator, responsible for recruiting and supporting volunteers for the recently established Lake Winnipeg Community-Based Monitoring Network (LWCBMN), co-ordinating day-to-day CBM operations, analyzing collected samples and sharing findings back to the community.

Chelsea is an enthusiastic, passionate young scientist who is ready and willing to roll up her sleeves and do whatever task is required of her – whether that’s organizing the hundreds of integrated water samplers, plastic bottles, portable filtration devices and other gear that comprise CBM sampling kits, training new volunteers across Manitoba on collection protocols, performing lab work to federal compliance standards using state-of-the-art equipment, or translating raw data into usable information for local conservation districts and land managers.

Chelsea’s friendly and engaging manner makes her not only a wonderful co-worker in the LWF office, but also enables her to build meaningful relationships with the many stakeholders with whom she works in the field: a diverse group of people that includes farmers, teachers, youth, scientists, and representatives from national water organizations, governments and funders.
Chelsea is self-motivated to make a difference and her background makes her ideally suited to advance LWF’s mission to improve the health of Lake Winnipeg though the implementation of evidence-based policy and practices. She is currently finishing her Master’s degree at the University of Manitoba in the department of Environment and Geography, and her focus area was in aquatic toxicology, researching antibiotic resistant bacteria in wastewater effluent and doing field work in communities around Lake Winnipeg.

In addition to her impressive scientific credentials and attention to detail with respect to data collection and analysis, Chelsea gives freely of her time and energy, going as far as to open her home to host off- site team meetings. The Lake Winnipeg Foundation is a better organization because of Chelsea’s involvement.

Company’s sense of innovation:

Across Canada, citizen science is emerging as an innovative, cost-effective tool to improve environmental monitoring and increase access to information.

Chelsea Lobson with colleagues in the fieldHuman activities – from agriculture to urban development – contribute phosphorus to waterways within Lake Winnipeg’s massive watershed. When in excess, phosphorus results in the eutrophication of Lake Winnipeg, increasing the size and frequency of potentially harmful algae blooms. Pinpointing phosphorus hotspots in the watershed will help us focus our energy and invest our resources wisely to improve water quality.

Community-based monitoring (CBM) builds capacity for scientific data collection, analysis and sharing. Supported by strong professional scientific expertise, the Lake Winnipeg Community-Based Monitoring Network (LWCBMN) expands monitoring capacity at relatively little cost, while producing credible and useful data to improve policy and practice for freshwater protection.

Chelsea is responsible for the development and operation of the LWCBMN. In her position, she has worked collaboratively with expert scientists and local watershed groups to develop an innovative approach to both data collection and analysis, and to ongoing citizen engagement and education.

The LWCBMN protocols have been intentionally designed to be compatible with water-monitoring programs conducted by federal and provincial governments, meaning that its data can be used to enrich existing data sets and deepen our understanding of water-quality trends, challenges and solutions.

LWCBMN’s data is now being used to monitor the impact of innovative water-stewardship investments being made across the landscape.

LWF understands that inaccessible data is unusable data. Chelsea ensures information is shared back to community volunteers and local decision-makers using a variety of communications tools. She is developing new in-field technologies and an integrated online information-management system that will be accessible to all interested stakeholders.

Chelsea’s dedication to promoting CBM is inspiring. In addition to cultivating relationships with local teachers and their students by speaking at numerous conferences and trainings, Chelsea was featured in the Spring & Summer issue of LWF’s newsletter, and has presented on behalf of LWF to national audiences.

Chelsea consistently goes the extra mile to deliver on her commitments and create opportunities for community participation. A perfect example of this happened early on in her position with LWF, when a March snow storm created treacherous driving conditions on route to a rural training session with new volunteers. Unfazed, Chelsea pulled off the highway, contacted her volunteers to change plans, and ended up holding an impromptu training session in the coffee shop of a nearby community gas station.

There has been considerable public interest in CBM as an innovative tool for adaptive, 21st-century water management. Under Chelsea’s leadership, LWCBMN has become a nationally recognized CBM success story. The program was highlighted as an example of proactive citizen engagement to address the freshwater data deficit at WWF-Canada’s Healthy Water Summit in June 2017.

The achievement of a team or company business objective:

Water samples collected by LWCBMN volunteers are being used to identify phosphorus hotspots across the watershed. This work directly advances LWF’s mission to improve the health of Lake Winnipeg via evidence-based actions. Our objectives in 2017 were to grow the program to several new conservation districts, complete at least 600 samples and encourage partners to use the data to inform their work.

Under Chelsea’s leadership, LWCBMN has greatly exceeded these objectives. The 2017 sampling season saw the following growth:

  • Recruited 20 volunteers
  • Partnered with six conservation districts, up from two the previous year
  • Collected 1,200 water samples, up from 200 the previous year– an astounding 600% increase from 2016’s pilot season.
  • Collected samples at 75 sites in Manitoba, up from 12 sites the previous year

Two key partners used the data to inform their on-the-ground projects
The success and the growth of this program is a direct result of having a full-time CBM Co-ordinator. Because of this increase in sampling, watershed partners will have access to phosphorus data that they can use to direct their programming. This data will result in significant advances in LWF’s core objective of reducing nutrient loading to Lake Winnipeg.

Overcoming of a business challenge:

Citizen science networks face multiple challenges. Accessing appropriate lab space and equipment can be costly. The time and expertise required to process collected samples can be overwhelming and unrealistic for volunteers. If not collected and analyzed with scientific rigor, CBM data can be viewed with distrust by decision-makers.

Chelsea Lobson testing water in the fieldChelsea has overcome all of these challenges. Working closely with LWF’s nationally recognized science advisors, LWCBMN’s protocols have been designed to be compatible with those of provincial and federal programs, including programs in other countries. As a result, LWCBMN is producing robust, credible data which, in turn, is creating additional partnership opportunities – mostly notably with Agriculture Canada, which has offered the use of its equipment in its Morden,

Manitoba-based lab where Chelsea is now processing LWCBMN’s samples. Her expertise has not gone unnoticed by her federal counterparts; in addition to her own work, she was recently asked to develop formalized usage protocols for the sample analyzer in compliance with national standards. This request underscores the trust and confidence others have placed in Chelsea, and is an impressive accomplishment for a young scientist at the beginning of her career.

Chelsea is at the forefront of a growing movement of citizen scientists taking action in their communities. Her contributions to the Lake Winnipeg Foundation and the Lake Winnipeg Community- Based Monitoring Network are connecting like-minded water stewards across Manitoba – building our collective understanding of our local waterways in order to address Lake Winnipeg’s most pressing challenges. She is an ideal recipient for the 2018 MAGNUS Catalyst Award for Top New Hire.