STUDENT-LED COMMUNITY-ENGAGED
PROJECTS: ONGOING

THE WATER WE CALL HOME

Stories Of Connection Gather In A Decolonial Exhibition

This project centres stories of fish, water, and family along the Salish Sea. The exhibition will serve as a conduit of connection. The water stories shared between relatives function to renew Indigenous rationalities.

Rosemary Georgeson (Coast Salish and Sahtu Dene) and Jessica Hallenbeck (Dutch, Russian, Irish, Hungarian) are the project leads. Taking a scholarly and research-creation approach, the project will have an inaugural museum exhibition on Galiano Island.

KNOWLEDGE MOBILIZATION OF ANISHINAABEK G’GIIKENDAASWINMIN FROM THE GREAT LAKES

Sue Chiblow’s research explores humanity’s relationship to the waters and how improving this relationship can support the well-being of the waters, other beings, and humanity.

This project focuses on sharing knowledge gained from Chilblow’s research through a website and short videos. A Community Language Liaison will review all Anishinaabemowin from the interviews to ensure correct grammar and proper usage throughout the written text and videos.

Sue Chiblow

Courtesy: susanchiblow.com

Exploring Urban Indigenous Water Relations In Vancouver With Arts-based Methods And Indigenous Story Work

In this project, Joanne Nelson will create a Photo Voice-based project in which co-researchers will be asked to visualize their relationship to water. They will be encouraged to submit photographs and other culturally relevant artwork – the stories behind which they will be discussed in semi-structured interviews. The final stage of the project will be a community exhibit.

Student-led Community Engaged Projects: Completed

EC-GPS Water Logger

Water security for Indigenous communities is an urgent issue. Approximately one third of Indigenous communities in Canada are currently grappling with safe drinking water access, compromised environmental water quality, and associated health issues. Surface water monitoring is often limited in rural and remote regions. This is in part due to the difficulty of accessing remote sites. Even when monitoring is conducted it is usually expensive and intermittent, with results that can be difficult for communities to interpret. There is a need for low-cost, appropriate technology that enables communities to conduct fresh water monitoring.

For a short video about the logger, please click below.

Our Innovation

This manual describes how to build a cheap, portable, robust surface water monitoring device. The device is called a “data logger.” It uses open-source technology: anyone can use this Manual to build the device. The logger has a simple design, and can be easily built and repaired with mail-order parts, hence well adapted for use by rural and remote communities. The device can be easily transported by users who are traveling on land or water, or installed at a stationary point. The approximate assembly time is 3–5 hours. The approximate cost is $600, substantially cheaper than commercially available data loggers.

What does the data logger test?

The logger records electrical conductivity (which is a proxy indicator for contamination) and GPS location. This allows users to collect water data at a precise location, and later return for additional water testing if necessary. This device is not intended as a substitute for lab tests or more sophisticated water monitoring. Rather, the device is designed to enable users to identify specific areas that require more detailed testing.

Authors

The idea for this logger originated at a Water Bush Camp organized by Caleb Behn (then-Executive Director of Keepers of the Water), in the traditional territory of Halfway River, Saulteau, and West Moberly First Nations at Carbon Lake in 2015. The logger is an adapation of a device built by Dr. Mark Johnson (UBC) to log and monitor water in remote and humid environments in the tropics1. While the data loggers previously developed by Dr. Johnson’s group were stationary, the vast reaches of the north inspired a mobile unit that might be towed by a boat and used to sweep for potential contamination. Teddy Eyster, an MSc student working with Dr. Johnson, worked to adapt the monitor for mobile use and test the device in two locations in NWT and Manitoba. This manual was then written by a collective of authors associated with the Sustainable Water Governance and Indigenous Law Project, housed at UBC on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam people.

Funders

The Manual was funded by the Sustainable Water Governance and Indigenous Law project, a partnership grant funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Principal Investigator Dr. Karen Bakker (UBC)). Co-funding was provided by Brinkman Forest, with matching funding from MITACS. More information at: decolonizingwater.ca.

EBPI Research and Development Projects

EBPI Newsletter brief for UBC Decolonizing Water Project (March 2018)

EBPI is pleased to provide an update to the members and partners of the Decolonizing Water Governance grant team on the latest research and development projects at the company, as well as some insight into how these new initiatives might tie into our working efforts. EBPI is constantly striving to make our test systems more accessible by simplifying how data is collected and providing better interpretation for the results. Our primary research efforts aim to expand our client base, while at the same time erasing current limitations of laboratory equipment and training through innovations in method design, and new technologies. We feel like our general research direction relates to the grant by always keeping the end user in mind, and any method improvements or decreased costs should facilitate adoption of our technologies within First Nations communities if they want to use them. More specifically, three of our research projects focus directly on our partnership with the Decolonizing Water Governance project and have been undertaken with isolated applications in First Nations communities as the target.

Portable, single use toxicity test with Aliivibrio fischeri

The luminescent bacteria test employs a species of marine bacteria that produces bioluminescence naturally. When these bacteria encounter toxins, light production is altered and the degree of change is a very well characterized measure of toxicity in a sample used universally in the mining, oil and gas, waste water and chemical industries. So far, this test has not been adapted for field use due to machine constraints (most luminometers are very large) and storage requirements of the test organisms. We have been working diligently with our partners at Aboatox in Finland to develop a test method that uses a single use swab device and a hand-held luminometer to permit rapid field measurements of toxicity in water samples and solid surfaces. This test method is not available anywhere else in the world, and a novel preservation technique provides extra stability to the bacteria by simplifying the necessary storage conditions. We see significant utility of this system in remote locations, or for use by land managers who come across spills and want to measure potential toxicity directly. We hope to gather further information on the durability and performance through field trials with interested communities.

Cell phone software improvements for result interpretation

Most of our test methods depend on colour changes to provide results. While this design permits visual analysis without any supplemental equipment, to get accurate measurements about the degree of response, which is crucial for establishing toxic potency, a spectrophotometer is required. This instrument is expensive to purchase, complicated to use, and not easily deployed in remote locations. For these reasons, we have been researching alternative ways to get spectrophotometric results without the detector. Current initiatives to use cell phones and imaging processing algorithms for this purpose have yielded encouraging early results. By employing the camera and computation power of a smart phone device and working with the latest image and colour processing software technologies, we are developing an application that will prompt the user to take a picture of the microplate used in the test, and will interpret the degree of colour change compared to a standard sample to produce on-site quantitative results. We hope to exploit the widespread availability of smart phones to improve our assays, dramatically lower the cost of testing, and encourage the use of genotoxicity assays in remote locations.

Deployment of the C.L.A.M. in situ water concentration device for Environmental Monitoring
A third research project with our partners at Aqualitical is investigating the use of their in-situ water filtration and concentration device to improve sample collection and result acquisition. The C.L.A.M. (Continuous Low-level Analytical Measurement) device is a small submersible extraction sampler, using EPA approved methodology 3535 and a SPE (Solid Phase Extraction) media disks to provide a time integrative, large volume extraction of potential contaminants. The water is left behind and the pre-extracted disk is submitted to a laboratory for testing. The system saves costs on shipping heavy water and can dramatically lower detection limits by extracting up to 100L of water. Additionally, holding time issues do not apply as the disk is a solid, and can be frozen for up to a year. EBPI sees a very important application in remote northern communities for this technology, which can be easily paired with its Bioassays to improve responses, and also used for better and more cost effective sample collection during currently employed analytical assessments.
Aptasensor Development for Priority Contaminants

Aptamers are short single-stranded oligonucleotides (pieces of DNA/RNA) that possess high binding affinities for specific molecular targets. Aptamer molecules utilize the many possible tertiary configurations of nucleic acids to fold around and interact with a specific target. We have devised a fluorescent reporter system to pair with aptamers and provide real-time detection of molecular targets by monitoring changes in fluorescence. Coupled with a portable fluorimeter that EBPI has built, we have come up with a platform that can provide low level detection of small molecules in environmental samples. We are very excited about the potential applications of the technology, as it can be used for any molecule of interest by simply changing the DNA sequence. We have demonstrated proof of concept using proteins, fungal toxins and heavy metals, and are trying to use it to detect toxins from algal blooms. Although the completion of this project is not imminent, there is significant potential to provide users with low cost detection of priority pollutants on-site, in real time. We are interested in finding new targets of interest for First Nations communities where our system might be employed.

These projects will be ongoing in the upcoming year to improve our product performance for general clients, while at the same time optimizing tools that can potentially be used by interested First Nations communities. The goal remains to enable environmental monitoring independently and cost-effectively. Our hope is to gather feedback from the grant team on ways to support the grant initiatives, and better serve the communities who might benefit from these technologies. We are looking forward to continuing our strong relationship with the grant and conducting research and development for applications within Canada. For more information on EBPI and our research projects visit www.biotoxicity.com or contact Dr. Aaron Witham directly at awitham@biotoxicity.com.