Integrated expertise for diverse projects

Each year, we help clients tackle numerous projects. We feature just a few of these projects here.

INVESTIGATION OF THE USE OF ALTERNATIVE MATERIALS AND ADDITIVES TO IMPROVE THE PERFORMANCE OF ROAD SAFETY AGENTS

In collaboration with St. Lawrence College, River Labs engaged in an applied research partnership to investigate using organic waste by-products as chemical additions to produce more effective road safety agents. The client is interested in reducing the application and re-application rates of products that are primarily sodium-chloride (salt) based. The proposed new product will offer equal or better performance at lower applications rates, reduce corrosion levels and limit the amount of sodium leached into water tables. The goals of this project are to:

  • Identify an improved liquid surfactant addition to two standard dust suppressants, to develop that will penetrate pavement more thoroughly, while reducing the amount of chemicals used in the process;
  • Identify the optimal concentration of chemical addition of a proprietary product to liquid de-icers to effectively improve melting performance and;
  • Examine whether spent brewer’s yeast can be used as a thickener to replace a synthetic addition in liquid de-icing agents.

As transportation departments in North America become increasingly more concerned with the amount of surfactants and chemicals used on roads that leach into the water table, a successful collaboration will ensure the client’s position to address the surfactant challenges in the future, and solidify its position as the environmental steward and leading innovator in surfactant market. As well this project will provide staff and students in the St. Lawrence College environmental science program a unique opportunity to apply their education to a commercial application and gain industry related experience.

UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES (UAVS) FOR FISH TELEMETRY RESEARCH

In collaboration with St. Lawrence College, the objectives of the project will be to test the performance of a UAV system as a much more economical and effective platform for delivering radio-telemetry surveying services for freshwater fish research and monitoring. Tests will be conducted in the St. Lawrence River and Ottawa River to simulate different field conditions, and will involve assessing different types of radio-tags, radio antenna, and receiver configurations. It is hoped that this proof-of-concept study will create new opportunities for RME Geomatics in the field of fish biotelemetry while at the same time establishing field methods that have so far been only theoretical in application.

RME Geomatics is a division of Rocky Mountain Equipment Canada Ltd. RME Geomatics specializes in airborne surveying technology using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), popularly referred to as drones. The company delivers these services through the proprietary RENEGADE™ system, a rotor based UAV with an 11 kg equipment payload, 2-hour flight time, low altitude and excellent hovering capabilities, and autonomous navigation. The system is easily transported and can be deployed without the need for a runway, and is marketed as a safe and cost-effective alternative to traditional fixed-wing aircraft surveys. Based on recent consultations with potential industrial and research groups, RME Geomatics would like to examine the potential use of its UAV technology in the field of biotelemetry, specifically as it relates to the electronic tracking of fish in freshwater ecosystems.

EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILL HABITAT RESEARCH

Human activity including development, deforestation and resource extraction, can greatly impact ecosystem function as a result of habitat loss, pollution and other threats. The Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferous) has been declining in Ontario, in part due to habitat loss and fragmentation throughout its range. Currently the Whip-poor-will listed as Threatened under the Ontario Endangered Species Act.

The Highway 69 expansion project, aimed at widening the highway to four lanes, is viewed as a priority in improving Ontario’s transportation infrastructure. Unfortunately, this process has the potential to impact known Whip-poor-will habitat both directly through the conversion of natural lands to road ways and supporting infrastructure, as well as indirectly, through the increase of road traffic, noise, light and forest fragmentation as a result of increased anthropogenic activity within the corridor.

In preparation for the continued development of Highway 69, and the loss of key whip-poorwill habitat, we are conducting, in collaboration with St. Lawrence College, a rigorous habitat study, identifying areas where suitable habitat exists and the specific conditions necessary for individuals to occur. Using remote sensing data in combination with historic occurrence data we will develop a model able to predict where contemporary (and future) occurrence is likely. Field studies will be conducted to ground proof this model, during which localized habitat will be characterized including: food availability, canopy cover, territory size and disturbance proximity. This local characterization will provide information to develop an index able to identify the specific habitat parameters necessary for Whip-poor-will occurrence.

Our assessment will be the most in-depth and robust study conducted to date within the Georgian Bay area. Furthermore by developing practical assessment tools (habitat model and index) we can better inform decision making regarding the conservation efforts intended to protect the Eastern Whip-poor-will.

EVALUATING THE EFFICACY OF ARTIFICIAL NESTING STRUCTURES FOR BARN SWALLOWS

The barn swallow has undergone a significant decline over the past decade prompting it to be listed as threatened species by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests as well as the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Though the reasons for the decline are not completely understood, loss of nesting habitat is thought to be one factors contributing to the barn swallow’s decline. Barn swallows build mud nests attached to walls or ledges in a variety of human-built structures, especially beams inside old barns. As older barns are replaced with newer structures that are often unsuitable for barn swallows, nesting habitat is lost.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has experimented with artificial nesting structures for barn swallows as part of the highway 407 east construction. In an effort to replace structures demolished as part of highway construction, two different types of replacement structures were built and both were fitted with artificial nesting cups designed to reduce exposure of the barn swallows to predation.

Habitat enhancement techniques for this species are relatively new and the efficacy of these structures has not been thoroughly evaluated. In collaboration with St. Lawrence College, we will conduct a review of both the published and unpublished literature related to the creation and effectiveness of artificial structures for barn swallows. Based on the outcome of the literature review we will identify a small number of candidate designs, in collaboration with the Ministry of Transportation, to construct and deploy at sites in eastern Ontario. During the second year of the study we will document the use of these structures by barn swallows and compare nesting success among different types of nesting structures and natural nests.