Students head for Holland to share Bowker study

Netherlands Water is Life Conference offers opportunity to exchange ideas, information

Teacher Derek Shrubsole (back left) and Oak Bay High students Sarah Polvi (back rigth) Stephanie Jung (middle left)

Tedious testing and other water work done inside the halls of Oak Bay High and alongside the Bowker waterway wing overseas Friday.

Five students head for the Water is Life Conference in the Netherlands where they’ll present a project on the ecological effects of the Bowker Creek restoration project to a conference of 40 schools from around the globe.

“The school has been involved in the restoration of the creek right from the start,” said Heather Velthuis, among those students involved right from the design phase of the creek restoration project and who went to the Netherlands late last year as part of a water-study exchange.

Late last summer, students sampled the waters and plants alongside a team of students from Maurick College in the Netherlands. Velthuis was among the Oak Bay High students who made the return trip in the fall.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind conference that meets every two years,” Velthuis said. Aside from the cultural experience, “there will be some of the top professors and scientists in the top of their fields.”

The conference focuses on water conservation, preservation and stewardship.

Velthuis, Sarah Polvi, Robert Lee, Anh Nguyen and Stephanie Jung will share the results of their Bowker Creek studies on water quality, invertebrates and plants.

“We’ll be presenting on the restoration of the creek itself and the data we’ve collected so far,” Polvi said.

Jung studied the invertebrates.

“The majority of them were pollutant-tolerant,” she said, adding there were few clear-water invertebrates. “It pointed out the creek was dirty and polluted.”

Nguyen worked with the plants, where invasives were abundant and the native species overwhelmed. They restored the balance, negating the invasives and replacing native species during the restoration.

“It’s a really good step in creating a stable environment for the creek,” Nguyen said.

Velthuis and Polvi did extensive water testing, including up at the headlands of the creek near the University of Victoria and in the waterway adjacent to the high school track.

“We’re really hoping that by replacing the native plants we can see an increase in biodiversity,” said Lee, who was also a part of the Netherlands exchange last year. He also sourced a Professional Employees Association grant to help the team further its work.  “I secured the grant to facilitate our project costs and help us represent Victoria and Oak Bay on the international table,” he said.

The conference is all about science and culture and bringing together schools working on similar projects. Teacher Derek Shrubsole hopes the networking students will create further connections similar to the Oak Bay High and Maurick College exchange.

“This is step one in a long-term monitoring process,” Shrubsole said. The Environment Club plans to continue monitoring, sampling and studying the creek and discover the long-term benefits of the rejuvenation even as the CRD works to implement its 100-year plan for the waterway.

“It took 100 years to get to this state,” Lee said. “In 100 years we can hopefully go full circle and get back to the state it was in before.”

They leave for the Netherlands Friday, June 3. Learn more about the conference at online.



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