aerial photo of a road beside a large river in the foothills

Water and Fish Program

Many interconnected human and natural disturbances influence Alberta’s water and fish. Termed cumulative effects, the goal of the Water and Fish Program is to quantify these factors and work with government, industry, land owners, and NGOs to minimize impacts. Through collaboration, the Water and Fish Program’s data and learnings can be used to implement and monitor recovery actions, which will lead to improved water quality and the recovery of native fishes.

Research Themes

Stream temperature monitoring

For cold water species like native salmonids, temperature plays a critical role in available habitat to complete life cycles. The presence of climate change and increased landscape impacts poses a risk to cold water habitat and the species present. To determine differences in temperature and potential risks among watersheds we are collaborating with partners to collect and model temperature along the Eastern Slopes of Alberta.  

Land use impacts

To quantify the effects of various land use practices on aquatic species, we implement standardized sampling events and compare data with spatial information. Results from these studies shed light on factors influencing aquatic species. 

Program Lead
Dr. Benjamin Kissinger
Rae Creek. Photo credit Caitlin Tomaszewsk
This project will take advantage of high-density lidar to identify and characterize potentially fish-bearing streams.
This project will gather data and build models to assist resource managers in selecting areas for recovery actions and protection.
Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program: East Slopes Riparian Assessment
This project will collect data and develop a tool to prioritize restoration in forested riparian areas for the Government of Alberta's WRRP.
Combining Field and LiDAR Modeling Tools to Move Beyond Indicator Based Approaches for Surface Erosion: Simonette as a Test Area for the Foothills Natural Region
This project on riparian mapping aims to improve management and operational efficiency by capitalizing on the high quality remote sensing data available in Alberta.
Longterm Implications of Mountain Pine Beetle Rehabilitation Strategies on Alberta Forest Values
This project explores the 20 to 50-year implications of MPB rehabilitation on timber and non-timber values.
Review of the State of Riparian Knowledge and Tools
This project will give an overview of what we know about managing riparian areas in Alberta and identify knowledge gaps.
Exploring the Use of Geomorphic Road Analysis and Inventory Package (GRAIP) in Southwest Alberta
GRAIP can predict which road segments and drainage features lead to greater risks of landslides, stream crossing plugging and reduced hydrologic connectivity.
Watershed Assessment Procedure to address cumulative effects in the foothills natural region
This project transfers the eastern slopes watershed assessment procedure to the foothills.
Modelling the Impact of Forest Harvesting on the Flow Regime: Extending Experimental Data for Forest Planning Indicators in the Eastern Slopes
The project will apply a hydrological model to the Star Creek watershed in order to evaluate the effect of harvesting on key watershed processes and flood risks.
Understanding the impact of culverts on fish communities and optimization tools for mitigation efforts
This project investigates whether bridges and culverts affect stream connectivity and fish communities.
Watershed Assessment Procedure to address cumulative effects in the eastern slopes natural region
This project will develop a tool for assessing how watersheds in the eastern slopes are affected by disturbance.
Data Management and Innovative Support for Long-term Watershed Research: The Walt Jeffrey Project
Named in honor of the "father of forest hydrology in Western Canada," this project seeks to capture the value of long-term research and data sets.
Towards Integrated Source Water Management in Alberta
This project is part of the Southern Rockies Watershed Project aimed at understanding headwater processes and the hydrologic response to fire and forestry.
Southern Rockies Hydrological Modelling
This project focuses on calibrating a hydrological model, called Raven, for forest planning.
Effects of Mountain Pine Beetle Attack on Hydrology and Post-attack Vegetation and Hydrology Recovery in Lodgepole Pine Forests in Alberta (Phase 1 Red Attack)
This project will describe how mountain pine beetle attack drives changes in hydrology and vegetation.
Bull Trout Translocation to a Fishless Lake in 1987
Summaries and Communications | Infographics
Summary of a bull trout translocation from northern Jasper National Park to the Willmore Wilderness.
Scientific Publications | Peer Reviewed Papers
Paper from the Water and Fish Program.
QuickNotes | Summaries and Communications
Spring 2024 update on the project, a part of the Alberta Native Trout Collaborative.
Summaries and Communications | Meeting Agenda and Proceedings
In February 2023, the Water and Fish Program and the Government of Alberta’s Office of the Chief Scientist co-sponsored a […]
Field workers at Kakwa camp standing in a row smiling, on green grass with a small lake in the background
Photo Galleries | Audio-Visual
Fieldwork photos from a collaboration between the Water and Fish Program and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Introduction to the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network
Summaries and Communications | Presentation Slides
Presentations from the Online Workshop
Scientific Publications | Peer Reviewed Papers
Paper from the Water Program
Road Erosion in the Simonette Part 1: Road Surfaces
QuickNotes | Summaries and Communications
2-page briefing note from the Water Program
Road Erosion in the Simonette Part 2: Gully Erosion
QuickNotes | Summaries and Communications
2-page briefing note from the Water Program
Blog | Announcement
3 amazing biologists join the team.
The appointment further strengthens an already fruitful partnership with leading fish scientists at the University of Calgary.
Staff take pictures pointing at the logger in-stream, to make logger retrieval easier. Credit: Alberta Native Trout Collaboration
Read "Why Logging Water Temperatures Matters for Alberta’s Native Trout"
water and fish program employment opportunity biologist
This posting is now closed. Thanks to all who applied!
courtney burk heather daw sam chevalier
Blog | Announcement
New roles for three great people.
Dr. Benjamin Kingstly scooping fish in the Jackpine river
fRI Research nets a new lead researcher.
watercolour of a stream in a forest
Thank you to all who applied.
Barrier lake research station photo credit ashley meek
The workshop took place Feb 1–3 at the University of Calgary's Barrier Lake Research Station.
Water and Fish Program Research Priorities Workshop
A forum to discuss, debate, and define the future research direction of the Water and Fish Program. May 10, 8:30 to 4:00.
Dr. Benjamin Kissinger holding kneeling in a stream with field equipment
Dr. Benjamin Kissinger
Program Lead
claire allore with, presumably, the entire ship's supper
Claire Allore
sam chevalier
Sam Chevalier
Biological Technician
sarah d-v
Sarah Desrosiers-Vaillancourt

When Dr. Benjamin Kissinger became the Water and Fish Program Lead, he continued his roles as academic advisor to several research projects at the University of Calgary, where he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor. These are the projects which Dr. Kissinger serves as a supervisor or committee member.

Investigating the Extent of Hybridization between Native Bull Trout and Introduced Brook
Trout in Alberta

This is the MSc project of Emily Franks (University of Calgary), with funding through the Government of Alberta Office of the Chief Scientist. Brook trout were introduced into Alberta’s watersheds and compete with native bull trout, a threatened species. This study is quantifying the extent of hybridization between bull trout and brook trout in various Alberta populations. By understanding which populations have a high proportion of hybrids (especially back-crossed hybrids), the researchers can determine which populations may be in imminent need of attention.

An Experimental Test of the Potential for Bull Trout Conservation Translocations, via Instream Incubation Capsules, in Alberta

Tara Lepine is testing a new way to translocate bull trout. Instead of moving individual, live fish from one location to another, Lepine is planting capsules of fertilized bull trout eggs in the streambeds of the the the locations they want to supplement or restore. The main goal is to find out how well this method works and see if stream temperature affects egg survival. The crew harvested, fertilized, and transplanted the eggs in 2023. The incubation capsules will be retrieved immediately after ice-off in 2024. This is part of the Alberta Native Trout Collaboration. Learn more about the project in this video from Let’s Go Outdoors.