UPDATE: You did it!
Thank you all! Together we made history by becoming recipients of first federal research grant in Canada determined by our communities - through crowdfunding. An additional $37,500 will now be released, quadrupling your donations.
I'm looking forward to continuing the conservation during the next year as we begin our work on the ground.
If anyone would like to contribute but hasn't yet we have a (kind of) stretch goal: We will use extra cash to pay for additional tests and push our study area further up the Little Campbell River, helping us gain a clearer picture of where land-based sources of pollution are coming from.
I'm humbled by the incredible community that has come together around this project. Whether you have made a donation or helped spread the word on social media, we couldn't have done it without you. We'll be setting up a project blog, but until then you can stay up-to-date with this project by following us on Facebook @smartshores and Instagram @smartshores.
What we're doing, and why we need your help.
This project is developing a new tool that will reduce the cost of measuring coastal pollution. It will also help the Semiahmoo First Nation with comprehensive pollution testing of their estuary, moving them closer to reopening their shellfish fishery - closed since the 1970s due to pollution.
Your contribution will be used to pay for lab tests, fieldwork expenses and a small salary for PhD students involved in this project. Each dollar you give will be quadrupled by a federally-funded research granting agency, MEOPAR. The tool that results from this project will support not-for-profits and NGOs working to protect the Salish Sea coast, and can be scaled up to support organizations anywhere in the world.
We are offering unique aerial images of the Salish Sea coast as rewards for the people helping make this project a reality. These images can be found in a gallery here.
Our partners include the Semiahmoo First Nation, Ducks Unlimited, Friends of Semiahmoo Bay, the Shared Waters Society, the Semiahmoo Fish and Game Society, the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences and the Michael Smith Labs at the University of British Columbia.
Detailed information on this project is available below.
Stand up for a healthy coast!
A healthy coast means less pollution, sustainable land use practices, healthy animals and healthy people. You can help repair and protect our common environment by putting the right tools in the hands of the people working hard to clean up and protect our shores. This is a pilot project in crowdfunded science and every dollar you give will be quadrupled by a federally-funded research granting agency (MEOPAR) to support the development of tools that will reduce the cost of pollution testing and mapping - but this project doesn't happen unless we hit our fundraising goal. If our campaign is successful we will produce a video giving you a look behind-the-scenes of this project and showcasing the stories of the people protecting our coast. We will also make our results public for all to see.
You can help make the coast healthier
This project will develop a low-cost test for fertilizers (organophosphates) and hydrocarbons stored in soil and clay. This tool will empower organizations with restricted budgets, like not-for-profits, to identify common pollutants in the areas they are working to protect and restore.
We will also develop an algorithm for predicting detailed pollution concentrations throughout a site that combines low-cost maps built by drones and soil/substrate test results. This will produce a detailed map of pollution hot spots, helping to identify where pollution is coming from and how it is flowing through a site.
Our goal is for these tools to be used anywhere, but before people use them they need to know they can trust the results. That's why we're also conducting a rigorous case study in Surrey, BC in collaboration with world-class research institutes and testing our approach in a real-world setting with great NGOs.
We are working with the Michal Smith Labs at the University of British Columbia, the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences and pollutiontracker.org to produce world-class research that we submit for publication in peer-reviewed journals. We will work with the Semiahmoo First Nation, Ducks Unlimited, A Rocha, the Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club and Friends of Semiahmoo Bay to ensure that the tools we develop are useful, user-friendly, and focused on providing actionable environmental management insights.
This project will have a direct impact on the health of the Little Campbell Estuary by providing needed pollution data to support environmental planning in this urban river and coastline that will support healthy salmon, cleaner shellfish, and safer food for Killer Whales and people.
It will also support the Semiahmoo First Nation in working toward re-opening their shellfish fishery. Shellfish are a source of traditional, local food for the Semiahmoo people and shellfish harvesting is an important way of teaching youth about their culture. The shellfish fishery in Semiahmoo territory has been closed due to pollution since the 1970s. Pollution levels in shellfish may be low enough today for the fishery to be reopened but this has not been tested due to costs. It remains illegal to harvest shellfish due to the potential risk to human health. If pollution levels in shellfish are found to be within acceptable limits the Semiahmoo Nation will have data to support the re-opening of their fishery. If not, they will know how polluted the shellfish are, where the pollution is coming from, and can plan for remediation with the aim of eventually re-opening the fishery.
Thank you for reading this far. Please read our FAQ and get in touch if you have any questions about this project, share this page with friends, and if you are able, make a donation for a healthy coast today.
More detailed information on the technical aspects of this project is available below.
What's happening on-site and in the lab
We will map the lower Little Campbell and estuary using drones, collect soil samples and take tissue samples from shellfish. The location of each soil and shellfish sample will be tagged with an ultra-high precision GPS unit. We'll then send these samples to a lab for comprehensive testing for over one-hundred contaminants (we will follow the sampling protocol used by Ocean Wise here: www.pollutiontracker.org).
Once we have lab results showing the type and concentration of pollutants at each sample location we will combine these data with our drone-derived map showing elevations, vegetation and substrate types. This will allow us to understand the slope and porosity of the terrain so that we can model how pollution transported in water (either directly or trapped in particles) flows through and accumulates within a site. We will then build a mathematical model that uses a subset of these pollution samples to interpolate the concentration of pollutants throughout the site. By using a selection of GPS tagged lab results we can use this model to predict how much pollution is where. This helps identify pollution hot-spots while reducing the number of tests needed per site to do so and the first step in reducing the cost of pollution testing.
The second step in reducing the cost of pollution testing is to develop a low-cost test for identifying the presence and amount of key pollutants, like pesticides and hydrocarbons. We will do this by testing and refining a prototype biosensor. A biosensor is an organism (in this case a bacteria) that is modified to fluoresce (glow) when it comes into contact with a certain substance (more on this below, in the last section called For science nerds like us). We will field-test prototype tools that are similar to a litmus paper but instead of measuring acidity they will measure pesticides and hydrocarbons. This cheap tool can be brought into the field and used to detect the presence and concentration of pollutants within minutes of sampling. In some cases, this will be enough information to support environmental management planning. In cases where this is not enough it will help practitioners identify where, and how many, samples are needed to be collected and sent to the lab. This will reduce the number of samples taken in the field and reduce testing costs.
For science nerds like us...
In case you were wondering what's under the hood of a biosensor, we're building what's called a Whole Cell Bioindicator (WCB). A WCB is made from a Escherichia coli BL21(DE3) protein expression host strain that is transformed with a plasmid pIDR containing:
- A pollutant-sensitive transcriptional regulator gene (pstr) encoded on the coding strand under the control of a constitutive promoter (pC). This gene encodes the PSTR protein, which can bind the pollutant of interest. Upon binding, a conformational change in the PSTR-pollutant complex allows binding to the pPSTR promoter-operator region of the fluorescent reporter gene eliciting the concentration-dependent response (as fluorescence).
- A green fluorescent protein (gfp) reporter gene, encoded on the template strand, under the control of the PSTR-regulator promoter operator region (pPSTR). This gene encodes the sfGFP fluorescent protein with excitation and emission maxima of 488nm and 530nm, respectively.
- An antibiotic (ampicillin) resistance marker gene ApR
- A pMB1 origin of replication
This vector was previously designed and synthesized to respond to certain members of the organophosphate family of pesticides chlorpyrifos, ethyl/methyl paraoxon, ethyl/methyl parathion and diazinon, using the pstr gene ChpR1. We will be testing a field-kit version of this and synthesizing a new WCB to respond to a key pollutant to be determined following our analysis of lab results during this project.
For more info on this process, and on the mathematical modelling of pollution throughout a site based on drone maps please donate and follow our progress! :D
Risks and challenges
This project involves the production of a video, scientific research that will identify and map pollutants, and the development of a new technique to make this process more efficient. While we hope to produce final products that can be commercially available, this project budget does not cover industrial design. As a result, the final tools we produce may provide value-added support to people working in the field rather than being stand-alone commercial products.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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