Summer Field Work 2020

WEEK 11: August 24-28

It’s hard to believe that the 2020 field season is coming to an end! This is Sam and Kale’s last week of work; Izzy and I continue until September 4th. Our main focus this week was stream restoration upstream from Rackham’s Pond. Three wing deflectors were built in this section in 2017. These angled structures deflect the water and help restore a natural meander pattern to degraded streams. This summer, we decided to build one new deflector and improve those already present through expansions and reinforcements. The new structure was built directly opposite the downstream deflector to pinch the stream, thereby increasing flow rate. This helps dig out sediment and create deep pools for fish refuge.

The deflectors were built from 6”x 6” juniper beams sourced from Betts Mills in O’Leary. Juniper is used because it is durable and naturally decay resistant: an important factor for a submerged structure!

Six cubic yards of granite rock were used to fill the new deflector and reinforce the previous three. It was transported in wheelbarrows to the deflector sites, so we were very thankful to have upstream access granted from a local landowner!

The BBEMA (Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association) guys worked like beasts, hammering and staking all the juniper beams in place. Holes were drilled into the lower beams and 5’ rebar lengths were hammered into the sediment, securing the structure to the stream bed.

These two 2017 deflectors (photo above) were updated this week. The deflector on the far side was expanded one foot farther into the stream, by securing two beam widths onto the upstream side. The log deflector on the near bank was reinforced with granite rock.

A huge thank you to the BBEMA and the Hunter-Clyde Watershed Groups for their expertise and hard work!! We couldn’t have done it without their knowledge and muscle power! We are also very grateful to Charles & Laura of the Island Honey Wine for allowing us to access the worksite through their land – it made transporting our materials much easier.

The 2020 Wing Deflector Build Crew! From left to right (in above photo): Sam and Kale (WRIG), Josh (BBEMA), Tessa and Izzy (WRIG), Nicole (HCWG), Dave (BBEMA), Abby (HCWG), Chad (BBEMA), and Indra (HCWG). Not pictured: Maggie (WRIG) who was behind the camera. The deflector that we are standing on was built in 2017. Some of the sediment had washed away underneath it and the rocks hadn’t fallen down, creating a small cavity. We filled the empty space from the sides and piled rocks along the front to act as armour.

We ended the week in the stream, working to clear a long stretch upstream of the forks above Rackham’s pond. Izzy and I will return next week to complete the riparian health assessments for this section. To celebrate Sam and Kale’s last day of work, we had a Glasgow Glen pizza and cookie party for lunch. Hopefully we’ll see them on the WRIG field crew next year!

WEEK 10: August 17-21

This week began with the annual depth survey at Rackham’s pond. We didn’t get a picture of the crew in the canoe, but here’s a picture of Kale’s muddy waders; the pond might not be that deep, but the silt sure is! Thanks to Asplundh Tree Services for dropping another load of wood chips, we were able to begin mulching Rackham’s trail.

As a watershed group, one of our responsibilities is assessing the health of the riparian zone: the land region bordering the water. We evaluate the vegetation cover, plant community composition, stream bank stability, and extent of human impact.  The information collected through these assessments guides our watershed management by identifying riparian areas in need of improvement. This week, we began riparian health assessments (RHAs) in the Wheatley River system. We began at the Wheatley River Bridge, walked upstream to Rackham’s Pond, and then continued above the pond. If you’ve reached the end of the Rackham’s trail, you’ll have noticed a fork in the river; we went left to follow the main branch of the Wheatley River. As we carry out the RHAs, we also clear any blockages we encounter, thereby restoring the migration corridor.

I had the opportunity to attend a half day Invasive Species course arranged by the PEI Watershed Alliance. We were given an introduction to invasive species, taught how to identify invasive species specific to PEI and how to document and submit observations, and went on a short invasive plant spotting field trip. I really enjoyed the course and learned a lot!

We ended the week at Rackham’s Pond, where we cleaned out and repaired a busted tree swallow nesting box, watered the pollinator garden, clematis, and chokeberry, and planted some native trees and shrubs.

Earlier in the week, during our RHAs, we identified a riparian area between the Wheatley River Bridge and Rackham’s Pond that would benefit from tree plantings. This section of the riparian zone had been narrowed due to human activity and was a natural low spot. We returned and planted 5 black spruce and 5 larch trees to enhance the buffer zone and help control runoff and sediment.

We also planted shrubs on the eroding banks downstream from the rapids at Rackham’s pond. The barren ground is problematic because rainfall washes the loose soil into the stream. This is exasperated by the steepness of the banks because the runoff moves faster, causing more erosion. Red-osier dogwood (8), mountain holly (4), and willow (4) were planted to help stabilize the steep bank. We would like to return to these sites and plant more shrubs.


WEEK 9: August 10-14

We were back in North Rustico this week with information about water quality monitoring. Contact if you’re interested in learning more about this topic.

All hands were on deck to prepare for our annual Duck Race fundraiser at Rackham’s Pond. “The Stump” was finished by planting chokeberry shrubs along the back and sides and mulching the area. We planted clematis in front with hopes of it climbing the stump. We also replaced a few boards on the viewing platform, weeded and watered the pollinator garden, and mulched the trees in the park. Here is the final after photo of “The Stump”.

The pollinator garden has been breath-taking lately and is always buzzing with activity. Here is some of the beauty up close:

We met up with Hunter Clyde Watershed Group (HCWG) this week to build tree swallow nesting boxes. The WRIG crew built 13 in one morning. HCWG was also making barn swallow nesting platforms, which were interesting to see.

We ended the week with a WRIG and HCWG staff event: deep sea fishing in North Rustico! Thanks to the Bearded Skipper, we had a great time fishing for mackerel and cod!


WEEK 8: August 3-7

We had a fun and exciting start to the week! We got to help Mark, a UPEI master’s student, with seine netting in Oyster Bed Bridge. He taught us how to deploy the net and haul it in, collecting small fish. We learned how to identify many different fish species such as Mummichogs, which were the most plentiful. The most exciting thing we saw were pipefish, which are closely related to sea horses!

This week we finished our last tree planting on residential property. Now, all that’s left is planting at Rackham’s pond! We started early a few days this week to try and beat the heat. Pretty sunrises are a nice bonus!

After we finished planting, we switched over to bittersweet nightshade removal; it was so thick we collected 10 large bags in just a couple hours. Check out the before and during pictures below:

We’ve begun a project at Rackham’s Pond to beautify the remnants of the large fallen tree. “The Stump” was tackled first by weeding, then by filling the hole with top soil, rearranging the logs, and mulching the area. There’s still more work to be done, so stay tuned for next week’s report! Some progress pictures are shown below:


WEEK 7: July 27-31

It is hard to believe that this week marks one month since Sam and Kale started! We planted at two different properties this week. At the first property, we planted a windbreak/hedgerow of larch, white pine, and white spruce. The second site used to be a farmed field but the landowners were wanting it to return to a natural area. Seven different native species were planted in an effort to diversify the property and make it more attractive to wildlife. White pine, white ash, red maple, mountain ash, serviceberry, staghorn sumac, and mountain holly were planted according to their light and water requirements in various areas within the field.

On Tuesday, we began our weekly community table at the North Rustico boardwalk. For the remainder of the summer, we will alternate weeks with the Hunter-Clyde Watershed Group to connect with the community and share information about watershed-related topics. The topic this week was the Acadian Forest so we brought resources about native species, planting from container stock, and the spruce budworm tracker program. People had a blast trying to identify the five native tree species we brought with us! Can you identify them from the picture below? (Hint: there’s a red maple, eastern white cedar, black spruce, eastern larch, and white ash)

The Hunter-Clyde Watershed Group joined us Friday for a beach clean-up in Oyster Bed Bridge and a barbecue lunch afterward. Thank you to the local fisherman who offered to take our bags of garbage for disposal!


WEEK 6: July 20-24

We started out this week at Rackham’s Pond, removing bittersweet nightshade upstream. The guys had a great time floating downstream on the full bags; it was much easier than carrying them the entire length of the trail. One site overrun with nightshade was on the inside of a river bend. The removal of the root system left the bank exposed, so we constructed a brush mat and planted red-osier dogwood to help stabilize the bank.

Lots and lots of invasive bittersweet nightshade, all bagged up and ready for disposal! All of it was removed from Rackham’s Pond area… and there’s still more to be pulled!

Due to reports of early season anoxic events in PEI waterways, one of which was in the Wheatley River, we moved up our canoe survey of the estuary from next week to this week. The lowest dissolved oxygen (DO) reading we recorded was 5.30 mg/L. During our canoe survey three weeks ago, the lowest DO we recorded was 8.39 mg/L.

During our water quality testing this week, we drove by the Asplundh Tree Expert Company as they were removing vegetation in the ditch for new utility infrastructure. After a quick chat, they were happy to donate loads of conifer boughs and wood chips! We were so pleased; we will use the boughs for brush matting and the wood chips as mulch for tree planting.

Kale was very pleased with the wood chips delivery!

To finish off the week, WRIG returned to a 2018 tree planting site that had a low survival rate. The coastal property gets strong, salt-laden winds that are hard on young trees. The three species we planted (larch, white spruce, and white pine) had done the best from the previous planting, due to their wind and salt tolerance.


WEEK 5: July 13-17

This week we planted over 100 trees and shrubs at another local property. We created a windbreak, widened an existing hedgerow, and improved biodiversity to attract more wildlife. We planted four different native shrub species: Aronia (chokeberry), serviceberry, bayberry, and wild rose. These species are important food, habitat, and nesting sources for birds and pollen sources for pollinators. Red spruce and sugar maples were also planted.

On Wednesday, Maggie and I consulted with Mary Finch from the PEI Watershed Alliance and Rosie MacFarlane from Fish & Wildlife to discuss the plans for this summer’s big project: the wing deflectors upstream from Rackham’s Pond. They helped us to determine which adjustments need to be made to the three deflectors built in 2017 and to decide on the location for the construction of a fourth wing deflector.

The crew was busy at Rackham’s Pond this week! We put our new pruning skills to use, ensuring the young trees had only one leader so they grow straight and strong. The trail was also whipper snipped, making it a more enjoyable walk. Thank you to Sam’s family for letting us borrow their whipper snipper! It was a much faster job with two trimmers on the go.

Kale, Izzy, and Sam at Rackham’s Pond


WEEK 4: July 6-10

Our team has grown with the addition of two new summer students, Sam and Kale! This week we planted 126 trees and shrubs at a coastal property to help prevent shoreline erosion. Larch and black spruce were planted in a boggy area, and dogwood, willow, bayberry, and wild rose were planted along the top of the bank. We also returned to the Ross Creek property to water the trees we planted there.

Tessa, Izzy, Sam, and Kale

We learned a lot this week! We completed emergency first aid and CPR training through the PEI Watershed Alliance and Woodland Ecology Training at the Devil’s Punchbowl with Gary Schneider of MacPhail Woods. Gary taught us basic native plant identification, planting techniques, and the importance of proper tree pruning! A big thank you to MacPhail Woods for their incredible resources. They are a fantastic source of information about the Acadian forest and Island ecosystems. Check out their website below for things like nature and planting guides, forest management and restoration, and fun videos:

Tessa practicing her pruning skills!

We also set up a spruce budworm trap on the Rackham’s Pond trail, organized through the Healthy Forest Network’s Budworm Tracker Program.

Spruce Budworm trap hanging in a white spruce along the Rackham’s trail

Interested in learning about the spruce budworm and why we monitor this pest?

Want to become a budworm tracker yourself?


WEEK 3: June 29-July 3

While collecting our weekly water quality data, Izzy and I saw a weasel, a mink, and lots of little fish. This week we also completed our first monthly anoxia survey, testing for low dissolved oxygen levels. To do so, we canoed from the Wheatley River Bridge to the Oyster Bed Bridge and back, collected data from 8 sample sites. We recorded water clarity and colour, sea lettuce coverage and condition, sulphuric odour strength, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, conductivity, total dissolved solids, salinity, and pH. No anoxic events were observed, but we predict they will occur in the near future because we observed a high volume of sea lettuce.

Canoeing on the Wheatley River

We finished planting at the Ross Creek property, for a total of 144 trees! The species we planted are shown below. From left to right: balsam fir, white birch, white spruce, white ash. Another big thank you to the landowners for providing mulch and access to water.

We finished off the week at Rackham’s pond removing bittersweet nightshade, an invasive species. Shout out to TREC for helping us with nightshade identification!

Interested in learning more about anoxic events?
Want to become a citizen scientist and help the province monitor anoxic conditions? Contact WRIG at or 902-963-3198


WEEK 2: June 22-26

Our second week began with water quality monitoring, during which we observed  low water levels. The Crooked Creek headwaters have shrunk to form an individual pool near the Parker Cross Rd. Last week we saw hundreds of tadpoles in this pool; this week we saw 6 frogs! They were all resting in the shallows with their heads just above the surface, as seen in the photo below.

Northern Leopard frog (Rana pipiens)

Izzy and I spent Wednesday shadowing TREC (Trout River Environmental Committee) as they completed riparian health assessments. It was great fun and a huge asset to learn the system in the field. Thanks TREC!

Tessa with TREC staff members Kelsey and Laura

Izzy and I were busy planting 92 trees this week at a property alongside Ross Creek. Four species of trees native to PEI and ideal for dry areas receiving full sun were chosen: white spruce, balsam fir, white ash, and white birch. A huge thank you to the landowners for cutting the grass and providing us with lots of mulch!



Hello, my name is Tessa Craig and I am delighted to be WRIG’s Field Crew Supervisor for the 2020 season! I grew up on a family farm in North Tryon, PEI, and graduated this spring from Mount Allison University with an Honours Bachelor of Science focused on zoology, ecology, and conservation. I am so excited for this opportunity to put my studies to good use and help protect our beautiful Island!

WEEK 1: June 15-19

Izzy Fitzpatrick, the 2020 Riparian Health Technician, and I were given a warm welcome to WRIG by the watershed manager, Maggie McConnell (from a safe distance of course). Our first week began with a tour of the watershed, collecting water quality data from 20 different sites. We will monitor these sites weekly throughout the summer.

At right – Large blockage observed on the Art Ford Cross Rd. while collecting water quality data. We will have to return with a chainsaw to properly remove the blockage and restore flow.

Izzy and I spent a lot of time at Rackham’s Pond; we weeded and edged the pollinator garden, planted swamp milkweed and wild rose, cut the grass, collected the garbage, trimmed back the trail, and replaced the geocache. We weren’t the only ones busy at Rackham’s Pond – we spotted a beaver!

At left – Beaver swimming through Rackham’s Pond with the Osprey nest in the distance.

Photo of the beaver swimming underwater. Note the notch in its tail.

Maggie, Izzy, and I met with two local landowners to discuss tree/shrub planting sites on their properties. In preparation for planting next week, we organized the 678 plants by species and designed a preliminary plan for each location. Izzy and I also installed WRIG signs for three projects completed last year; the two fish ladders and Jack’s Bridge.

At right – Installing the sign at Jack’s Bridge required some tree climbing!

Have you seen a beaver at Rackham’s Pond? Are you a local landowner interested in bio-diversifying your property? Creating a pollination haven? Protecting your shoreline from coastal erosion? Improving buffer zones to mitigate soil erosion?
Get in touch with us!
By email or by phone 902-963-3198