Algonquin College Co-op Students Tackle Environmental Issues

By Algonquin College Modified on June 15, 2017

There are few bodies of water in Ontario that are more complicated than the Muskrat Lake Watershed in the Ottawa Valley...


There are few bodies of water in Ontario that are more complicated than the Muskrat Lake Watershed in the Ottawa Valley. The lake which is surrounded by farms, cottages and the village of Cobden, has been plagued by algae blooms. While the community struggles with how to address the issue, students in Algonquin College’s Environmental Technician co-op program are gaining an incredible learning experience this summer.

The students have been engrossed in several applied research projects on the watershed, including installing drainage tiles and a technologically advanced weather station, planting streamside trees and shrubs, 3-D mapping, water and soil testing and analysis, and the development of a research plan. The watershed has received extensive media coverage, allowing students to also gain knowledge in media and public relations, as they work with various teams to solve a complex issue with the support of various community and government organizations.

The student’s program coordinator, Sarah Hall, will swim 16 kilometres through the watershed in the summer of 2017 to raise awareness and money to support the ongoing effort to improve the lake’s condition. Hall’s “Big Swim” is a great example of the commitment level of the program’s faculty as they engage with community partners to demonstrate to students their passion for protecting the environment.

The Environmental Technician Diploma program is offered in a compressed format, allowing students to complete their studies in a year-and-and-a-half, instead of the traditional two year window. Between terms two and three, students who maintain a high academic standing can participate in a paid co-op placement, such as the Muskrat Lake Watershed project.

Built along the shores of the Ottawa River, the Waterfront Campus opened five years ago and features a state-of-the-art science lab where students practice what they learn in theory courses. There are frequent field trips in the program to waste water facilities, waste management and recycling operations and area lakes and rivers that are experiencing pollution issues.

The program normally takes in about 30 students each fall creating a wonderful learning environment with easy access to faculty members.

Environmental Technician program website:

Sarah Hall Big Swim Pembroke Observer story:

Environmental Technician promotional video: