A professional biologist with Living Lakes Canada, the Columbia Basin-based water stewardship non-profit, Kyle Prince is passionate about enhancing people’s understanding of the natural environment, a passion he’s cultivated throughout his life having grown up in a family that prioritized the outdoors.
“My path towards this career wasn’t an accident. My family has a history in the environmental field. My father and grandfather were foresters, and my dad later shifted into environmental consulting,” Kyle said. “He would always bring home treasures from the woods like antlers and skulls, which always piqued my interest.”
Some of his favourite memories included Take Your Kid to Work Day which he’d spent quadding around the forest with his dad, family camping trips, and time spent exploring the woods of their family acreage. These experiences combined with the growing awareness of the environmental challenges in the world made his post-secondary choice an easy one.
While working towards his undergraduate degree in Environmental and Conservation Sciences with a major in Conservation Biology at the University of Alberta, Kyle’s first environmental job was as a conservation technician with Ducks Unlimited based in Grande Prairie working on wetland project inspections, which included wetland plant identification, and waterfowl banding. After earning his BSc, he joined the Alberta Conservation Association as a junior biologist working out of Lethbridge, AB on mostly wildlife related projects. This was a formative five-year experience that led to him receiving his Professional Biologist designation.
“I had some excellent mentors and did some really cool work,” Kyle said. “My first winter was helping capture and collar wolverines, which I still can’t believe I got to do. That was just incredible.”
His move to the Kootenays came about after his partner secured a nursing job in Nelson. Upon arrival, Kyle started networking and heard about an opportunity with Living Lakes Canada (LLC). He joined in June 2019 as a program assistant for LLC’s water monitoring training courses and has been a linch pin in the organization’s growth ever since. In November 2020 Kyle stepped into the role of Interim Operations Director, facilitating collaboration between programs and heading up internal management with a large focus on fundraising.
With a permanent Deputy Director newly hired and starting this month, Kyle is excited to get back into the field to head up LLC’s new restoration program.
Currently, there are two arms to the restoration program that Kyle will be building out. The first is fish passage work with a focus on restoring fish access to tributaries so they can utilize high value habitat and consequently have a higher resilience to climate effects. LLC is part of the working group for the Elk River Watershed, facilitated by the Canadian Wildlife Federation that is still in the early stages of remediating stream crossings to enhance connectivity for Westslope Cutthroat Trout.
The second is a partnership with the Columbia Wetland Stewardship Partner (CWSP) working in the Columbia Wetlands and helping identify which wetlands are most vulnerable to climate change and exploring some low tech wetland restoration solutions to enhance or protect them, such as managing beaver activity to retain water and decrease wetland vulnerability, as well as investigating cottonwood stand status. This project is in part funded by KCP’s Kootenay Connect project and the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund that KCP administers in partnership with the Regional District of East Kootenay.
“When we’re looking at water, we should be looking at amphibians, fish, riparian zones, it’s not just water,” Kyle said. “The focus of LLC’s restoration program has happened naturally through networking and connections; we’re planning to do some really good work related to water and, by extension, to fish and wildlife.”
Living Lakes Canada recently launched the Columbia Basin Water Hub in March after much expert review and feedback. The Water Hub is the new open water data resource for local water monitoring groups, First Nations, municipalities, industry and all levels of government to ensure water data is available and to avoid redundant data collection. Paired with that is the Columbia Basin Water Monitoring Framework that is in the final stages of review and will be implemented this year with the goal to establish a unified water monitoring program for the Basin. The framework will inform a scientific water balance approach necessary for water budgeting as climate change impacts in the region result in reduced freshwater flows. Other programs that LLC is currently delivering the Basin include the Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program in partnership with volunteer well owners, Foreshore Integrated Management Planning in partnership with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and CABIN training (Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network).
“LLC is a dynamic organization fuelled by passionate team members and volunteers,” said Kyle. “The hard work dedicated to water stewardship and establishing climate resilience is creating some very successful initiatives that are getting increased attention lately.”