A good and focused baseline program can be designed following desk-based research and appropriate preceding due diligence. Hallmarks of a good baseline program include the following key features (1-4):
1) Determining components of importance for inclusion in baseline: This step requires a solid background and understanding of project impacts and features of valuable ecological components (VEC) based on locations. For each new project, we design baseline programs after determining:
a) Ecological attributes that must be measured in order to meet due diligence requirements of relevant Acts;
b) Ecological attributes that should be measured due to their importance to local First Nation groups and local community members, or that are of particular concern to regulators. This step often requires local consultation;
c) Ecological attributes that may be measured and used later as indicator or umbrella variables during the construction, operation, and post-closure monitoring phases.
2) Determining a seasonal sampling schedule: This step requires consultation with knowledgeable individuals to determine the most appropriate seasonal sampling regimes for baseline collection, based on the local timing of biological events in the area of interest.
3) Determining what should be measured: For wildlife and fish species, it may be important to know what is present near the project, at what time of year, and in what abundance, while for water quality, it may be more important to know how measurements change over space, time, and depth. For each valuable component selected, we determine the most appropriate measurements for baseline characterization and for use as a point of statistical comparison.
4) Determining appropriate sampling/surveying designs considering future detection limits: For the baseline variables, seasonal schedules, and types of measurements to be collected, we design a sampling protocol that will render baseline data that is representative of pre-development conditions, and that will allow for the statistical detection of changes in those variables during the post-development monitoring phase.
While many other companies do steps 1-3 relatively well, baseline programs from our competitors usually fail to adequately consider step #4. Most consulting firms simply fail to fully think ahead to the monitoring phase, or they lack the statistical knowledge required to collect data in a way that can later be compared with post-development monitoring data to allow for statistical detection of biologically meaningful changes. Environmental consulting studies are plagued by low statistical power and "Type B" errors, which leads to false conclusions of "non-significant effects", leads regulators to require a company to collect many more years of data, and ultimately wastes time and money in trying to achieve a reasonable statistical power by modifying sampling intensity at the monitoring phase only. Ultimately, these studies fail to protect the environment, offer inaccurate conclusions, and do not enable quick responses and adaptive management to unanticipated environmental impacts.
Zoetica is a leader at designing baseline programs that fully integrate steps 1-4, producing data that matter, can be efficiently collected, and can truly inform adaptive management decisions.
SAMPLE BASELINE PROJECTS
Sample Project 1: Baseline Program for All Season Road and Alternatives, Northern Ontario
Marten Falls is a remote First Nations community in northern Ontario with an interest in developing an all-weather access road to connect their community of Ogoki Post to Thunder Bay and potentially to chromite deposits in the ‘Ring of Fire’ region. Zoetica completed surveys for moose, woodland caribou, raptors, and breeding birds over a huge 3,404,900 ha area comprised of several alternate routes. Zoetica designed survey methods, coordinated and conducted the field data collection, and produced six baseline reports.