River Ice Research Flows from Saskatchewan to Europe

with Karl-Erich Lindenschmidt and Darryl Isbister

By Ashleigh Duffy

Ice jam, upper part of the Wloclawek Reservoir, Poland (February 2021); photo taken by Bogusław Pawłowski

Indigenizing River Ice Research - Canadian Experience Shared

with Karl-Erich Lindenschmidt & Darryl Isbister

     Our quest to partner Indigenous Knowledge with western science travelled far this autumn. Last October, students at the Gdansk University of Technology in Poland learned what "indigenizing research" means in Canada and why we strive for it. There, river ice flood scientist Karl-Erich Lindenschmidt co-taught a class with Darryl Isbister, Indigenous Education Initiatives Lead from the USask Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning.

The class was titled Historical and Indigenous Perspectives in River Ice Research and Teaching.

      A sharing circle was one important component of the class. For this part, students and teachers shared a favorite photo related to ice and explained to everyone why they chose that photo. The exercise helped to build community amongst the students and teachers while also providing insight into the students’ ways of thinking about ice. Some of these aspects could be drawn upon for later if the class were part of a full semester course.

     Another component of indigenization is the Two-Eyed Seeing approach, in which both western science and Indigenous Knowledge are drawn upon to approach engineering problems and find potential solutions.

     Karl-Erich and Darryl explained how a teaching curriculum can be enhanced by including several dimensions of science. Physical and engineering sciences on their own offer a limited approach. For technical applications it is wise to include social sciences that engage end users and collaborators in the application. Duty-to-consult is becoming more of a requirement for engineering projects in Canada, in which members of local communities and Indigenous populations -who are affected by the project outcome- are drawn into and invited to participate in the setup and design processes of the project. These concepts were extended in the Polish context, urging future engineers to approach their communities for consultation when carrying out a project in the community’s vicinity. 

     For most of the European students this was a unique learning opportunity. Canada is setting benchmarks while learning to incorporate Indigenous Ways of Knowing into water management. 

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Darryl Isbister (left), & Karl-Erich Lindenschmidt (right)


Addressing Ice-Jam Flood Hazards and Risks in Poznan

with Dr. Karl-Erich Lindenschmidt

     Cold regions face many of the same challenges, even half-way across the world. Ice-jam flooding is a big one. Floods can cut communities off from critical supplies, threaten drinking water and cause significant damage to local infrastructure and other problems. If this doesn't sound scary enough, imagine trying to do repairs or navigate ships through powerful sheets of river ice in frigid temperatures. 

     Last month, a workshop was held in Poznan, Poland, Assessing and mitigating ice-jam flood hazard and risk. Hosted by river ice flood scientist Karl-Erich Lindenschmidt (with sponsorship from GWF), the two-day workshop brought together an international team. A mix of engineers, scientists and officials from universities, research facilities and government agencies attended from across Europe. Together they explored state-of-the-art advances in ice-jam flood hazard and risk assessments.

     Government agencies from central, eastern and northern European countries (e.g. Poland, Norway, Sweden and Germany) are in need of new tools to assess ice-jam hazards and risks. These tools support new means of mitigating the consequences of ice jamming and ice-jam flooding to communities, infrastructure and ship navigation.

     International collaboration like this builds our networks, enhances research and supports ice flood management of rivers in other cold-region countries such as the U.S.A. and Canada.