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6th Conference on Natural Channel Systems

Natural Channels - Sustaining Connectivity: Exploring the Importance of Connectivity in Systems, Knowledge, Practice and Policy

At the 6th Natural Channel Conference we will explore Sustaining Connectivity – linking knowledge through generations, practice among disciplines, policy amidst practitioners, and science across the landscape. In 2018 we will take a multidisciplinary look at natural channel systems with a widened view of cause and effect, employing the knowledge of past work with present research to connect the landscape to the channel. Through this we are providing the opportunity for sharing and evolving our understanding of the importance, complexity, and interconnectedness of watercourses, and their relationship with hydrological, geomorphological, chemical and ecological processes.

The 2018 conference will provide an avenue to discuss new science, practices and academic research. The Sustaining Connectivity theme will be explored through the following sessions:

  • Collaborative Design
  • Communications
  • Economics
  • Environmental Flows
  • Innovation
  • Monitoring and Lessons Learned
  • Policy and Regulation
  • Resilience
  • Urban Hydro-modification

Confirmed Keynote Speakers

Keynote Speaker Ellen Wohl

Ellen WohlEllen Wohl received a BS in geology from Arizona State University and a PhD in geosciences from the University of Arizona before joining the faculty at Colorado State University in 1989. Her research focuses on physical process and form in river corridors, including interactions with biotic and human communities. Her research is predominantly field-oriented and she has conducted field research on every continent but Antarctica.

She has written more than 200 scientific papers and book chapters, as well as 16 books, and is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America and a Colorado State University Distinguished Professor. Much of her current research examines how physical complexity associated with the presence of instream wood and beaver dams influences the form and function of river ecosystems.


Keynote Speaker Dr. Andrew Brookes

Dr. Andrew Brookes
  • Experienced professional with over 34 years, recognized internationally for contributions to river restoration
  • Worked in Consultancy roles as well as a Regulator (Environment Agency and its predecessor bodies) and for central Government in Westminster
  • Three years working as a Research Fellow (Royal Society and University of Wales)
  • Nationally recognised expert in geomorphology and hydromorphology assessment working on a wide variety of projects from low flow projects to catastrophic floods
  • Demonstrated expertise in geomorphology, hydrology and ecological linkages and evidence bases (including producing a report for the European Union)
  • Expert in Public Inquiries and Court Cases
  • Author of a book on river channelization in 1988 by John Wiley & Sons
  • Author and editor of a book (with Doug Shields) in 1996 on River Channel Restoration (also John Wiley)
  • Author and contributor to about 40 peer-reviewed publications as well as many hundreds of technical reports
  • One of the founding members of the River Restoration Project (now River Restoration Centre)
  • Winner of the (UK) Royal Geographical Society (Back Award) for outstanding national and international contributions to river management

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List of E-Newsletters

November 15, 2017 - Call for Abstracts Deadline Extension & Apply to Be a Volunteer

November 9, 2017 - Call for Abstracts Deadline Reminder

October 4, 2017 - Call for Abstracts Now Open

September 15, 2017 - Announcing the Natural Channel Systems Conference 2018

March 13, 2017 - Presentations Now Available for Viewing

Call for Abstracts - Deadline Extension December 4th

Call for Abstracts IconThe steering committee is soliciting leading edge and topical oral and poster abstracts from practitioners, scientists, academics, and policy makers from across Canada and beyond who can share their knowledge and innovation in order to deliver new ideas and approaches to problem solving. We welcome applications in the following conference streams:

Collaborative Design

Session Lead(s):
Shannon Baker

The art and science of natural channel design requires a collaborative approach in order to create interconnected and resilient landscapes. This session will explore why collaboration is vital, examining natural channel design through the lens of the landscape architect. Landscape architects bring a unique skillset to the design process, drawing on an understanding of natural systems and social function as well as a deep appreciation of beauty. This session will explore critical factors to consider when engaging with design professionals, the knowledge and skill sets offered by landscape architects, as well as processes of collaborative work in natural channel design.

Example Topics:
Effective planting design along natural channels for slope stability, erosion protection, habitat creation and aesthetics; Creating natural channels that provide ecological function as well as recreational amenity; Understanding how the construction process can affect the successful implementation of natural channel designs.


Session Lead(s):
Mariëtte Pushkar

This session will explore the broad topic of communication. Effective communication is beneficial through all stages and phases of a project cycle; to facilitate the dissemination of information, to encourage community participation, to develop multi-stake holder collaboration and vision building, to convey design intent, to expedite the agency review process, to promote effective design implementation, and to demonstrate monitoring results. This session will explore lessons learned and effective communication methods that are (or are not) beneficial with the public, review agencies, inter-agency and multi-stakeholder discussions, and practitioners.

Example Topics:
Lessons learned; Project visualization methods; Challenges with fragmented ownership of watercourses; Landscape management; Content of design drawings and reports; Community involvement.


Session Lead(s):
Brad Fairley

This session will explore the economics of stream restoration. While many agencies want to carry out stream restoration, funding is limited. The session will consider existing and more innovative options for funding stream restoration projects. These include habitat banking, stormwater utilities, environmental goods and services, flood mitigation and insurance. The session will provide an opportunity to learn from other jurisdictions where funding opportunities are more diverse and well established. By recognizing the connectivity of streams, the session hopes to identify new and different ways to fund worthwhile restoration projects.

Example Topics:
Diverse funding sources; Insurance; Habitat banking; Land purchase for floodplains; Cost benefit analysis; Environment goods and services; Disaster relief.

Environmental Flows

Session Lead(s):
Dr. Andrea Bradford, Cassie Schembri

This session will explore the concept of environmental flow needs, that is the quality and quantity of water required in a river system for a specific duration and with a specific timing, frequency, magnitude and rate of change. Maintaining or restoring an environmental flow regime can be a significant challenge in light of competing human needs and influences, as well as threats posed by climate change. This may include techniques to quantify flow needs for geomorphic or water quality processes, or for specific groups of biota; efforts to integrate needs to develop overall restoration scenarios or flow regime targets for management; or restoration activities planned or implemented to achieve a flow restoration scenario.

Example Topics:
Environmental flows policy; Environmental flows research; Practices implemented to maintain or restore environmental flows; Ecohydrology; Restoring flows; Ephemeral channels; Restoration to enhance water quality.


Session Lead(s):
Jeff Hirvonen

This session will focus on innovative technological advances that contribute to the field of stream restoration. Custom-built hardware, integration of new technologies with old methods, miniaturization, software applications and new processes for solving old problems; these are all examples of innovative approaches that further the science and applied realms alike. We encourage technological advances that are open-source and presenters who are keen on sharing their advances with the stream restoration community at large. Priority will be given to presentations that show demonstrated successes (e.g. case studies).

Example Topics:
New applications of established methods; stream restoration in different industries (e.g. mining); Case studies.

Monitoring and Lessons Learned

Session Lead(s):
Rick Portiss

Monitoring plays a critical role in the implementation of natural channels projects tied to verification, performance, and regulation. Monitoring tells the story of restoration failures or successes. In this session we seek presentations that speak to natural channel project monitoring initiatives and results with a focus on lessons learned in both monitoring practices and in the implementation of natural channel design. This session seeks to present results of long-term evaluation and measurement of projects associated with adaptive management both good and bad, mistakes made, successful implementation, and innovation of natural channel techniques.

Example Topics:
Standardization of monitoring techniques- appropriate indicators of success; Long term vs short term; Regulatory requirements vs value added indicators; Roles and responsibilities; Municipal maintenance programs; Results and how they impact future management decisions; Tracking adaptive management decisions and how they deviate from the proposed design; Measuring biological and physical form and function.

Policy and Regulations

Session Lead(s):
Jacqui Empson-Laporte, Rick Portiss, Bill Trenouth

This session is interested in presentations which speak to the in-channel/policy nexus. The role that policy and program delivery plays in driving the implementation of successful natural channel projects cannot be ignored. Many examples exist where policy has been used to support innovation and success. Conversely, a lack of adequate supporting policies and programs has, in some cases, hindered project implementation.

Example Topics:
Successful application of policies and programs that promote the protection and restoration of natural channel systems, including in trans-provincial cases; Unique policies and legislation used to implement natural channel projects at varying scales; Innovative uses of existing legislation, policies and programs to promote and implement natural channel designs, including the Drainage Act; Outstanding policy and guidance needs, and room to improve supporting implementation frameworks.


Session Lead(s):
Dr. Jaclyn Cockburn, Sally-Beth Betts and Patrick Padovan

This session explores the concept of resilience in natural and modified systems. Resiliency goes hand in hand with connectivity. A resilient system is a connected system - watercourses are connected with their floodplains, creeks are connected in the upstream to downstream direction, surface water and groundwater connectivity is maintained. A resilient design must be multidisciplinary - pulling on knowledge and experience from a range of specialists, working with fluvial processes and not attempting to control them, considering cause and effect on a system wide scale. This is a particularly important topic in the context of climate change and recent flood events experienced in Ontario and beyond.

Example Topics:
Stream restoration for resilience – especially in urban settings; Sediment connectivity; Habitat suitability with respect to resilience; 2017 flooding; Public perspective; Political priorities; How to influence decision makers; Social implications; Managing outdated infrastructure; Erosion, water quality and natural heritage.

Urban Hydro-modification

Session Lead(s):
Dr. Andrea Bradford, Cassie Schembri, Sally-Beth Betts

It is increasingly important to consider the limits to hydrologic alteration a watercourse can sustain before its form and function are irreparably impacted. This session aims to consider the impacts of urbanization of tablelands on the hydrologic function of our rivers, and specifically what solutions exist to maintain or restore the hydrologic function of our river systems. Traditional approaches that focus on high flow events or simple thresholds has are often insufficient for preserving stream health and have led to broad scale degradation of some river environments. The session will explore the design, simulation and performance of green infrastructure systems to restore flow, thermal and nutrient regimes of urban streams.

Example Topics:
Low Impact Development techniques used with the goal of improving stream health; Green infrastructure projects with the goal of improving stream health; Stormwater management practices designed to meet stream needs; Natural infrastructure projects aimed to protect built infrastructure; Green Infrastructure Retrofits.


Presentations and posters on topics that are in line with the 6th Natural Channel Conference theme Sustaining Connectivity but do not fit within one of the identified category should be submitted under this session. The conference aims to fully explore Connectivity in all aspects of natural channel systems.

Example Topics:
Groundwater and surface water interactions; stream and wetland interactions; watershed and subwatershed planning.

All interested presenters are asked to complete the Call for Abstract form and submit by Monday, December 4, 2017.

Please review the following 3 documents necessary to prepare your abstract submission.

Please send questions and completed abstracts to

Volunteer Opportunities - Application Deadline December 1st

We are looking for people to help us prepare for the 2018 conference as well as to support the event itself. The conference sub committees that require additional support include:

  • Communications - support the communications lead in developing a communications plan, take a lead on social media for the conference or help develop content for conference newsletters
  • Sponsorship - work with the conference organizers to solicit sponsorship opportunities
  • Living Lab - assist the committee in finding exhibits to showcase as part of the living lab, help to set up or run equipment on the day or develop your own ideas
  • Entertainment / Social - perhaps you in a band and want to entertain us at the ice breaker or know someone who can, perhaps you know Guelph well and can help us prepare some ideas of places to go or things to do for people visiting the city for the conference
  • Program Development- we are looking for one person to assist each session lead in reviewing abstracts
  • Organize a site tour - do you have an example of a project site within driving distance to Guelph that you would like to showcase?
  • Other - general conference assistance, set-up, registration desk, etc.

To register your interest to volunteer, please visit: In addition to competing this form, we ask that you please also send your resume to to help us evaluate the best fit for volunteer applicants. If you have ideas to share at this stage please feel free to include them in the email.

Once you have registered interest, a committee member will contact you to discuss your role.

Dates and Location

Dates and Location IconThe 6th Conference on Natural Channel Systems takes place May 23rd to 25th, 2018 at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario.

Registration Rates

Registration IconRegistration is scheduled to open February 2018. Sign up for the mailing list to be notified once registration is open.

Training sessions, workshops, and tours will be scheduled to take place on May 23. Stay tuned for details, registration information and rates.

Registration Rates

Two Day Package
(May 24 and 25)
One Day Package
(May 24 or 25)
Early Rate
(until April 6)
Late Rate
(starting April 7)
Early Rate
(until April 6)
Late Rate
(starting April 7)
Regular $320 $420 $210 $260
NGO* $210 $210 $125 $125
Student* $160 $160 $110 $110

*Please see Additional Registration Information below to see if you qualify for these discounted rates.

Additional Registration Information

About the Registration Rates

All registrations received after Thursday, May 18, 2018 will be processed ON-SITE. Space is not guaranteed for onsite/walk-in registrations.

Qualifying NGO's (Non-Governmental Organization) or students carrying at least 50% of a full-time course load qualify for discounted registration rates. Students must include their student identification number on the registration form, where indicated, in order to receive a discounted rate.

Based on financial limitations, your NGO may qualify for a discounted rate. Please contact the Event Coordinator, Karen Anderson, for more information.

All rates quoted are in CDN funds and are subject to 13% HST.

Space Availability

Seating at all concurrent sessions is limited and will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis as registrations are received. Session substitutions will only be allowed if space permits.

Attendee Substitutions

Attendee Substitutions are allowed by contacting the Registrar prior to the symposium.

What Your Registration Includes

Your 1 or 2-Day Package includes admittance to all Conference sessions, lunch and coffee breaks for the day on which you are registered.

Contact Information

General inquiries, contact:
Karen Anderson, Conference Coordinator
Phone: 1-888-274-1364 ext. 103


Accommodations IconA discounted block of rooms will be reserved at the University of Guelph residence buildings as well as the Delta Hotels by Marriott Guelph Conference Centre.

More details coming soon.

6th Conference on Natural Channels Systems Planning Committee


  • Cassie Schrembri, Credit Valley Conservation
  • Sally-Beth Betts, Credit Valley Conservation

Past Co-Chairs

  • Jeff Hirvonen, GeoProcess Research Associates
  • Mariette Pushkar, Ecosystem Recovery

Conference Committee Members

  • Alexandra Veglio, Credit Valley Conservation
  • Andrea Bradford, University of Guelph
  • Bill Trenouth, Credit Valley Conservation
  • Ed Gazendam, Water’s Edge
  • Jack Imhof, Trout Unlimited Canada (retired)
  • Jacqui Empson Laporte, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs
  • Rick Portiss, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

Event Coordinators

  • Karen Anderson and Mario Maillet, Allset Inc.

Conference Advisory Committee Members

  • Brad Fairley, Stantec
  • Jaclyn Cockburn, University of Guelph
  • Jeremy Blair, City of Mississauga
  • Shannon Baker, Waterfront Toronto

Contact Us

Contact Us IconKaren Anderson
Conference Coordinator, 6th Conference on Natural Channel Systems
1-888-274-1364 ext. 103

2016 Presentations Available for Download

2016 Presentations Day 1


A Primer of Key Disciplines in NCS Applications
Jack Imhof, Trout Unlimited Canada


Partnering with Nature’s River Restorers
Colin Thorne


Streamline Your Design with Civil3D (Part A & B)
Randy Brook and Hamish Trenam, Stantec Consulting Ltd.


Meander Belt Width Procedures: Developing a Regional Model for Southern Ontario
Imran Khan, Beacon Environmental Limited

Regional Reference Curves for Small and Medium Watercourses in Southern Ontario
Trevor Chandler, Stantec Consulting Ltd.

Limitations and Misuse of the Rapid Geomorphic Assessment for Preliminary Characterization of Channel Stability
Robin McKillop, Palmer Enviromental


Twenty Plus Years Since the Rural Ontario Data Base and Relationships was Produced. Looking Back to Look Forward
Bill Annable, University of Waterloo

Applied Fluvial Geomorphology: Where Have We Come from, Where Do We Go?
Dr. Roger TJ Phillips, Western University and Aquafor Beech Limited


Pilot Study - Environmental and Infastructure Vulnerabilities to Climate Change - Implications for Natural Channels
Karen Hofbauer, Matrix Solutions Inc.

Freedom Space for Rivers: An Economical Approach to Sustainable Management in a Changing Climate
Joanna Eyquem, AECOM

State of Climate Change Science and Practice in the Great Lakes Basin: A Focus on Climatology, Hydrological and Ecological Effects
Glenn Milner, Ontario Climate Consortium - Toronto and Region Conservation Authority


Pipeline Associated Watercourse Crossings Fisheries Self- Assessment Tool
Lucas Warner, Stantec Consulting Ltd.

Once Upon a Gravel Pit: Reconnecting Floodplain through Aggregate Extraction
Crystal Allan, Grand River Conservation Authority

Treatments to Mitigate Aquatic Habitat Impacts Associated with Land and Resource Developments
Marc Gaboury, LGL Limited


The Science and Practice of Erosion Threshold Theory in Applied Geomorphology
Dr. Roger TJ Phillips, Western University and Aquafor Beech Limited


Proponent-Led Habitat Banking
Brent Valere, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Regulatory Approvals for Stream Restoration - Two Approaches to DFO Authorization
Jessica Kellerman, City of Waterloo


Evaluating the Effectiveness of Stream Rehabilitation Projects: Lessons Learned from 10 Years of Monitoring
Dean Young, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

Temporal Changes in Terrestrial Biota Observed through Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s Natural Channel Design Monitoring Program 2-14 Year Post Restoration
Lyndsay Cartwright, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority


The “Threshold” of Habitat: Spawning Salmon in a Restored Threshold Channel
Jeff Muirhead, Stantec Consulting Ltd.

2-D Hydraulic of Proposed Fish Ramp to Design for Fish Passage Potential
Bradley Burrows, Ecosystem Recovery Inc.


Changes in Fisheries Act, Policy and Review Process
Thomas Hoggarth, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fish Habitat Offsetting in Pristine Wilderness: Regulatory Challenges
Heather Amirault and David Luzi, Stantec Consulting Ltd.


Long-Term Erosion Monitoring on Niagara Escarpment Watercourses
Anna C.J. Howes, Aquafor Beech Ltd

2016 Presentations Day 2


Integrating Biological Design Criteria into Channel Rehabilitation Projects
Marc Gaboury


Using a Systematic Approach to Natural Channel Designs and Agricultural Stewardship
Sarah Fleischhauer, Maitland Valley Conservation Authority

The Scott Drain – Integrating Natural Channel Design, Controlled Drainage and Agricultural Practices
Geoff King, Maitland Valley Conservation Authority


River Bank Rehabilitation in Sandbed Channels
Ahmed Siddiqui, GEO Morphix Ltd.

Where Does All the Sediment Go? Modelling the Sixteen Mile Creek Sediment Plume
Jeffrey Doucette, GHD Limited


Review of Redside Dace Habitat Corridor Realignments: Morphology, Sedimentology and Habitat Suitabiltiy within Aged Natural Corridor Designs
Paul V. Villard, GEO Morphix Ltd.


Avonhead Creek Daylighting Project: Field Monitoring Techniques to Understand Watershed Hydrology
Jayeeta Barua and Karen Chisholme, Credit Valley Conservation Authority

Reconstruction of Amberlea Creek Valley Corridor to Protect Frenchman’s Bay Provincially Significant Wetland
Robert Amos, Aquafor Beech Ltd


Use of Drainage Act Assessments to Evaluate Costs of Rural Natural Channel Design
Tim Brook, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Educating the Appropriate Target Audience for Stewardship Initiatives
Jacqui Empson Laporte, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs


The Quasi-Stability of Urban Stream Channels and the Importance in Bed Material Transport
Bill Annable, University of Waterloo

Bedload Transport in Urbanized Creeks with and without Stormwater Management
Elli Papangelakis, University of Waterloo


Erosion and Sediment Control for Stream Restoration in Canada
Harry Reinders, R & M Construction

Erosion and Sediment Control: Can We See the Forest for the Trees?
Brad Fairley, Stantec Consulting Ltd.


Using Green Infrastructure to Meet Environmental Flow Needs
Cassie Schembri, Credit Valley Conservation Authority and Wolfgang Wolter, Ecosystem Recovery Inc.

The Influence of Erosion Control Criteria on Stormwater Management Facility Design
Aaron Farrell, Amec Foster Wheeler and John Parish, Parish Aquatic Services

Designing Stormwater Management Facilities to Minimize Downstream Watercourse Impacts
Mike Gregory, Computational Hydraulics International


The Effects of Aquatic Vegetation Growth on Discharge Calculation in Natural Watercourses: A High-Resolution Study Featuring Novel Techniques
Lorenzo Brignoli, University of Waterloo

Using Two-Dimensional Hydraulic Modelling to Quantitatively Assess Fish Habitat Improvements
Nick Hodges and Joanna Eyquem, AECOM

Habitat Suitability Modelling
Amanda McKay, Matrix Solutions Inc.


The Role of Eco- Hydraulics in the Restoration of a Degraded Urban Stream
Ian D. Smith, Urban & Environmental Management Inc.

2016 Conference

To view the 2016 Natural Channel Systems conference website, please click here.