The 22nd Annual Emerald Awards, June 6, 2013, Edmonton

Among the finalists (Government Institutions): Alberta Department of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD)

Alberta’s ESRD Department actively pursues innovative solutions to balance economic, environmental and social concerns. In part, doing this places emphasis on conserving aquatic habitats and sensitive lands. The problem is that traditional mapping of water and soils relied upon photo-interpretation. But unseen wet areas, unknown locations of sensitive soils, and stream channels hidden under vegetation canopies have made resource planning unduly difficult and expensive. The Department therefore commenced on what has become a nine-year journey with researchers at the University of New Brunswick to develop algorithms and functional data sets to map hydrological and soil features at unprecedented resolution by way of geographic information technology. In this process, wet-areas mapping has become a means for recognizing an innovation opportunity, and a model for moving good science towards simple, robust and cost-effective tools with a growing array of applications. Altogether, this initiative is about empowering Albertans by providing them with readily visualized information to achieve environmental excellence in land-use planning and management.