Monitoring PA: A path to consensus around differing perspectives

Kelly Munkittrick

Kelly Munkittrick
Director, Monitoring Priority Area

One of roles that COSIA plays is to develop scientific positions on technical issues for the industry. In situations where there are disputes in research or opinions are misaligned, we bring together scientists who are working on the issue to try to find consensus on a path forward. This spring, the Monitoring Priority Area held a series of workshops to address four such issues: source apportionment, wetlands monitoring, water naphthenic acids measurements and adaptive monitoring. 

Although each workshop had unique participants and intentions, there was one common result: collaboration for a better outcome. Scientists who are approaching a similar problem differently had an opportunity to discuss the issue alongside impacted or interested stakeholders, to create alignment. This collaborative approach helps us work efficiently, create clarity and integrate information. And when data generated for different purposes can be shared, we’re able to understand issues more holistically and make better decisions on our path forward. 

The source apportionment or characterization workshop, for example, brought together scientists from Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA), Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC), Alberta Innovates, Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP), University of Alberta, Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA) and Natural Resources Canada to meet with industry. Source apportionment identifies the origin of chemicals found on the landscape in features like snow, moss, lichens, sediment core and pine needles. By identifying an isotope or chemical signature, scientists can link a chemical to a source such as road dust, fire or oil sands operations. This workshop created understanding around the different techniques used to identify chemicals and resulted in an aligned request by external researchers for samples that will improve source attribution, and allow different groups to compare approaches and answers. 

In addition to spearheading these workshops, the Monitoring Priority Area made progress on the monitoring participation agreement. COSIA member companies have now formally signed an agreement to undertake joint studies on technical information related to oil sands monitoring. As a participation agreement, this initiative is open to all companies who fund regional Oil Sands Monitoring—both COSIA and non-COSIA members. The agreement allows COSIA to provide an industry focal point for interfacing with governments regarding technical issues on the design, implementation and operation of the regional oil sands monitoring program.   

Find out more about the work happening in the Monitoring Priority Area with a look at COSIA’s research on adaptive monitoring.