Call for Abstracts

We are ready for your abstracts!  Please complete your abstract submission by March 2, 2020.

The Natural Channels Initiative and the Natural Channels Conference is a not-for-profit entity, thus presenters with accepted abstracts are kindly requested to register for the conference as an attendee. Conference registration rates can be found on the Registration page.

Please note that while all abstracts will be considered, not all can be accommodated within our program. The program committee will advise all accepted abstract contributors in early April 2020.


  1. Review the abstract requirements as outlined in the abstract template document.
  2. Write your abstract, select your preferred session (full session description are online), and complete the questions on the second page of the template
  3. Save your abstract submission as the last name of the first author
  4. Submit your abstract, via email to

If you have any technical difficulties, please contact  If you require more information about abstract forms or content, please contact one of the conference co-chairs.

2020 Sessions

There are a number of sessions for our conference this year.  During your abstract submission please indicate your preferred session. The Program Committee will do its best to honour selections, but we reserve the right to place a presentation in any session.


Session Leads:

Rhonneke Van Riezen, AECOM, Hamilton Ontario

Joanna Eyquem, AECOM, Montreal Quebec

The use of innovative and technological approaches in channel management and design can assist at all stages, from research, baseline studies and design right through to construction and monitoring. These techniques may bring a range of advantages, including more efficient data gathering and processing, opportunities to virtually “test” proposed solutions, reduction in fieldwork requirements and higher quality solutions. However, their application may also require specialized training, equipment or software. Abstracts related to innovation and new technologies may explain how such approaches are helping to address challenges in the industry, changing the way we work and producing new solutions. They may include academic research projects, pilot studies or integration within project work. In each case, presenters are encouraged to consider advantages, limitations and future applications.

Session Lead:

Mariette Pushkar, Ecosystem Recovery, Kitchener Ontario

Any channel restoration or relocation design requires the selection of parameters to develop cross-sections, profile, and planform and to determine an appropriate substrate gradation. Integral to this is quantification of design flows and determining the appropriate channel form given setting and site controls; this needs to be balanced with risk management. There are various methods and relations that can be used to derive design parameters, but not all are equally reliable; nuances about application of the methods are not always recognized, nor suitability for the site considered. All restoration designs need to balance the needs and wants of the different disciplines involved in the project; the objectives may be inconsistent.

This conference session provides an opportunity to review various methods, models, and information sources to determine design parameters, and the limitations thereof including in the context of site constraints. Topics could review design flow, empirical relations for cross-section, planform or profile configurations on their own, or their ability to represent site conditions when compared/contrasted to field observations. Balancing design approaches and materials with long term sustainability of the design, given site conditions and risk can also be explored. Consideration of balancing risk and constraints with a stable channel form is also applicable.

Session Leads:

Jacqui Empson Laporte, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Clinton Ontario

Brad Wright, South Nation Conservation Authority, Finch Ontario

This session works to find balance between rural and urban perspective when designing natural channels in agricultural or mixed agricultural/urban watersheds. This session brings together a diverse group of practitioners to look at real world examples of rural drainage issues and opportunities. We look at current agricultural practices, drainage needs and environmental conditions to better identify win-win opportunities for watershed management agencies, private landowners and the public. We review the Drainage Act, and the new Guide for Engineers Working Under the Drainage Act in Ontario, to consider adapting drainage design for current societal issues such as climate change and natural heritage preservation. We also explore ecosystem goods and services and compare the rural agricultural area to urban environment to gain a better understanding of the benefits and services of the agricultural landscape. Presenters will include farmers, agricultural and environmental NGO’s, consultants, government agencies with topics ranging from soil management, rural catchments, drainage design, ecosystem goods and services, drainage/irrigation innovation.

Session Lead: Todd Fell, Dougan & Associates Ecological Consulting & Design, Guelph Ontario

The riparian zone is the interface between the aquatic and terrestrial environments, with co-dependencies critical to the health and function of each. As a community the riparian zone is characterized by many gradients along inclines of water, energy, chemistry, topography and seasonality. This dynamic system creates seasonal pulses that give rise to a diversity of biological and cultural responses.

In our increasingly urbanizing environment, the demands on the riparian zone are intensifying. These areas are being looked to for moderating the effects of climate change, for maintaining habitat connectivity, and for facilitating recreational use. Disciplines that have historically been disconnected in their approach are increasingly collaborating to conserve, plan and design functional and multiuse linear landscapes along our streams, rivers and watercourses.

This cross-disciplinary session is for engineers, landscape architects, planners, parks and recreation departments, hydrologists, fluvial geomorphologists and ecologists that are looking for ways to work together in the riparian zone.

Session Leads:

Jeff Hirvonen, GeoProcesses Research Associates, Dundas Ontario

Harry Reinders, R&M Construction, Acton Ontario

This session will focus on failed natural channel design projects, reframing them as opportunities for lessons learned. A selection of experienced practitioners will share examples of projects gone ‘not quite right’, to identify miss-steps and retrospective critiques, culminating in lessons that can serve as examples to others working in similar circumstances. Some examples may include natural channel constructions related to miss-haps, design assumptions that went wrong, cases of ‘right solution, wrong setting’, among others. Join us in a friendly airing of natural channel design and construction failures, all towards a better understanding of sound science & engineering and related potential pitfalls.

Session Leads:

Sherwin Watson-Leung, Credit Valley Conservation Authority, Mississauga Ontario

Rick Portiss, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Woodbridge Ontario

Jack Imhof, Trout Unlimited Canada, Guelph Ontario

The landscape for legislation related to natural channel design in Canada and specifically in Ontario have change in recent years. The approval processes for natural channel design works were challenging in the past and now with new or changing legislation and direction, the approval process and various implementation options are being revised. This has led to some confusion amongst proponents but potentially to opportunities to see more good works undertaken.

Find out what you need to know about the modernization of federal and provincial legislation and how it will impact your designs, timelines and permitting requirements. The session focusses on changes to the Federal Fisheries Act and changes to the operations of various Federal and Provincial agencies such as DFO, nationally and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks and the Conservation Authorities regulations provincially.

Session Lead: Shannon Baker, Waterfront Toronto, Toronto Ontario

The risk of flooding is not often turned into an opportunity in cities. The Port Lands Flood Protection and Enabling Infrastructure (PLFP) Project is a $1.25B project, providing flood protection to approximately 250ha of flood vulnerable lands, transforming ~30 hectares of industrial brownfields into a naturalized, multi-outlet river valley system with associated channel spanning infrastructure, while unlocking the area for revitalization and facilitating billions of dollars in investment.  PLFPEI will improve quality of life, bring nature back to an underused industrial site and better protect our neighbourhoods from extreme weather conditions.

We look at a comprehensive vision for the renaturalization of the river, one that envisions recreating a river which then acts as an organizing structure for a system of new parks and public open spaces that will become catalysts for a range of memorable activities and experiences. At the intersection of two major systems – urban waterfront and natural river corridor – this session will focus on flood control, naturalization, and placemaking efforts to bring the Don River Valley and the Toronto’s public realm together in a robust and meaningful way.

This session will highlight the major project elements from river valley constructability, hydraulics and sediment transport to sustainable placemaking that combine to make the Port Lands Flood Protection and Enabling Infrastructure Project one of the most significant changes to the Lake Ontario shoreline in decades, and one of largest infrastructure projects in Canada.