Training Opportunities

The Natural Channels Initiative remains committed to providing opportunities for professionals to expand their learning and knowledge with respect to Natural Channel Systems.

Registration will in Spring 2023, for now, please read below for more details about potential workshops in 2023.

Offered by Dr. Peter Wilcock, Dept. of Watershed Sciences, Utah State University


It is time for stream channel assessment and design to move beyond a template approach to a method that explicitly uses water and sediment supply in an explicit framework that incorporates uncertainty, supports alternatives analysis, and accommodates traditional hydraulic geometry relations in an appropriate supporting role. This short course presents a design approach that begins with specification of desired channel dynamics and then uses estimates of water and sediment supply to explore design alternatives. The method builds on the classic definitions of threshold and alluvial channels. A threshold channel is one for which the bed material is immobile at a design discharge. An alluvial channel is one for which transport capacity is balanced against the rate and grain size of sediment supply. A third type of channel is defined and combines the first two – over-capacity threshold – in which transport capacity exceeds supply but design flows do not exceed threshold limits for channel erosion. This type of channel is more common than often realized, is unintentionally designed in many cases, and offers both advantages and disadvantages that can only be weighed if the design objectives are specifically defined. Uncertainty in water and sediment supply is explicitly included in assessing channel performance. A risk framework is developed for threshold channels and alluvial channels are evaluated in terms of the probability of undesirable aggradation or degradation. At small sediment supply rates, channel performance is relatively insensitive to uncertainty in sediment supply and principles of flow competence may be used to design a threshold-like channel. At large sediment supply rates, the potential for storing or evacuating channel-changing quantities of sediment is much larger. A computational tool will be presented that assists in estimating the sensitivity of channel performance to uncertainty in sediment supply. The tool includes river state diagrams useful for reconnaissance evaluation and channel stability diagrams useful at the planning stage.

The method presented includes a number of important components: (i) it is based on specified channel behavior, such that rates of water and sediment supply and their uncertainty can be directly incorporated in the design process, (ii) it accommodates traditional empirical observations of channel geometry in an appropriate supporting role, (iii) it uses a surface-based mixed-size sediment transport relation that accommodates transient conditions, and (iv) it identifies design channel geometry using the full range of water and sediment supply, rather than a single design discharge.

Reading materials will be distributed in advance of the course. Spreadsheet models will be made available and used in classroom portion of the course. Students should bring their own laptops for use during the workshop. An afternoon field trip will provide an opportunity to evaluate the principles taught in the course for local stream channels.

Additional Information

Transportation for the field trip and lunch is included with training registration.


$350, detailed schedules are anticipated in mid-March


GEO Morphix Ltd. is partnering with the Natural Channel Initiative to provide a full day workshop on ‘Fish Passage, Fish Behaviour, and Fish Passage Design’ with particular emphasis on applications in channel design and stream crossings. This course outlines concepts in hydraulics, aquatic ecology, fish behavior and physiology, fish passage design, and real-world applications.  The first half of the course will follow a seminar-style format.  The second half of the course will include flume demonstrations offsite to reinforce the foundations covered during the seminar portion.

Specific topics include:

  • Introduction to simple, open-channel hydraulics
  • Fish behavior
  • Techniques to mitigate fish passage issues
  • Eco-hydraulics and the application of simple hydraulic models to address fisheries questions
  • Field measurement techniques
  • Modelling of hydraulics to assess fish passage

This seminar provides professionals with a greater understanding of hydraulics and fish passage as they pertain to channel design and stream crossings. Fish behavior/response to different flow conditions is reviewed. It provides tools to understand and assess fish passage. Several simple hydraulic approaches for assessing fish passage are reviewed. Methods for instream treatments (e.g. vortex weirs, armoured beds) are also discussed in the context of channel hydraulics and ecological benefit. This course assists agency and municipal personnel to ensure that the proper questions are asked when assessing channel designs and other activities that impact fish passage.

Laboratory Flume Demonstrations

Flume demonstrations with different culvert and channel configurations will reinforce the discussions on hydraulics and fish passage discussed in the first session.


This workshop is prepared and delivered in part by Dr. Paul Villard of GEO Morphix Ltd. Dr. Villard has extensive local and international experience in fluvial geomorphology and channel design from both an academic and applied perspective. His recent activities include design and implementation of large-scale valley and channel realignments and research on fish passage, habitat suitability, and stability of natural channel designs.

Ecology Instructor TBD

Additional Information

Transportation for the field trip and lunch is included with training registration.


$200, a detailed schedule is expected in mid-March

The Natural Channels Conference and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Department of Natural History have partnered to provide an opportunity to complete the fish identification course. Leading up to the conference the ROM will be offering their introductory workshop at the University of Guelph, June 21 – 23, 2023.


This three-day introductory workshop will cover the broad array of Ontario fish families and provide an opportunity to develop specialized knowledge of a fish group of interest.  PowerPoint presentations and hands-on exercises will familiarize you with the characteristics that are used in distinguishing families, genera, and species. Exercises will develop your skills of counting, measuring, and examining the pertinent anatomical structures that are necessary to use identification keys to Ontario’s fishes. Experienced staff from the ROM will be on hand to assist you with exercises, provide advice, and access the specimens housed in the reference collection brought from the ROM

Detailed ROM Fish ID Course Information and 2023 ROM FISH ID REGISTRATION

Course is contingent on sufficient registration, spaces are limited


Refer to the ROM Fish ID registration page

Offered by Toronto and Region Conservation Authority in Partnership with Natural Channel Initiative


This course is offered as a one-day training workshop designed to instruct attendees in the safe use of backpack Electrofishing equipment.

The main emphasis of this course is the safe use of backpack electroshocking units. The topics covered will include protective equipment, safe procedures and backups or fail-safes. The course addresses the required training in electrofishing safety, fundamentals of electricity and electrofishing theory, sampling methodologies and ethical conduct while electrofishing. It also includes a practical component for which participants will be required to demonstrate safe electrofishing practices in the field. Attendees will be required to complete a written examination for course completion. Instruction will be provided by Level 1 Conservation Authority certified instructors and meets Conservation Authority policy standards.

Who Should Attend?

This course is intended for field staff, consultants and resource managers who are involved in fisheries surveys and management.

Learning Objectives

  • Safe operation and protective equipment used in electrofishing operations
  • Minimizing/eliminating potential harm to fish.
  • Proper electrofishing settings to maximize capture efficiency.
  • Understand and apply concepts presented in the electrofishing lecture

Additional Information

Participants should be prepared for field work. Lunch will be provided. Participants are required to bring their own leak free, non-breathable chest waders, as well as polarized sunglasses.

Course is contingent on sufficient registration.



Registration Opening in Spring 2023