WATERLOO, ON, Dec. 18, 2013 /CNW/ - RinkWatch, a popular project started
by researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University, is hitting the ice in its
second season, looking to expand its 1,000-member roster of
backyard-rink-making citizen scientists and continue gathering valuable
Launched in January 2013, RinkWatch.org asks people to help track winter climate trends by recording skating
conditions on their backyard or neighbourhood rinks. By the end of last
winter's short, unpredictable skating season, over 1,000 people from
throughout Canada and the U.S. were sharing their skating conditions,
as well as their photos, stories and rink-making tips. The project also
garnered media attention from across North America.
Researchers Robert McLeman, Colin Robertson and Haydn Lawrence from
Laurier's Department of Geography and Environmental Studies were
overwhelmed by the success of RinkWatch's first season.
"When we launched, we thought it would be great if we got 50, maybe 100
rinks registered by the end of winter," said McLeman. "We had that many
users in the first week. We even heard from a rink maker in Norway."
The researchers compared skating rink data from the first season of
RinkWatch to meteorological data from Environment Canada and were
encouraged by the results.
"We found that data from skating rinks corresponds well with data from
nearby weather stations," said McLeman. "This is important, because it
shows that rinks are useful indicators of fluctuations in winter
temperatures, and there are a lot more skating rinks than there are
The researchers hope to establish an international network of
"RinkWatchers" sharing data year after year to monitor the effects of
climate change on northern winters. In addition to gathering data,
RinkWatch is making climate change a more relatable topic.
"Outdoor skating is part of the cultural fabric of northern peoples.
It's our history; it's who we are," said McLeman. "When we asked for
the public's help in tracking how climate trends are affecting skating
rinks, it was clear from the response how passionately people felt
Although the first official day of winter isn't until Dec. 21, early
reports from RinkWatchers are already coming in. The first rink to
report skating data for 2013-14 was in Kemptville, Ont. (about 60 km
south of Ottawa) on Nov. 25; a few days later, a rink in Marquette,
Michigan became the first American rink to start reporting. The
RinkWatch team expects a surge over the holidays, when people have time
to get their rinks up and running.
As part of its "We All Play for Canada" campaign, Canadian Tire will
actively promote RinkWatch this winter. The new sport marketing
initiative encourages families to be active together through play and
participate in outdoor activities like skating. New interactive
features are being added to the RinkWatch website with the help of
Canadian Tire and Esri Canada, a leader in web-based mapping technology
and Geographic Information Systems, which will enhance the overall user
experience. The team hopes to make RinkWatch the go-to destination for
the backyard-rink-making community.
Anyone who skates on an outdoor rink can become a RinkWatcher by
visiting RinkWatch.org, pinning the location of their rink on an online map and returning to
the website regularly to record skating conditions on their rink. The
results are pooled with reports from other RinkWatchers to track winter
weather conditions, which users can explore via the online map.
RinkWatchers can also share photos of their rinks, exchange rink-making
tips and chat in user forums.
RinkWatch does not collect any personal information from users. As the
website says, "It's not you we're interested in, it's your rink. Help
us prevent backyard rinklessness."
SOURCE: Wilfrid Laurier University
For further information:
Robert McLeman, Associate Professor
Geography and Environmental Studies
519-884-0710 ext. 2653 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lori Chalmers Morrison, Acting Director
Communications & Public Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University
519-884-0710 ext. 3067 or email@example.com