This past September in Edmonton, AB, a citizen science workshop co-hosted by Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP), Environmental Monitoring and Science Division (EMSD), and Miistakis tackled the task of Changing Perspectives and Breaking Barriers. This workshop brought together different practitioners, experts and resource managers to show how citizen science can be a useful and valuable tool to help understand environmental change; highlight the best examples of projects producing credible and relevant data; and determine what tools best support the collection of this valuable environmental data. In addition to presentations of projects from around the province, there were international speakers bringing context to citizen science and its use, application and opportunities across the globe!
Citizen science projects around the province vary widely in their level of participation, purpose and objectives, and geographic scale. A few of the projects that were highlighted in the workshop included the Alberta Lake Management System where members of the public help science professionals by providing them with equipment and services when needed; Pronghorn Xing which uses the same platform as GrizzTracker to gather sightings of pronghorn and other wildlife along highways in SE Alberta and SW Saskatchewan to gain understanding of common crossing points, collision locations, and wildlife movement patterns; and various examples of passive data collection, where members of the public interested in wildlife and the environment can log observations from their time outdoors into various databases. You can find examples of these projects here: http://aep.alberta.ca/about-us/special-weeks/environment-week/documents/CitizenSciencePrograms-Mar2013.pdf; ACA’s Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program and Snake Hibernaculum Inventory https://www.ab-conservation.com/avamp/overview/; or visit the Miistakis website to see the various citizen science projects that they have running as well https://www.rockies.ca/research.php!
As part of the workshop, our very own Peace Region Regional Manager KayeDon Wilcox, and Miistakis’s Senior Project Manager Tracy Lee gave a talk on Connecting Citizen Science and Environmental Decision Making. Their talk focused on understanding environmental issues and the trend for government agencies and other organizations to incorporate citizen science as a tool to realize science, monitoring, and citizen engagement objectives. They also highlighted different strategies and actions to improve the links between data gathered through citizen science and environmental decision-making processes.
GrizzTracker is an excellent example of the potential for citizen science to be used as a tool to inform decision-making, given the standardized and automated way in which data is collected. GrizzTracker combines systematic data collection with the knowledge and expertise of members of the public who work, live or recreate in bear habitat to produce credible and reliable data. It also helps engage the public in learning about bears, and foster stewardship action.
While GrizzTracker was first pilot-tested in Bear Management Area 1 of the Lower Peace Region, it is now expanding to the rest of the province and beyond! In future, the application may also include reporting on other notable species, such as black bears, moose, lynx, wolverines and more.
Certainly, citizen science plays an important role in engaging the public to support scientific data collection and learn about the environment and wildlife around them. Through the development of systematic sampling methods, it is possible to utilize information collected from citizen scientists to inform environmental decision-making. Key to making these approaches successful is by continuing to engage the public – and that means we need YOU!
Visit http://www.grizztracker.ca to download the app and learn more about grizzly bears and their management!