So what exactly is citizen science? Simply put, it’s the engagement of volunteers in the scientific process. Not a new approach, but certainly gaining popularity over the years with examples from Monarch butterfly monitoring, bird or moose surveys, frog work and more. Common elements found in citizen science programs include collaboration with volunteers, scientists and organizations; useful and usable data collection; and learning opportunities, specifically related to scientific methods and processes.
GrizzTracker was developed with these principles in mind – to engage people that live, work and recreate across Bear Management Area 1 (BMA1) in systematically collecting and submitting their grizzly bear sightings using a smartphone app.
Alberta Environment and Parks’ Peace Region staff worked with Miistakis Institute and the Northwest Grizzly Bear Team, as well as local industrial workers and agricultural landowners, to launch this app. The intent was that by engaging the people in using GrizzTracker we will collectively contribute to improved grizzly bear population monitoring, improved learning about scientific methods and wildlife and land management, improve safety conditions for those working out on the land, and encourage conservation stewardship.
Innovatively, GrizzTracker standardizes and automates public reporting of grizzly bear sightings and collects observer effort (the time spent “searching” for grizzlies) via the smartphone’s internal GPS.
To date, GrizzTracker has received 193 registered users since inception, and has seen 371 trips started (averaging roughly 1547 hours of observation) since April 1st 2017. Some of our participants include AEP (72), CNRL (40), DMI (20), Canfor (7), Atco (3), ACA (2), Tolko (2), and Boucher Bros (1). Though still in the early stages of implementation, this form of data collection is a testament to the value of this tool. By standardizing how people report sightings, along with collecting observer effort, the app provides valuable insight towards grizzly bear use of human-dominated spaces.
In addition, GrizzTracker includes an online web-mapping tool – just in case people don’t have their phone handy but still want to report their grizzly sighting. Stay tuned for 2017 results of GrizzTracker, including mapped products (www.grizztracker.ca). Additionally, a forthcoming book chapter on GrizzTracker and the Northwest Grizzly Bear Team will be published in early 2018.
It should be that collaborative projects like GrizzTracker are helping provide valuable information for grizzly bear management, and signal the stewardship contributions of partners in the Northwest.