To inspire and empower wildlife professionals to engage in science-based management and conservation of wild animals and their habitats.
In This Issue
- Executive's Director's Message
- President's Message
- Canadian Section of the Wildlife Society Update
- David Schindler, 1940-2021
- ACTWS Programming in 2021
- Nature Alberta Magazine: Tell Your Story
- The Canadian Section of The Wildlife Society (CSTWS) Certification Committee
- ACTWS Habitat Hot Topic!
- Mystery Wildlife
- Upcoming Events
Photo courtesy of Barry Trakalo
Executive Director's Message
In wildlife science and management, the best successes come when we work together. That spirit of collaboration, learning from each other, and feeling part of an ever-expanding network of dedicated people is what I love best about working with the ACTWS. Over the past few months, I’ve been working with our board on plans for the coming year. And I think you’ll like what we’ve got in store!
In planning ahead, I took some time to reflect on our successes and challenges in 2020. Responding to the continued pandemic, we experimented with a suite of new online programs from webinars and workshops to auctions and sweepstakes. Our webinars and workshops were well attended, and the vast majority of people were satisfied with their experience. That is great and we’ll continue to build on that momentum! Our 2021 webinar series will use results from our membership survey to focus on “Habitat Hot Topics”. You also requested more workshops on specific topics like habitat management and science focusing on mammals, birds, wetlands, and amphibians/reptiles. Throughout the year, I’ll be working with you and our board to deliver engaging, informative workshops. Read the short article in this newsletter to learn more about our 2021 programs and opportunities for you to share your work. As always, if you have ideas or would like to co-host or facilitate a workshop/webinar in your area of expertise, please reach out!
I am so excited to see you all at our virtual conference next month! I love the idea of being able to watch and participate in a conference on a dog walk, from my couch, on my bike trainer, or even while I’m cooking dinner. The great thing about a virtual conference is that you can make it whatever you need it to be and participate when it works best for you. Throw a couple talks on with your morning coffee in your pyjamas, or in the office on your coffee break, or watch some talks with your family so maybe they can understand a little more about what you do for a living! I know I’ll be taking advantage of “conferencing” wherever I am, with and without my family! I also love the idea that without travel costs, more of you can participate from wherever you are. Of course, I will miss seeing all your faces and I would rather meet with you in person, but I’m getting pretty used to talking to you over video and I can’t wait to see all of your posters and presentations. I look forward to learning from you all!
Beyond the conference, I am looking at new ways of telling our story. The ACTWS has a long history in Alberta and we have so much to offer. Our work on the Grassy Mountain Coal Mine public hearing has helped me better understand the interest amongst Albertans for science-based organizations to share research and knowledge in land use decision making. The ACTWS is well positioned to be the voice of science in wildlife management and we’re looking for new ways to get our work out there in the minds of Albertans. To start, I will be looking for your stories to form part of a social media campaign increasing awareness about who we are and the important work all of you do.
Our fall member survey contained valuable information and we look forward to using those results to guide our programs, while being adaptable to the continued uncertainty associated with pandemic restrictions. By creating flexible programming options, we’ll make sure that our programs continue to meet the high standards suitable to the ACTWS and are enjoyable and safe for our members. Even if we don’t know where the road leads, we can figure it out together and continue to move wildlife science and evidence-based management forward in Alberta. I truly look forward to working with you all to do that!
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” Helen Keller
Faithfully your ED,
Sarah Elmeligi, PhD
To the members of the Alberta Chapter,
This year moved at a snail’s pace, while simultaneously flying by! This is my final message as President of the ACTWS and I’d like to express my gratitude for the opportunity to lead such an amazing organization. I began my involvement with the chapter in 2015 as an undergraduate student at the University of Alberta. Over the years I have enjoyed meeting and working alongside committed wildlife biologists and students. I am excited to be handing over the reins to Nicole Heim who will lead us into 2021. I am eager to meet the newly elected executive members and to fill the role of Past President for one more year as an executive member with ACTWS.
ACTWS achieved many accomplishments in a difficult year. Endeavours that were only possible because of dedicated volunteers on various committees, the work of our Executive Board and of our Executive Director. Cancellation of the conference meant many in-person conference activities were conducted online throughout the year. This shift resulted in the creation of a monthly webinar series, virtual workshops, and an online fundraising campaign. A Speakers’ Bureau on our website provides a directory of experts in the wildlife field. If you haven’t already, add your name to the list!
Two new committees were formed this year: the Fish and Wildlife Historical Committee and the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee. The EDI Committee launched its efforts by making ACTWS memberships free for members of the BIPOC community. I expect we will see more progressive and inclusive programming in the future.
The Conservation Affairs Committee had a busy year beginning with the presentation of the C5 Project, drafting 13 advocacy letters, and presenting at the Grassy Mountain Coal Project public hearing.
Thank you to our members and volunteers for their loyalty and engagement within the chapter community. I look forward to seeing that community grow and increase in diversity in coming years.
Finally, the Executive Board voted in favour of a legal affiliation with the Canadian Section of The Wildlife Society (CSTWS). We are eager to work collaboratively with other Provincial chapters and CSTWS.
Make sure you register for the annual ACTWS virtual conference. The Conference Planning Committee continues to work tirelessly to ensure a fully immersive virtual conference as engaging as past conferences have been. Take advantage of networking features the Whova platform offers to connect with students and professionals. You can browse talks and presentations at your own pace, and content will remain online three months after the end of the conference. Enjoy the “no pants required” flexibility that comes with a virtual conference! Such an offer most definitely will not be in place at our next in-person gathering!
We look forward to meeting you virtually at the conference during the week of March 22nd!
Canadian Section of The Wildlife Society Update
I have tried to pick photos of myself that reflect the season’s activity but for this moment in the middle of winter, as a few restrictions are being lifted and a few folks around me are getting vaccine shots, my mind has wondered to travels. I admit my first trip will be to see my grandkids in the U.S., but next would be some distant places to hike and explore the wildlife…like the (“knee popping”) mountains of Chile shown here. Nevertheless, the wilds of Canada are a great place to be when limited in travel, with boundless opportunities to enjoy nature. Oh, how lucky we all are!
The Wildlife Society is moving ahead with plans on its 28th Annual Conference being a virtual meeting in fall 2021 (Nov 1-5), which you can enjoy from the comfort of your local surroundings! Workshop and symposia submissions are due 16 March and abstract submissions are due by 16 April as per the website.
TWS Council recently approved several updates in the Wildlife Biologist Certification Program. Some will be implemented immediately and other phased in over the next 2 years. The goal of the changes was to broaden the approaches to meeting the same high standards. Canada has an active group of CSTWS members under the leadership of Al Arsenault, Don Barnes and others who are working with Canadians and Canadian university programs to pave the road for Canadians to get certified. Another recently initiated, very cool, program has been the Wildlife Vocalizations. They are a collection of short personal perspectives from folks in the field of wildlife, who share their life experiences, research adventures, uphill battles, and rewarding moments. If you know of someone whose contributions to the profession you admire – young or old – nominate them on the TWS website for sharing a vocalization. If you are not a regular reader of TWS’s Wildlife Professional, you are missing out. This year mark’s its 15th year of publication – really? How time flies. Recent articles have covered the trials and tribulations of managing field work amidst the COVID pandemic. If you think you are alone in these struggles, you are not! Read what others are experiencing and how to remain effective. Also, read TWS President Chambers’ commentary on international perspectives. A key comment was: “During my tenure as president, I want to emphasize this international scope of TWS and see us increase our international engagement, representation, relevance and visibility.” As part of this movement, TWS’s International Wildlife Management Working Group (IWMWG), after surveying TWS members about what the future of TWS’s international involvement would look like, produced a stellar report including a 10-year plan for TWS’s international engagement – a topic for Canadians to follow. In-coming TWS President elect, Gordon Batchelor, is now the Chair of the newly formed International Involvement Committee, addressing many of the IWMWG’s recommendations. And…TWS just became a full partner of International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with much of that effort spearheaded by Canadian Section member, Shane Mahoney. President Chamber’s article on international direction of TWS is a welcome read.
Finally, thanks also to those TWS leaders in Canada that provided feedback to TWS on changes in the TWS Bylaws. The changes are the most extensive since TWS’s founding but most changes focused on removing procedures and retaining key components and principles, refining standards that were unclear, and bring statements into legal alignment with the Articles of Incorporation. The process has been a well vetted one. In a few months, all TWS members in Canada will be provided the revised Bylaws and a document outlining the rationale for changes. You will be asked to vote on the changes- so heads up folks! Luckily, CSTWS just went through a similar exercise in establishing new Bylaws as part of our own Incorporation so we are currently in good shape.
Stay safe everyone. I am looking forward to our Ontario-CSTWS joint meeting March and hope to see you there!.
David Schindler, 1940-2021
By Mark Boyce
When I interviewed for my position at the University of Alberta in 1998, I was delighted to meet Dave Schindler, Canada’s leading ecologist. What I remembered so clearly about our visit was that David insisted that his research program received no funding from industry whether it be oil/gas or timber industry. I cannot recall any other ecologist who had such a principled view. Yet he was right because clearly our research is tainted if funded by industry given that we’re likely to align with priorities from the sponsor even when we insist on an “unbiased” study design.
For 15 years I worked in the same department with Dave and his spouse, Suzanne Bayley, and we enjoyed countless intellectually stimulating discussions. One in particular that I enjoyed was a debate about fire management in national parks—only because I think that I won this debate and he sided with my position that parks are important as ecological baseline reserves. But what I admired most about Dave is how he was truly an advocate for science. Advocacy is a delicate issue for academics and some scientists take the position that our role is to inform decision makers. Not Dave! He did not trust government or agency personnel to use science and his powerful academic credentials allowed him to defend science in direct contradiction to the prevailing perspective that the economy was more important than the environment. I regret that he became ill before putting Jason Kenney in his place.
Dave and I had many shared interests and backgrounds. We both grew up in the Midwestern USA where we enjoyed hunting and fishing. We both did graduate study at the University of Oxford. We both loved dogs—I liked retrievers and he liked sled dogs. And we both loved being outdoors. I had a nicer boat than he, and he loved to fish from my boat which we did at least annually. We caught many salmon and I clearly recall Dave landing a 20-lb coho which was the largest that I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t break him from using his Midwestern-style bait-casting outfit, but he managed to catch fish anyway.
David Schindler was Canada’s leading ecologist and some would argue that he was the greatest ecologist of his generation. He received every ecology prize including the Tyler Prize that is essentially the Nobel Prize in ecology. And even more prestigious, he was awarded the William Rowan Award from the Alberta Chapter of The Wildlife Society in 2014. During his acceptance speech in Jasper he focused on human population growth and its horrific consequences for the environment.
When Dave and Suzanne retired in 2013 they bought a beautiful rural property near Brisco, BC. When running with his dogs one day he slipped and fell causing internal injuries. Our last fishing trip was in 2019 and he clearly struggled to walk. He never fully recovered from his injuries and finally died of heart failure on March 4. We lost an outspoken scientist—a fabulous scientist—perhaps the best in the world. And it was a terrible loss.
Nature Alberta Magazine: Tell Your Story
Nature Alberta Magazine is Alberta’s leading publication dedicated to nature education and conservation. And we want to hear from you. Our aim is to provide the conservation-minded public with top-quality information about Alberta’s species and ecosystems and the challenges they face. We also want to showcase important conservation efforts that are underway, both in the lab and in the field. Who better to provide this information than the field biologists, researchers, and grad students who are doing the work? Here is a sampling of some of the biologists who have contributed articles over the past year:
· Colleen St. Clair (U of A professor) – Keep those wily urban coyotes wild.
· Michael Sullivan (provincial biologist) – Can smartphones kill trout?
· Pat Fargey (provincial biologist) – Recovery of Ord’s kangaroo rat
· Kristin Bianchini (post-doc) – Why are common loons becoming less common?
· Sarah Milligan (biology consultant) – A fisheye view of cumulative effects on Alberta’s East Slopes
Please consider adding your name to this list. It’s an opportunity to showcase your work to a wide audience and raise awareness of the species or issues you are working on. It can even be fun. We encourage an informal first-person style in which you take your readers into the field with you, allowing them to become armchair biologists. We publish four times a year and the articles can either be two-page “shorts” or full-length four-page “features” (roughly 2,000 words). To get a fuller sense of the content and style of the magazine, please have a look through some of our recent issues, which are available online at https://naturealberta.ca/magazine/
If you are interested in submitting an article, or have questions, please get in touch with Richard Schneider at firstname.lastname@example.org We’re looking forward to hearing from you.
Habitat Hot Topic
Legislating Coexistence with Wildlife
We don’t often think of wildlife habitat as being in an urban setting, but really wildlife habitat is all around us. From the chickadees at your backyard bird feeder to the coyotes roaming the streets at night, urban wildlife species are using your backyard as habitat everyday. As we expand our human footprint with new neighbourhoods and communities, and as our populations grow, urban wildlife and their management is becoming more of a hot topic. Currently the City of Edmonton is debating a by-law that would require property owners to manage attractants (e.g., fruit trees in their yard, garbage, and potential denning materials) to reduce conflict with coyotes. Smaller towns, like Canmore, already have by-laws in place to ensure appropriate attractant management on private property. These by-laws work towards habitat management at the individual property level by engaging residents in managing their property to achieve coexistence. This approach brings the responsibility of habitat management to everyone. These by-laws face controversy as some property owners feel their right to manage their property as they like is hindered. Other property owners may not feel the by-law is getting at the cause of the human-wildlife conflict.
The Edmonton Urban Coyote Project is run by a great team of people working together to achieve coexistence in an urban setting. Through research and collaboration, people are taking steps to address a complex problem in one of Alberta’s biggest cities. The Human-Wildlife Coexistence Working Group in Canmore and Banff is a collaborative effort examining how urban habitats and people can be managed to achieve coexistence. Whether it’s in a big city or a small town, collaboration across government agencies and stakeholders is required for success.
How is human-wildlife coexistence managed in your city or town? Are any formal collaborative efforts in place? Good things to think about as the seasons change and many critters emerge from hibernation.