The Alberta Wildlifer August 2020 Volume 31 Issue 3

Cover photo is the 2020 Larry Comin Photo Award Winner Nick Parayko

To inspire and empower wildlife professionals to engage in science-based management and conservation of wild animals and their habitats.

In This Issue

  1. Executive Director's Message
  2. President's Message
  3. Canadian Section of the Wildlife Society Update
  4. Introducing our New Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee
  5. Larry Comin Photo Award Winner
  6. Meet an Alberta Wildlifer: President Elect Nicole Heim
  7. ACTWS Habitat Hot Topic!
  8. Mystery Wildlife
  9. Upcoming Events

Executive Director's Message

Happy September! I hope you’ve spent a wonderful summer in the outdoors, both for work and play. Summer seemed to take its sweet time to get here, but it has been glorious in every way.

Like many of you, this summer my family and I explored more locally and had a great time experiencing the diversity of landscapes Alberta has to offer, including taking my family back to my old stomping grounds along the badlands of the Red Deer River. I feel so fortunate to live in a province with so many different ecosystems to appreciate. Every time I go outside, I am reminded of why the work we all do is so crucial.

This summer has been a busy one for our Conservation Affairs Committee. Through a series of letters to Ministers, we’ve been sharing the final C5 report and responding to array of wildlife and habitat related issues. From changes to the Annual Allowable Cut to coal mining exploration proposals, all of our letters can be found in our members area. This fall, we will be presenting at the public hearing regarding the Grassy Mountain Coal Mine north of Blairmore. There is no shortage of changes happening to Alberta’s environmental policies and regulations. If you are aware of issues that you think the ACTWS should be responding to, or committees that we should be involved in, please email me (execdirector@actws.ca). It’s not hard to keep on top of things when we have such a dedicated membership, and for that I am truly grateful.

One of my favourite things this summer has been our monthly lunch and learn webinar series. I love experiencing a sampling of our 2020 conference each month and hearing all about your research! Webinars have been well attended and appreciated; they are scheduled through to February and will continue beyond the 2021 conference. Webinars are posted to the Events area of our website usually 3-4 weeks in advance (www.actws.ca/events). Members get priority registration through our monthly email, and public registration opens one week before the webinar. We’re posting recordings of all webinars in our members area, so don’t worry if you missed one!

I’ve been enjoying trying out new platforms and engaging Albertans beyond our membership in our important work. The Larry Comin Photo contest and our Silent Auction from the conference were shared through our social media channels and emails. Be Wild: An Experience Auction raised $2150! Our photo contest winner is celebrated in this newsletter. Although COVID-19 has been challenging in so many ways, I’ve truly enjoyed finding ways to bring the ACTWS to online forums and being able to reach you wherever you are across the province.

Earlier this month, we launched our new Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. I am so proud of this effort and excited to see what kinds of programs this team creates over the coming months. I share more about our EDI Committee in this newsletter, so read on.

Moving into the fall, we’ll be conducting an online donor campaign, launching an online workshop series, continuing our webinars, and distributing an in-depth member survey to better understand how to serve you. As always, I love hearing from you. If you have any ideas about any of our programs, please reach out any time.

From Alberta’s wilderness to you,

Your ED, Sarah Elmeligi, PhD

President's Message

To all members of the Alberta Chapter,

Over the summer, our executive team has encouraged members to connect virtually. Our Executive Director, Sarah Elmeligi, has incorporated elements of our cancelled conference into online events. Our Lunch and Learn webinar series have been very successful. Other events included Be Wild, our online silent auction that raised $2,150 and the Larry Comin Photo Contest – thanks to everyone who participated! Congratulations to previous ACTWS Student Director Nick Parayko who submitted the winning photograph of a lynx. Thank you to our members – please continue to participate in our virtual events! It is incredible how we can continue to engage and connect during this challenging time.

Our Conservation Affairs Committee has been busy writing letters and responding to recent wildlife issues in Alberta, including cuts to Alberta Parks, changes to the provincial coal mining policy, and changes to the Annual Allowable Cut.

As autumn approaches, we will continue to host the Lunch and Learn webinar series. Don’t miss the September webinar, focused on understanding distribution and selection. We are also planning online workshops – details to come soon! Nikki Heim and our conference planning committee are hard at work investigating options for our 2021 annual conference. And our new Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee are seeking ways to engage and empower underrepresented groups in wildlife related fields.

As we continue to navigate the pandemic and changing policies, please continue to engage with the Chapter, other members and our executive team. I wish everyone a safe and healthy autumn. I hope you are able to get outdoors and enjoy this warm weather while it lasts!

ACTWS President

Alex Beatty

Photo courtesy of Lacey Herbert

Canadian Section of The Wildlife Society Update

I had thought the summer would be quiet amidst the COVID pandemic, but, boy, was I wrong. Things at TWS are …zooming! We have had more regular meetings of Council than in the past, albeit for shorter durations. The TWS Annual Conference (28 Sept – 2 Oct) has gone viral and promises to be lively. Please see more details in this newsletter to register- the cost is only $100. Come network across the globe.

Among the TWS goings on for this summer are:

• New books/reports: The 8th edition of The Wildlife Techniques Manual was published 7/28/20. It is now available through retail outlets. Sportsmen & Sportswomen Climate Statement came out in July 2020, American Wildlife Conservation Partners Wildlife in the 21st Century Vol 6" report is out, a new book entitled Women in Wildlife by Carol Chambers and Kerry Nicholson will be published in 2020.

• Position Statements: The revised TWS Standing Position on Trapping Furbearers have been approved and is now posted on the TWS website.

• Bylaws: are under revision and members will be voting on changes. I will update you about revisions when completed.

• Awards: Erin McCance became a Fellow of TWS; Rick Baydack received the Excellence In Wildlife Education Award; Emily Thoroski, received the Conservation Education Award for “Why Do Wildlife Matter”; Caesar Kleberg Award for Excellence In Applied Wildlife Research was awarded to Ray Alisauskas. Congratulations to them all!

• Conservation Policy: TWS sent letters expressing concern on changes to Migratory Bird Treaty Act, signed on a letter with other TWS organization units and NGOs sent to US Congress highlighting the economic benefits of Recovering America’s Wildlife Act in a future stimulus package, TWS advocated for wildlife crossings with ~40 other organizations addressing wildlife-vehicle collisions; TWS signed on letters supporting the US Great American Outdoors Act and America’s Conservation Enhancement Act that recently passed.

• Featured TWS group: TWS has an active Native Peoples’ Wildlife Management Working Group (NPWMWG) composed of wildlife professionals and students, tribal and non-tribal members, who have been exploring ways to promote the early development of indigenous wildlife professionals. Read more on TWS website.

• TWS committee work. If you are interested in stepping up to be more involved with TWS committees, there are openings on most of the Awards Committees, Nominating, Retired Wildlife Professionals, Aldo Leopold Memorial Award and Investment Review Committees. Contact Carol Chamber, incoming TWS president.

• Need help from TWS? TWS provides updated COVID guidance to units on event planning. See contacts on website.

Quiz time: Who was Canada’s first Leopold Award winner and in what year was it awarded? (see Wall of Canadian Achievement on CSTWS website for the answer and learn our heritage!)

Evelyn Merrill

Introducing our New Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee

By Sarah Elmeligi

The ACTWS supports all equity seeking groups and encourages participation in our organization and in the wildlife profession in Alberta. Earlier this summer, the ACTWS sent an email to our subscribers committing to addressing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in our operations. This is no easy task – the issue is complex and sensitive.

To meaningfully address EDI in ACTWS operations, the board has unanimously decided to create an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. This committee will function like other committees in that it will be run by volunteers who will report to the ACTWS executive board and to the ACTWS membership via various existing communication mechanisms (e.g., emails, newsletters, annual general meeting). Our new committee consists of nine dedicated ACTWS members and had its first meeting in August.

Please join me in welcoming our new EDI Committee:

  • Ashley Shaw – Co-chair
  • Jenny Foca – Co-chair
  • Dee Patriquin
  • Everett Hanna
  • Grace Enns
  • Janet Ng
  • Nicholas Yarmey
  • Robin Gutsell
  • Sarah Elmeligi

EDI is a complex subject involving many different underrepresented groups. The EDI committee will consider any and all underrepresented groups in the Alberta Wildlife Profession, including Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC), LGBTQ2+ folks, people with disabilities, and Canadian immigrants. This is a somewhat daunting task; thus the committee will need to prioritize programs that are strategic and meaningful.

Over the coming months, the committee will work to define short and long-term goals to address EDI in ACTWS operations and membership. Short-term goals will aim to mitigate current inequities and long-term goals will be designed to instigate system change that will help ACTWS better support a more inclusive membership and improve our professional capabilities as biologists.

As a start, we launched our “Diversity Is Our Strength” web post, which showcases the research and experience of our EDI co-chair, Ashley Shaw. We’d love for this to become a monthly post. If you would like to share your work, please email me (execdirector@actws.ca).

The EDI Committee wants programs to be tangible and make a difference. We are interested in challenging ourselves to identify systemic bias in our profession in Alberta, define ways that we can address it, and develop partnerships to address it over the long term. Over the fall, we’ll be partnering with the Membership Committee to deliver a survey that will help us understand our membership’s current diversity and any challenges related to EDI. Survey results will be used to identify short term programs that demonstrate our commitment to EDI.

As this is a new committee, we welcome your feedback, ideas, and stories. This committee is dedicated to addressing EDI while recognizing the sensitivity of this issue. Please know that we will respect your confidentiality as requested. Our first step is to create a safe space where listening is more important than talking. My email address, execdirector@actws.ca, is always available to you.

Larry Comin Photo Award Winner

Congratulations to Nick Parayko for winning the 2020 Larry Comin Photo award. The photo incorporates perfect lighting, great image composition, and captures the mood of the animal so well. This photo really got my imagination going and I found myself unable to stop staring into the eyes of this stunning lynx.

With this years award winner announced, everyone should get out their cameras and start capturing Alberta's wildlife in action for the 2021 Larry Comin Photo Contest.

Meet an Alberta Wildlifer: President Elect Nicole Heim

What’s your favourite Alberta species?

Though I have spent several years researching wolverines, I have a soft spot for the North American badger.

Where did you go to school?

I completed a Technical Diploma at Selkirk College (Castlegar, BC) and a Bachelor of Natural Resource Science at Thompson Rivers University (Kamloops, BC). While data collected for my graduate studies were accomplished in the Kananaskis Region of Alberta, I completed a Master of Science degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria (Victoria, BC).

What did you research for grad school?

My graduate work focused on evaluating the relative influence of natural and human-mediated factors driving the spatial distribution of wolverines and co-occurring carnivores in the central Rocky Mountains.

Can you give a quick overview of your career?

I have been working in the field of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation for over 15 years, focused largely on understanding and managing terrestrial carnivores through western Canada and into the NW United States. Particularly, I have studied cougar, grizzly bear, badger, and wolverine. Throughout my career I have led roles as a field technician, researcher, park ecologist, and human-wildlife conflict specialist.

What are your career highlights?

I feel fortunate to say there have been so many, especially during my time working in the field. But to list a few…

  • The first time I held a 230lb male cougar in my arms, followed by months monitoring movement patterns and investigating kills sites.
  • Receiving recognition for several years of hard work and data collection that assisted in the listing of grizzly bears in Alberta.
  • Observing badgers hunt in the grasslands of central British Columbia.
  • Successfully modelling wolverine spatial distribution in R ;-)
  • Where opportunities arise, continue to educate public on wildlife conservation and human carnivore co-existence.

What got you interested in working in wildlife?

I always had a love wild spaces and species. While completing my technical diploma at Selkirk College, I realized I could actually pursue a career focused on wildlife conservation. My interest was further sparked during my studies and the fire was ignited while volunteering on local wildlife projects.

Where do you see your work in the future?

Over time I have learned the importance of understanding what drives both wildlife and people to achieve conservation goals. I hope broaden my understanding of and incorporate human dimensions into my future career goals and opportunities.

Who was a mentor or famous biologist who helped shape your career?

To name two I would say Charlie Russell and Stephen Herrero… and I am continually inspired by the passion for conservation by many biologists and those who have supported me in my endeavours along the way.

Where’s your favourite place to visit in Alberta?

Residing in Canmore I am fortunate to say that my favourite place to visit in Alberta is within my local backyard of Kananaskis Country.

Do you have any advice for student’s and young wildlifer’s you wish you’d known when you started?

A career in wildlife is a competitive one. Find a mentor! Perhaps a person who you admire, communicate well with and is eager to help guide you along the way.

Habitat Hot Topic

This month’s habitat hot topic focuses on the potential habitat impacts on Alberta’s southern east slopes associated with coal mining. In our last newsletter, we shared the news that the Alberta Government had rescinded the 1976 Coal Development Policy. With that policy rescinded several coal mining and exploration proposals have come forward. Our Conservation Affairs Committee has written a letter to Premier Kenney and the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, stating our concerns. Copies of our letters can be found in our members area.

The planned exploration and mining applications are focused on the south eastern slope Livingstone Range from Blairmore and Coleman north to Kananaskis Country. Three large Australian-owned coal mining companies are in various stages of regulatory approval for six extensive mountain-top-removal coal mines: Grassy Mountain (Benga Mining Limited), Tent Mountain Project and Chinook Project (Montem Resources), Isolation South Project and Elan South Project (Elan Coal), and Cabin Ridge Project (Cabin Ridge Coal).

Photo courtesy of Sarah Elmeligi

The Grassy Mountain Coal Mine is farthest along in the approval process. The coal extracted in the Grassy Mountain project is metallurgical and will be used in steel-making factories around the world. The Grassy Mountain Mine will include a “surface steelmaking coal mine, a coal handling and preparation plant with associated infrastructure, an overland conveyor system, which will parallel and existing high grade access corridor and connect to a rail load-out facility, and a new section of rail track” (Grassy Mountain Project Introduction). The mine permit boundary covers 3,701.4ha. More information and the Environmental Impact Assessments for the Grassy Mountain Mine are here: https://iaac-aeic.gc.ca/050/evaluations/document/135122.

Earlier this summer, the CAC submitted a statement of concern regarding impacts associated with the mine. We have now been invited to present our concerns at a public hearing this fall.

Our concerns focus largely on the effects to threatened species of fish and other wildlife, landscape connectivity particularly for carnivores, and cumulative effects. We will share the results from our Cumulative Effects of Land Uses in Alberta’s Southern East Slope Watersheds report as part of this presentation. If you have information you think we should include in our presentation, please contact Sarah (execdirector@actws.ca) or Mark Boyce (CAC chair: boyce@ualberta.ca).

Photo courtesy of Sarah Elmeligi

The issue of Alberta coal has been explored extensively in the media, but here are a few articles to get your ideas flowing:





Mystery Wildlife

Can you identify this month's mystery wildlife? Check your answer on the ACTWS blog. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Melsted)

Upcoming Events

Alberta Chapter of The Wildlife Society Webinars

Understanding Distribution and Selection - September 17, 2020 12:00 to 13:00 pm

CSTWS and OCTWS Annual Conference - March 26 to 28, 2021

The Wildlife Society Virtual Annual Conference - September 28 to October 2, 2020 ONLINE

Beaverhill Bird Observatory COVID-19 Safe Owl Banding - September 9 to November 7, 2020 (Wednesday to Saturday, book your spot now as it is filling up)

This annual fall migration of owls occurs from September until early November, with October being the peak in their abundance. Species captured include Northern Saw-whet Owls, Long-eared Owls and Boreal Owls. Join our biologists for an evening in the woods to learn about the research being conducted on our feathery friends and hopefully see a live owl up close and personal!*

Nets open 30 mins after sunset and run for 6-7 hours, weather permitting. Weather that would shut down and CANCEL banding include: rain/heavy snow, wind > 30 km/hr, and temperatures below -15˚C. Check the weather before you leave by looking at the weather forecast for Tofield, Alberta.

PLEASE NOTE: Our biologists do NOT have internet access on site, and therefore cannot send day-of cancellation notices. It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to check the weather before you leave. If owl banding is cancelled due to weather, refunds will be issued.

Photo courtesy of Chuck Priestley

Canadian Council on Invasive Species

2021 North American Invasive Species Forum - May 18 to 20, 2021 in Montreal, Quebec

Columbia Mountains Institute of Applied Ecology

Scaling Up Camera Trap Surveys to Inform Regional Wildlife Conservation - October 20 to 22, 2020 in Kimberly, BC (rescheduled from May 2020)

Amphibian Inventory & Monitoring Techniques - April 13 to 14, 2021 in Creston, BC (rescheduled from April 2020)

To inspire and empower wildlife professionals to engage in science-based management and conservation of wild animals and their habitats

The Alberta Wildlifer

August 2020 Volume 31 Issue 3

The Alberta Chapter of the Wildlife Society

P.O. Box 4990

Edmonton, AB T6E 5G8

Cover photo courtesy of Nick Parayko

Created By
ACTWS Newsletter Team