Collision Count Volunteers – Thank you!


We recently held a volunteer appreciation dinner in the Crowsnest Pass to thank all the Collision Count volunteers. Collision Count was developed by Miistakis in partnership with Western Transportation Institute and Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative to undertake the per and post construction monitoring at Rock Creek and Crowsnest Lakes. Volunteers are assigned to walk designated transects at key mitigation sites along Highway 3 and record all road kill observations using a smart phone app. This data-set will be used to evaluate the rate of roadkill occurring at these key sites.

The evening was organized by Rob Schaufele, the Local Collision Count Coordinator and his lovely partner Loretta. Tony Clevenger from the Western Transportation Institute attended as a guest speaker. I enjoyed meeting and talking with the amazing volunteers who have dedicated their time to help inform the safe passage of wildlife across Highway 3.

Collision Count is generously supported by the Woodcock Foundation, Wilburforce Foundation and The Calgary Foundation.



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Beavers- An Ally or an Inconvenient Species?

Beaver workshop imageWe are pleased to share this excellent article on beavers by Lorne Fitch:

Beavers An Ally or an Inconvenient Species?

Lorne Fitch, P. Biol.

The beaver is quite a package: it swims like a fish, cuts like a chain saw, moves materials like a front end loader, is the first water engineer and the first logger, and transforms landscapes at a scale that rivals humans. Some might consider them an inconvenient species.

As our national symbol the beaver is equally loved, hated and universally misunderstood. They can come with horns or halos. When they flood roads and property, cut favorite trees or inconvenience us in other ways they can seem the evil incarnate. To the myriad of plant, insect, fish and wildlife species beavers create habitat for and, to those that appreciate biodiversity, beavers are divinely inspired. In that balance beavers are seriously underrated as a species that can help us weather the storm of climate change.

The essence of climate change is greater variability in our weather. For many landscapes the trend is towards warmer and drier conditions. It may also mean more violent storms that dump massive amounts of rain in a short time period. It’s a conundrum of generally less precipitation overall, but delivery faster than the landscape can absorb. In a perverse way it means increased drought and flood conditions, often within the same year.

What beavers do, and have done for centuries, can mitigate some of this increased variability. We may have overlooked a natural ally in our efforts to conserve and manage water.

When a beaver hears running water it clicks the switch into dam building mode. Deeper water is a safer home for beavers. Beaver dams create impoundments of stored water, often of significant volume. Research indicates that beaver activity can increase the amount of open water in a watershed by nearly 10%. But, that’s only the water we can see. Beneath the ponds and adjacent areas is a much more profound story. Multiply the volume of surface water by 5-10 times to get a picture of the amount of hidden ground water storage.

Beaver ponds both store and deliver water. By slowing water down, allowing it to seep into the ground to shallow aquifers, downstream flows are enhanced from two to 10 times over streams without beavers. Most important, that water is delivered later in the season, when flows are normally low (and in drought very low) helping fish survive and providing essential supplies to us downstream water drinkers.

On another front, beaver dams function as speed bumps for streams, slowing down the velocity of moving water. Moving water has incredible power, especially during floods and can be extremely destructive. An array of beaver dams and ponds in a watershed can delay and reduce the flood peak and the energy associated with that quickly moving mass of water.

Beaver dams increase the width of the effective floodplain up to 12 times. Wider floodplains work to slow down water by spreading it out. This reduces the erosive force, allowing water to be captured in surface irregularities and eventually some into shallow aquifers. Much of the sediment carried by flood waters is dropped in the floodplain, improving water quality. The impact of a flood is dampened, slowed and reduced which decreases the negative impacts on downstream communities.

Our attempts to mitigate floods and droughts aren’t always successful and, are very costly enterprises. Often engineered structures destroy many natural attributes, fish and wildlife populations are negatively affected and visually the results detract from natural landscapes

If watersheds had more beaver dams and ponds that would increase the capability to capture and tame flood flows, mitigate droughts and better manage risk. Integrating beavers into our future flood, drought and watershed plans can reduce costs, impacts and add substantially to benefits. These natural dam builders and water engineers can be aggravating and helpful, costly and beneficial. It is a matter of time and place coupled with a healthy dose of tolerance.

The challenge is current beaver populations are a fraction of historical numbers. Population recovery has been slow, partly because we have not fully understood and appreciated the many services provided by beavers and the benefits for us.   Another look at beavers will show they are a most convenient species to have as an ally as we adjust to water scarcity and periodic water overabundance.

July, 2014

Lorne Fitch is a Professional Biologist, a retired Fish and Wildlife Biologist and an Adjunct Professor with the University of Calgary. ; 403 328 1245

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Applying the Ecosystem Services Approach in Alberta: a Panel Discussion

September 10, 2014, Calgary, AB

As part of the Under Western Skies conference at Mount Royal University, the Miistakis Institute is hosting a panel discussion on “Ecosystem Services.” Panelists will comment on how the Ecosystem Services approach is being applied to land and resource management in Alberta, and then collectively explore how we can better employ the Ecosystem Services approach in conserving Alberta’s natural capital and supporting human well-being.

Four Ecosystem Services experts will comment on this question from their unique vantage point:

  • Geneva Claessen, Deloitte;
  • Gillian Kerr, Government of Alberta;
  • Marian Weber, Alberta Innovates Technology Futures; and
  • Mark Anielski, Genuine Wealth Inc.

For more information, contact Guy Greenaway or Kim Good at Miistakis. To register for the Under Western Skies conference, visit:

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Sign up now: private land conservation certificate through MRU


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Registration now open for citizen science conference

We are pleased to announce that registration for the citizen science conference is now open! Please visit:  to register.

To view our excellent slate of speakers and the conference agenda, please visit:


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Details on beaver workshop – May 29 in Priddis

Beavers in Our Landscape

A workshop on understanding and living with beavers

Please join us to share your knowledge and experiences, developed for Alberta natural resource managers, municipalities, landowners and others!

Whether you love them, hate them, want to understand them, think you need them, or want to learn how to live with them, you will find this workshop useful.  Topics include:

  • Beaver basics - Ecology, natural history, watershed connections
  • Beaver challenges - Issues, management, options and alternatives
  • Beaver case studies - How others are dealing and living with beavers
  • Beaver banter - Round table discussion on beaver messages, messaging, management issues, management options, information needs
  • Beaver next steps - Awareness messages, tool development, beaver role in watersheds, reintroductions and future management
  • Outdoor Field Trip – Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area (beaver reintroduction site, with technology use).  Please be prepared for 2.5 hours outside & 15 minute walk.

An integral part of the workshop will be discussion about challenges, concerns and values.

Attend this FREE workshops (9 am – 4:30 pm) on Thursday, May 29 – Priddis Community Centre.

Register by contacting: or 403-440-8444.


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Road Watch in the Pass speaks out about Highway Wilding

Photo by Lisa B.

Photo by Lisa B.

We are thrilled to share the most recent Highway Wilding testimonial which we received from our friends Rob & Loretta with Road Watch in the Pass:

Road Watch speaks out about Highway Wilding

We would love to hear your thoughts about Highway Wilding through a simple 1-2 minute video shot with your smart phone or video camera. Please share: 1) why the Highway Wilding film is important to you and 2) your ideas or plans for addressing wildlife-vehicle collisions. You can post your video testimonial to YouTube (please email when you do so) or email your video to for posting.

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Announcing….draft agenda for our PPSR conference

Exploring Public Participation in Scientific Research (PPSR) Under a Western Sky, September 9 & 10, 2014 – Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

DRAFT Agenda

Day 1 – September 9, 2014

8:30am Welcome & Session on the PPSR Landscape

This session will provide an overview of the field of practice of PPSR which includes forms of research where the public is engaged in the scientific process such as citizen science, community-based monitoring, volunteer monitoring and participatory action research. PPSR is an emerging field of practice where a diversity of disciplines are engaging the public in science to improve knowledge of the world around us, enhance the public’s understanding of scientific process and  inform policy and management decisions. The session will provide a global overview of the practice of PPSR, including why a bi-directional model for doing science is important, examples of PPSR approaches achieving programmatic outcomes and challenges facing PPSR. In addition, regional case studies of successful programs will be presented.

  • Welcome – conference organizers
  • PPSR Overview – Jennifer Shirk, Cornell University
  • Can spring bloom times in Alberta save the government millions of dollars in fire fighting costs? – Dr. Elisabeth Beaubien, University of Alberta
  • Whose knowledge? Whose values? Citizen science, scientific citizenship and democratic engagement – Dr. Gwendolyn Blue, University of Calgary

10:00am Break & Networking

10:30am Program Design Session

This session will focus on considerations for planning, implementing and evaluating PPSR programs. PPSR programs may have multiple programmatic goals, including generating scientific information, fostering stewardship/conservation, shaping policy and/or educational learning. Depending on the program goals, practitioners need to consider the program’s model for citizen engagement, mechanisms to engage and maintain volunteers, volunteer training protocols, use of technology in data collection and dissemination, and methods to measure outcomes and programmatic impacts. A number of regional case studies will be presented that outline program frameworks for achieving specific goals, such as meeting a stated scientific goal, influencing policy decisions and/or promoting transformative learning.

  • Developing better analytical metrics for data collected by citizen scientists – Dr. Greg Breed, University of Alberta
  • Validating citizen science data: how accurately can citizens document wildlife activity along highways? – Dr. Mike Quinn, Mount Royal University
  • The Wolverine Project – Bill Abercrobie, Brian Bildson (Alberta Trappers’ Association) and Doug Manzer (Alberta Conservation Association)

12:00pm  Lunch – on your own

1:00pm Evaluation

As PPSR programming continues to dramatically grow each year, there is a need to evaluate the effectiveness of these initiatives. Not only do we need to understand methods to measure the outcomes and effectiveness of individual PPSR programs, there is a growing need to assess the PPSR programmatic landscape using similar techniques so we can compare successes across PPSR programs. In this session Tina Philips (Cornell University) will provide an overview of evaluation methods from an individual program perspective and introduce efforts to develop a survey instrument to evaluate the education goals of multiple PPSR projects.

  • Articulating Conservation Outcomes for Citizen Science: Emerging practices for the 21st Century – Tina Phillips, Cornell University
  • Measuring Educational Outcomes of Citizen Science, Dr. Heidi Ballard, University of California Davis

2:00pm Break & Networking

2:30pm Policy & Citizen Science 

One of the potential outcomes of a PPSR approach is its ability to influence policy and decisions. A PPSR approach can generate critical data to support a policy or decision. It can also cultivate a group of knowledgeable citizens who advocate for a policy or decision. This session features a number of case studies where PPSR can be or has been linked to policy and decision-making.

  • Road Watch & Highway Mitigation– Tracy Lee, Miistakis Institute, Mount Royal University
  • Digital Fishers: Science-oriented Crowdsourcing and Participatory Public Policy – Dr. Rod Dobell, University of Victoria
  • [Talk title to be confirmed], Julie Vastine, Alliance for Aquatic Resources Monitoring (ALLARM), Dickinson College

4:00pm  Day 1 Wrap-up

5-6:30 Poster Session & Reception

Day 2 – September 10, 2014

8:30am Parks and Protected Areas and PPSR

In Western Canada, parks and protected areas at federal, provincial and municipal scales are developing PPSR programs to help monitor ecosystem health and meet visitor experience programmatic goals. Presentations of PPSR programs from a diversity of parks and protected areas will be presented to share experiences and lessons learned. 

  • Visitor Experience & PPSR – Tina Barzo & Bill Hunt – Parks Canada Agency
  • Designing a Citizen Science Program for Monitoring Long Term Ecological Change in BC Parks – Pamela Wright, University of Northern British Columbia
  • The Role of PPSR in Implementation of Biodiversity Strategies – Chris Manderson, City of Calgary Parks

10:00am Break & Networking

10:30am Data Management and Technology in PPSR

The recent proliferation of PPSR programs can be partially attributed to new and emerging technology making communication, data collection and dissemination of information more fluid and accessibleData management involves databases and backups but also issues around data quality, policies, sharing, integration, and stewardship. An overview of data management will be provided along with case studies where technology has played a prominent role in the PPSR program.

  • The Zooniverse, the challenges of building an online platform for citizen science – Dr. Stuart Lynn, Adler Planetarium, Chicago, IL
  • Data Stewardship in PPSR: Managing Data to Make Impact – Dr. Andrea Wiggins, Cornell University
  • Citizen Science and Technology: a Corporate Application – Ariane Bourassa, Cenovus Energy

12pm Closing Address

  • Dr. Mike Quinn, Institute for Environmental Sustainability, Mount Royal University

***Under Western Skies conference continues through Sept.12***

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Beaver workshop dates – May 15 and May 29

Beaver workshop imageDuring the first year of  our Leave It To Beavers project, the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area received over 30 inquiries from landowners and land managers regarding how to manage/live with beavers. This signaled to us a real need for sharing information on how to co-exist with beavers and using beavers as a watershed management tool. We plan to share this type of information through a workshop geared toward landowners/managers, municipal staff/politicians and watershed stewards. This workshop will provide information on:

  • the role and impact of beavers in our watersheds
  • techniques and technology (e.g., beaver deceivers) to manage and co-exist with beavers
  • beaver management choices and how those choices influence the broader landscape
  • research and case studies from other parts of North America on beaver management and reintroduction
  • [optional] field trip to Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area (beaver reintroduction site, with technology use)

An integral part of the workshop will be discussion about challenges, concerns and values.

This one-day workshop will be held on two dates from 9am-4:30pm (approximately):

May 15 – Red Deer Lake Hall  – At this workshop, we will specifically looking for your feedback and input to incorporate into subsequent workshops, since this is the first ‘beta’ version of the workshop.

May 29 – Priddis Community Centre

If you are interested in attending our inaugural workshop in the spring of 2014, please send an email to and indicate which offering you wish to attend. This workshop is part of the Leave It To Beavers partnership project between Miistakis Institute, Cows and Fish, and the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area. We would like to thank Alberta Ecotrust Foundation and Shell’s FuellingChange for their support of this project. We also appreciate the workshop sponsorship generously provided by MD of Foothills #31.

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Miistakis is an Emerald Award finalist!

We are pleased to share that Miistakis has been named a finalist for an Emerald Award in the category of community group & nonprofit association. To learn more about the 34 finalists, please click here.



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