These all-season, all-landscape vehicles are game changers for boreal forest caribou habitat restoration. Restoration efforts, once only possible during the two months of a year when the ground is completely frozen, may now occur year-round thanks to this equipment that can drive across land and float on water.
Land Director Update
Jenna Dunlop, Ph.D, MBA
Director, Land EPA
Protecting the biodiversity of Alberta’s boreal forest is a key focus of the Land Environmental Priority Area (EPA). The complexity of the effort sees the EPA working closely with universities, government and research institutes, as well as other industries, Aboriginal communities and the broader public, to understand and set the course for sustainable integrated land management practices. Members heard an update from one of its longest standing projects, the Alberta Biodiversity Conservation Chairs (ABC Chairs), in June.
“The ABC Chairs program brings biodiversity scientists right to the ground of the boreal forest of this province,” says Jenna Dunlop, COSIA’s director of Land. “We’ve been working together since 2012, and we always look forward to hearing progress updates and results of the latest research efforts.”
Dr. Scott Neilson, associate professor in the department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta and an expert in conservation biology, discussed the latest from his studies into plant and animal responses to in situ land footprints. His teams are looking at species like songbirds and the Ronald Lake bison, as well as a variety of shrubs and rare plants, to assess impacts of land disturbances.
The second chair, Dr. Stan Boutin, a professor of Biological Sciences and science director at the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, spoke about his work assessing various strategies for the conservation of woodland caribou. Thanks to a robust understanding of the factors contributing to the decline of the species, the research is now focused on possible recovery methods, including accelerating the reclamation of land areas disturbed by oil sands exploration and examining predator control by exclosure fencing and population augmentation methods.
To wrap up the session, both chairs took questions from members and discussed the overall success of the program, which has been tied directly to gaps the EPA identified when it first formed, which required specific research such as that taken on through the ABC Chairs program. It is a win-win for both members and researchers.
“While it is absolutely valuable for these researchers to have access to member’s oil sands lease areas to carry out their field research, it is as equally advantageous for our member companies to be able to meet with and learn from these experts,” says Jenna. “The chance to ask questions related to things like wildlife corridors on their lands and to regularly track results of the research is very useful for land planning and other activities.”
The Alberta Biodiversity Conservation Chairs program is funded by COSIA, Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions, Energy and Environment Solutions, the University of Alberta, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).