Meet the 2023 Grizzly Bear Field Crew!

2 Grizzly bears in a flower meadow

Our first grizzly sighting of the season! Photo credit: Elise Henze

By Elise Henze

Another field season is well underway at fRI Research, and new to the 2023 season, we are pleased to introduce to you the Grizzly Bear Monitoring Project (GBMP) crew! With an all-new project lead, a few new field technicians, and one returning member, we have been hard at work solidifying protocol and exploring the wilderness south of Hinton. Focused in Bear Management Area 3, The GBMP crew is split into two groups collecting data for two different topics:

The Habitat Crew

Non-stop Natalya and Jam-packed Jasmyne spend their days collecting habitat and vegetation data for the project. In conjunction with Dr. Scott Nielsen and the Applied Conservation Ecology Lab at the University of Alberta, they are identifying vegetation in cut blocks of various ages to relate forestry practices to grizzly bear distribution. The goal is to better understand how to preserve the habitats for these amazing animals.

The habitat crew faced some unexpected field conditions in the middle of June! Photo credit: Elise Henze

The Hair Snag Crew

Daring Darío and Energetic Elise spend their days traveling to remote sites installing trail cameras and barbed wire corrals to non-invasively survey grizzly bear populations in Alberta. Advances in technology have allowed for a deeper analysis of hormone profiles along with DNA extraction from hair samples alone. By combining this new innovation and the installation of trail cameras with protocol similar to what was used in previous iterations of the Grizzly Bear Program, we aim to expand knowledge of grizzly bear physiology just from the collection of their hair.

Excitement from Darío and Elise after setting up their first hair snag site. Photo Credit: Elise Henze

Meet the Crew!

Jasmyn and her new best friend, Tammy. Photo credit: Natalya Klutz

Jasmyne Gravel: Hinterland Hotshot

Jasmyn and her new best friend, Tammy. PC: Natalya Klutz
• Favourite field food: Berries. Especially blueberries.
• Favourite animal sighting so far: Black Bears? Moose? The rabbits?
• A field experience you would NOT recommend: Everything is an adventure, I don’t see any of the experiences as a bad things, just something new. There are no bad days, only new adventures!

Natalya doing all the work while we take pictures. Photo credit: Jasmyne Gravel

Natalya Klutz: Greenery Goddess

• Favourite field food: I honestly don’t know! I like wild berries a lot!
• Favourite animal sighting so far: The mama grizzly we saw with her cub near Cadomin.
• A field experience you would NOT recommend: There is nothing in the field that I wouldn’t recommend, because it’s all part of field work. It might not be super awesome in the moment, but it’s still an experience you get to say that you had.

Elise imitating the target species. Photo credit: Elise Henze

Elise Henze: Caribou Crew Deserter

• Favourite field food: This season, I’ve been obsessed with canned tuna. Yes, I am that person. Yes, you should feel bad for Dario.
• Favourite animal sighting so far: 1) Watching a mama grizzly and her two cubs forage right off of highway 40. 2) Catching four cougars simultaneously in one shot with one of our trail cameras. Does that count?
• A field experience you would NOT recommend: Driving over a broken culvert that is sticking out of the middle of a decommissioned logging road but is hidden very well by a patch of tall grass. That was not great for the truck.

Darío hard at work setting up a hair snag corral. Photo credit: Elise Henze

Darío Fernandez-Bellon: The Fearless Leader

• Favourite field food: Dried Mangoes.
• Favourite animal sighting so far: I think seeing four mountain lions on the same trail camera was pretty special.
• A field experience you would NOT recommend: Doing field work alone in the desert of Argentina for periods up to two weeks. It’s the closest I’ve been to going crazy. It was interesting from a solitude perspective, but it was pretty full-on. I would not recommend.