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Caribou Workshop Summary of Presentations, Calgary - January 12th and 13th, 2012

The Foothills Research Institute (FRI) organized a workshop in January 2012 that brought caribou researchers, land-use managers and regulators together to talk about caribou recovery in Alberta and adjoining provinces.

The two day workshop provided an opportunity to review what we know about woodland caribou (numbers, predation, habitat and recovery options) and to identify what land-use managers and regulators need to know and put into practice to aid caribou recovery.

The workshop's objective was to provide FRI with guidance as it develops a Caribou Program "to provide and coordinate knowledge that supports caribou recovery in Alberta".

There was a lot of excellent information presented during the two day workshop. To help you select specific presentations to view and listen to, here is a guide to the presenters, their topic and some key points made in their presentation.

Overview Presentations

On the second day of the workshop, these presentations provide a clear, succinct summary of the state of the science and management options.

  1. Paula Benthm, P. Biol., Golder Associates, Caribou "State of the Science" Report Summary. In 2004, Golder Associates prepared a backgrounder report on caribou science for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). Since then, Golder Associates on a regular basis has updated the report. For a summary of woodland caribou population estimates and a summary of caribou science, Paula Bentham's presentation is a key summary on woodland caribou science. Video. Power Point.
  2. Dr. Steve Wilson, Ecologic Research, North-East B.C. Modelling Approach. In reviewing management options for woodland caribou in N.E. B.C., Steve Wilson presented a model of what is known of caribou biology and how that frames the management alternatives for land-use managers and wildlife managers. He highlights the disconnect between public expectations around woodland caribou recovery and what we are likely to deliver on the ground. A must see.  Video. Power Point.

Current Status of Recovery Planning and Implementation:

  1. Dave Hervieux, Sustainable Resource Development, Alberta, A Woodland Caribou Policy for Alberta. Dave reviews the Woodland Caribou Policy released in the summer of 2011 for Alberta. Video. Power Point.
  2. Chris Ritchie, P. Biol., B.C. Ministry of the Environment, Boreal Caribou Implementation Plan, N.E. B.C.. Chris reviews the populations of herds in N.E. B.C. and the management plan for forestry, oil, gas and mining in relation to caribou. Video. Power Point.
  3. Dr. John Wilmshurst, Parks Canada, Conservation Strategy for Southern Mountain Caribou in Canada's National Parks. With very small herds and the extirpation of the Banff caribou herd in 2009, Canada's mountain parks have particular challenges in protecting the Jasper National Park and B.C. national park herds while doing the groundwork to consider reintroduction of mountain caribou back to Banff. Video. Power Point.
  4. Amit Saxena, P. Biol., Devon Energy, Energy Industry (CAPP) Expectations. Industry is looking for tools they can use to help meet their commitments. For instance, they’d like to have tools to help minimize or eliminate their footprint. Industry has been involved in developing recovery plans through a collaborative process in BC. (Video not availablePower Point.
  5. Dr. Elston Dzus, Al-Pac, Forestry in Albera and Caribou Conservation. A cumulative effects problem that requires a cumulative effects solution. Forest industry is involved primarily in relation to mountain caribou, as boreal caribou habitat doesn’t overlap much with forest industry land. Reforestation process is lengthy, and what forest industry would like to know from research is the answer to the question: Is what we are doing effective for caribou conservation? VideoPower Point.

Research In Progress:

  1. Rob Serrouya, University of Alberta, Field Testing Recovery Options, Mount Columbia mountain caribou herds. Rob described monitoring and recovery techniques being tested on the Mount Columbia mountain caribou herds in southern British Columbia. Robert has some clear conclusions about whether nutrition or predation by wolves are the real drivers of caribou decline, the recovery likelihood of small herds and how reducing primary prey (moose and white tail deer) should proceed in relation to reducing wolves. He also has some genetic testing results that question whether caribou herds can recover by translocation from other herds (deep river valleys are a barrier).  Video. Power Point.
  2. Dr. Darren Sleep, NCASI, A Canada-wide Caribou Research Inventory. Darren summarizes the current research projects on caribou across Canada, what has been learned from past studies. Video. Power Point.
  3. Conrad Thiessen, Govt of BC. Boreal Caribou in Northeastern BC: A Science Update.  Conrad presents a review of the current state of caribou populations in northeastern BC, including estimates of herd size, numbers of alternate prey, and challenges facing the herds from industrial development.  VideoPower Point.
  4. Dale Seip, P.Biol., B.C. Ministry of Env., Woodland Caribou Populations in the South Peace Region. Dale presents caribou numbers in the B.C. South Peace River region and an assessment of what is needed to protect caribou habitat as industrial lands are developed and pine forests are harvested after being killed by mountain pine beetle.  Video. Power Point.
  5. Scott Grindal, P. Biol., ConocoPhillips Canada, Oilsands Leadership Initiative (OSLI): Caribou Projects, Applied Actions. Scott summarized the OSLI partnership research projects for caribou impact management (Understand and minimize, restore, compensate). He discussed some cutting edge practices: winter planting for wetland restoration, detecting woodland caribou through advanced imaging techniques (thermal, infrared, laser) and predator exclusion fencing. Video. Power Point.
  6. Dr. Stan Boutin, University of Alberta, Alberta's Threatened Wildlife, Paying Attention to What We Know. Dr. Boutin's message: the research is clear on what to do. Woodland caribou are in a triage situation. With 85% of the caribou calves being killed by wolves (primarily), predators must be reduced for caribou's short term survival. Recovery options are not sufficient and tough decisions are needed to keep caribou from being extirpated in Alberta. Video. Power Point.
  7. Dr. Stan Boutin for Vic Adamowicz, University of Alberta. Economic Analysis of Threatened Species Conservation - The Case of Woodland Caribou. Vic Adamowicz et al, Univ. of Alberta developed economic models that looked at the case for caribou recovery and what the public is prepared to pay for caribou survival. An option for making the public decide with their tax dollars and face directly the uncomfortable decisions that policy makers face. What level of economic trade-off is acceptable? Video. Power Point.
  8. Marco Musiani, University of Calgary. Current research in the Musiani & Hebblewhite labs. Marco presented an introduction to some of the research being undertaken through the University of Calgary and the University of Montana, particularly in regards to mountain caribou. Video. Power Point.
  9. Christina Semeniuk, University of Calgary. Moving towards scenario planning to understand caribou responses to industry in the future. Christina, a graduate student under Marco Musiani at the UofC, explained her research which uses sophisticated computerized modeling techniques to simulate how caribou respond to changes in their habitat. This can be used to predict caribou habitat choices in the future by simulating different industry footprints in the area.  VideoPower Point.
  10. Nick DeCesare and Byron Weckworth, University of Calgary. Recent findings in the Musiani/Hebblewhite labs: Caribou genetics, resource selection and predation risk. Nick & Byron are graduate students with the Musiani/Hebblewhite labs, and discussed their research. Weckworth’s study involves caribou genetics, looking at how herds are linked genetically, or how ecotypes are identified. DeCesare’s research involves examining caribou resource selection in relation to certain landscape features, and identifying areas most likely to be a predation risk.  DeCesare VideoWeckworth VideoDeCesare & Weckworth Power Point.   
  11. Sam Wasser, University of Washington. Impacts on caribou nutrition and reproductive success. Using scat analysis techniques, this research looked at the levels of several different hormones in caribou, which directly relate to overall health (nutrition, related to lichen availability) and reproductive health. VideoPower Point.
  12. Subhash Lele, University of Alberta. Estimating realized population change: A tale of two methods. A statistician’s perspective on how caribou populations are estimated and the likelihood of inaccuracies in those estimates.  Video.   Power Point.

If you have any comments or recommendations for future research directions related to the caribou program, or if you or your organization has a specific interest in being involved in FRI's Caribou Program, as a funding partner, research or advisory partner, contact:
Rick Bonar, President, Foothill Research Institute (FRI) 
Tom Archibald, General Manager, FRI
Gord Stenhouse, Program Lead, Grizzly Bear Program, FRI

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