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Bears go to bed and I go to the beach

Good night little critters! Sleep tight!!!

Good night little critters! Sleep tight!!!

The field season is finally over. The last cameras came down on October 17, the visitor surveys were done at the end of September. The gear has been cleaned, inventoried, and packed away for the winter.

The bears have moved to their dens, and I’ve relocated to Australia for a winter on the beach… I mean, working hard on my analysis and writing. There may or may not be beach involved.

Since the field season ended, I’ve been busy with some preliminary analysis and wrapping things up with my many volunteers. Just because I’m not hiking anymore doesn’t mean the work has stopped. In many ways, it’s only just begun.

Field Season Summary

Visitor Survey

This summer, we sampled a total of 17 trails in Jasper, Banff, Kootenay, and Yoho National Parks over 73 days. A total of 432 surveys were completed.

Combined with last year’s effort, I have a total of 696 completed surveys to include in analysis from 24 hiking trails over 99 days! My response rate was 62.7%, which is great!!

I want to thank everyone who stood at a trailhead disseminating surveys and everyone who took the time to answer my survey!

The data is still being analysed, but some interesting results are coming forward. People are quite supportive of management options that involve managing human behaviour and trail use if a grizzly bear is in the area. The data also shows that people support different management options if it’s a female with cubs in the area rather than a lone bear. So people see a female with cubs differently than they do a lone bear. That can have huge implications for management programs and approaches. I am looking forward to digging more into this dataset and pulling out some specifics that can be used to manage our grizzly bears (and people) when they are around hiking trails.

Remote Cameras

There were a lot of remote cameras out on the landscape this year and the photos that are coming in are great! It was double the sampling effort from last year so there’s double the amount of data and that’s awesome!


In the spring, we had 55 cameras on 10 trail networks. In the summer, there were 63 cameras on 14 trail networks; and in the fall we have 96 cameras on 18 trail networks. That’s a total of 42 trail networks with 214 cameras. This equates 4,494 trap nights (a trap night is a 24-hour period with an active camera). This is amazing!!!! There are literally hundreds of thousands of images to go through. That’s a lot of information and that’s great!

I haven’t really started looking too hard at this data yet, but there are a lot of great pictures of bears during the day and night. And there are thousands of images of people. One thing is for sure, there are a lot of people enjoying our Mountain National Parks and that’s great. Of course, none of the pictures of people are saved – everyone captured in a photo turns into a 1 on a spreadsheet and that’s it. All the bear photos are saved though and there are many of those too!


I couldn’t have done this project without the many volunteers that helped out. As with most PhD’s, this project feels like it has grown to have a life of its own… legs of its own too… and it’s running away with me! I’m so fortunate to have so many volunteers helping me with data collection; I could not have physically collected all the data with out them. I’m also so thankful for my fantastic intern, Kirsty, who literally saved my butt by helping organize and manage all the volunteers.

Final numbers: Over 60 volunteers 219 volunteer days for camera work 160 volunteer days for survey work Total of 379 days of volunteer work in this field season alone!!! That’s more than a year-long full time job!

I never in a million years anticipated that so many people would devote so much time to helping little old me with this project. Grateful doesn’t even begin to describe it.

None of this would have happened without a thousand moments like this!

None of this would have happened without a thousand moments like this!

Giving Thanks

My volunteers have made this project successful in so many ways. Not only by helping me collect such a large volume of data, but also helping to make sure that I at least got a few days off during the field season. That’s great. To give them some much deserved thanks, Kirsty and I hosted a volunteer appreciation event before I left for Australia. We went for a walk around the Cave and Basin, had a slide show of remote camera image highlights, and then went out for a few drinks. Over 20 volunteers were able to make it and that’s great. It was a great afternoon.

I also want to specifically recognize and thank Kirsty Forrester, my intern extraordinaire. Kirsty came to me in the spring not really knowing what she was getting herself into. New country, new project, new learning experience. Throughout the summer, Kirsty has been invaluable to me. She’s managed volunteers, organized field logistics, and even helped to keep me sane – and that is no small feat. Every PhD student should have a Kirsty!

These are a few of my volunteers out for a lovely walk in the autumn sunshine

These are a few of my volunteers out for a lovely walk in the autumn sunshine

Presenting the Data

I had literally been in Australia for two days before I was packing up my bags and heading for the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney. What an experience! Once I digest that, it might be a blog post on its own. With over 5,000 delegates and nearly every country across the globe represented, it was the biggest conference I’ve ever been to. I was fortunate to have a poster accepted for presentation and so with the data and analysis literally fresh off the presses, I presented the first results of the visitor survey. My presentation was well-received and went great. All of the slides from my eposter are here for your viewing pleasure.


I have a bit more work to do on the analysis of the visitor survey to get a little deeper in to the story, but my plan is to finish that up and get a manuscript submitted to a journal before Christmas.

It’s been a heck of a busy summer, but the rest of the year looks pretty hectic too. It’s a good thing I love this project so much… and getting a second summer doesn’t hurt either.

Over the next year and half while I finish up, I’ll be presenting this work as far and wide as I can!

Standing with my eposter in Sydney.

Standing with my eposter in Sydney.

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