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Gettin’ Amped for another field season

Spring has SPRUNG! It’s March 21, the first bears in the Bow Valley have started to wake up and explore the valley bottoms and I have started to prepare for another field season. Seeing the video of the first bear out and about got me pretty excited about the summer that lay ahead, and just like last year I won’t be able to do it without the help of volunteers. Some things will be different for this year and others will be the same, either way it’s going to be another great spring-summer-fall of playing the woods. Join me! See the news coverage of the First grizzly spotting in Banff National Park 2014.

The Field Season

This year, I’ll be putting cameras up on low elevations trails in Banff National Park starting May 1! That’s only 6 weeks away. Cameras will be staying up for 3 weeks at a time, instead of 2 weeks, before being relocated to another trail. I’m going to be purchasing more remote cameras, and that combined with the longer field season will mean that many more trails than last year are going to be sampled. This makes me pretty excited. The last cameras will come down around October 15.


Visitor surveys will be disseminated at trailheads in Banff starting June 1. Unlike last year, I’ve got two new tablets to do the surveys on, which will save a tremendous of time in data entry and is pretty cool technology. Visitor surveys will be finished by September 30 and this will be the last year for the surveys. I’m hoping to present these results at an international Parks and Protected Areas conference this November. Things happen fast when the PhD program is only 3 years long!

Right now, I’m working on getting everything in to place for the field season: updating my research permit, getting a sampling schedule together, and recruiting my team of volunteers! If you’re interested in helping out with this research this summer, please email me at:

Volunteers needed!

Just like last year, I need help to make this happen. I need help from YOU and your friends and your family and even other people you only casually know who may be interested in helping out! There will be three different teams to volunteer on, and you can volunteer on as many as you like. I am asking volunteers for a minimum commitment of 4 shifts per month (on average) this year, so please consider your time availability.

The volunteer teams and qualifications are:

Remote camera team – putting up/taking down remote cameras on hiking trails Remote cameras will be placed on low, medium, and high use hiking trails to capture human use and grizzly bear use of hiking trails in Banff National Park. I am hoping to extend the research in to Jasper and Yoho National Parks, but that hasn’t been officially approved yet. Both back country and front country trails will be sampled. Members of this team will be comfortable hiking in the Canadian Rockies on at least day hikes. Some back country hikes will be available, in which case people should have the appropriate equipment and be comfortable in the back country. Nobody will be asked to hike alone, so if you are new to hiking I will pair you with someone who has more experience. All you have to be is mobile and keen for this group.

This volunteer position requires team work and the ability to stick to the sampling schedule regardless of weather conditions. We can’t always hike when it’s sunny! People are being asked to commit to 4 days per month of hiking (on average), either 4 day hikes or 4 days in the back country. This means that we can work something out if you’re going to be gone for a month but are ok with working a few more days to make up for that. I’m pretty flexible.

Visitor survey team – disseminating visitor surveys at trailheads

Conducting visitor surveys at the trailhead

Conducting visitor surveys at the trailhead

Trailheads will be randomly selected for survey dissemination; each trail will only be sampled for one week on 5 randomly selected days. Members of this team will work at trailheads from 8:30am – 1:00pm disseminating a survey to trail users. The survey takes about 15 minutes to complete and most people have been very amenable to completing the survey. I don’t want any visitors inconvenienced to fill out the survey; anybody who doesn’t want to participate doesn’t have to.

People on this team will also be responsible for distributing tracksticks to some hikers. These tracksticks are basically small GPS units for people that help me track how people use hiking trails. This GPS data will be compared to grizzly bear GPS data to see how people and bears use the landscape when around each other. Tracksticks will be handed out on trails where surveys are being disseminated as well as one strategically selected trail per week.

This volunteer position requires a little less time commitment since surveying is done by 1pm. People are still being asked to contribute 4 days a month of average, but these are all half days.

Data entry team – classifying remote camera images This year, I’ll be working with a team of people to classify the images from remote cameras throughout the field season. This volunteer work can start immediately as there are still images from last year that I haven’t been able to classify yet. All you need for this position is a computer. I’ll provide the images and the program required for classification. Given that some of the pictures are of people, all volunteers working on this will have to sign a confidentiality agreement that basically says you agree not to download or share any of the images. This is a perfect volunteer opportunity for someone who wants to be involved but can’t spare a whole day or half day in their schedule, or is getting over an injury and can’t hike for long. Basically, I leave you with a bunch of images on a USB stick and you can work on them whenever you have time. I am looking for people who can work on images for at least 10 hours per three week period (you can volunteer for only one three week period if that’s all you have).


All volunteers will have to go through training. A couple of training sessions will be offered in April and May for the remote camera and survey teams. If you’re interested in being on one or both of those teams, you’ll get the details about those training sessions when I have them. The training for the data entry is better one on one and I can arrange those details with volunteers individually. This training is mandatory and is designed to keep everyone safe and happy, and to keep the data collection/entry consistent.

How to get involved

Email me your interest at Let me know what team(s) you’re interested in volunteering on, any time restraints you may have (summer holiday plans etc), and a little bit about yourself and past experience (none is necessary). If you’re not sure how much time you can commit , but still want to be involved, please still email me and we’ll see what we can work out. I’d love to work with as many interested people as possible, so please don’t be shy!

If you’d like to get involved, but can’t volunteer… you can always donate to the project! Grizzly Research in the Rockies is proud to have the support of the Bow Valley Community who raised $2,500 last year. LaFarge has also just agreed to support this research through some the field expenses – a BIG THANK YOU TO LAFARGE! If you’d like to be part of this research from a financial perspective, you can email funds to (make the password grizzly). Every $240 buys us another remote camera to take more pictures of more bears.

If you’re just keen to keep in touch, then please do. The blog will be regularly updated throughout the field season and I’m always here to answer any questions you may have.

Thank you for your support, whether it comes in time, money, or clicks on your computer screen.

Yours in grr-conservation, Sarah Elmeligi

I'm pretty fun to hike with or stand at a trailhead with, so you should volunteer!

I’m pretty fun to hike with or stand at a trailhead with, so you should volunteer!

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