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Volunteer and play in the woods with me!


An example of a high human use trail that I could be sampling – Larch Valley

Ok… It’s not all fun and games, but hopefully that title caught your attention. Most of the time research is conducted with scientists and assistants and results are published and shared with the scientific community. That works for some, but not for me. I believe that public participation in research is important for so many reasons. I think it’s great for people to have an opportunity to better understand the research, how the questions and methodology were designed, how the results are generated and used, and finally how all that information will be used to change management and planning.

I’m excited to involve volunteers in my research, and I hope you are too. I would love for many people to take me up on this and come out into the woods to play and learn and experience. There are several ways for you to volunteer and I’m creating two different “teams” of volunteers. If you’re interested, please email me at

 The Sampling Plan

If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you’ll remember that this is an interdisciplinary study looking at grizzly bear habitat use and management in the National Parks. This summer, I’m testing a few different methological details so I’ve got a slightly shorter field season and will only be sampling hiking trails in Banff National Park’s Bow Valley (next summer, I’m hoping to be in Jasper and Kootenay/Yoho as well). This summer, I will be sampling low, medium, and high use hiking trails between Banff and Lake Louise from the end of June until mid-September. 

Hiking trails subject to sampling will be separated into 3 categories (high, medium, and low human use); I’ll sample the same number of trails in each category. Both back country and front country trails will be sampled.What trails will be sampled and when they are sampled throughout the summer/fall will be random. I haven’t created the sampling schedule yet, but will very soon (as soon I learn a few more things in GIS).

There will be two trail sampling schedules – one for grizzly bear habitat use (using remote cameras), and one for visitor perspective on bear management (using a visitor survey). Below is more detail on what kinds of things I need volunteers to help with.

1. The Camera Team

Remote cameras are going to be put up on randomly selected trails. These cameras will remain on each trail for two weeks before moving to the next trail. I’m only going to have a maximum of 40 cameras, which is why cameras will need to be moved around throughout the season.

I am looking for a camera team that consists of 6 individuals (5 + me) who can dedicate several days a month to this project. Basically, I envision three teams of 2 setting up and taking down remote cameras. The teams will rotate on and off, but everyone will hike multiple times in the month. All teams will get a chance to hike day hikes and backcountry hikes (ranging in time from 3 to 6 days).

I’ll be honest, this volunteer position requires commitment. It will be important to work together as a team to set up a hiking schedule and then be able to stick to it. It’s important that cameras are moved around as per the sampling schedule. 

I will manage the Camera Team and hopefully we can come up with a schedule that works for everyone.


2. The Survey Team

The visitor survey will be disseminated at trail heads for one week at a time. Because the time frame of sampling is different, a different sampling schedule will be created. However, I’ll still want to equally sample high, medium, and low use hiking trails. 

Surveys will disseminated by a team of 2 at the trail head from 8:30 am-1:00 pm  five days a week. The five days of sampling will also be random, but will always include one weekend day. The survey is short and hopefully won’t inconvenience people as they start their hike. Anybody who doesn’t want to participate, doesn’t have to. There is no need to pressure anyone to fill out the survey.

The first hiker to approach the trail at the start of every 45 minute segment will also be asked to carry a TrackStick (a small GPS unit) on their back pack. The information from this will be used to compare human GPS movement data to bear GPS movement data. Again anybody can refuse to participate without consequence.

The volunteers working on the survey team don’t need to commit as much time as the camera team. I am asking volunteers to commit to at least 2 shifts per month, although more is definitely welcome! Once the surveys are finished at 1:00 pm, the volunteers will need to get me the final surveys and then the afternoon is theirs to play in the mountains.

I am looking for two people to become the Survey Team Leads as well. This will mostly require keeping track of the schedule and gathering completed surveys when I am out in the back country with the camera team. I will work closely with Team Leads to make sure everything is going alright with the surveys; basically I just think I’ll need a little help managing the logistics for this team. 

Everybody has an opinion on how this kind of situation should be managed. The survey is designed to ask hikers what they think.

Everybody has an opinion on how this kind of situation should be managed. The survey is designed to ask hikers what they think. Special thanks to John Marriott for the picture

Check out John’s blog and website for more great images.

3. Training

Everyone volunteering on the project will undergo training designed to keep everyone safe, happy, and to keep the data consistent. 

It is fine if one person wants to sign up for both teams. The more the merrier!

How to get involved

Email me your interest at Let me know what team you’re interested in being on, how much time you think you can commit, what kind of experience you have (none is necessary), and a little bit about yourself. 

Training will be scheduled for mid-June and data collection will start in late June.

It should be a FUN summer and I look forward to sharing it with you!

Can’t volunteer, but would like to help? Send us money! (Only half kidding…)

Every $300 gets us another remote camera to put up on a trail, $150 buys us another TrackStick to give to another hiker. You can donate to the project by emailing me funds at Any donation amount is appreciated!

If you can’t volunteer or donate, then I hope you keep checking out the blog. Updates throughout the field season will be posted here and I”m always here to answer questions if you have any.

Yes, I really am this excited! Come join me and let's have some fun out there!

Yes, I really am this excited! Come join me and let’s have some fun out there!

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