The following project descriptions are in alphabetical order. See volunteer event dates and updates for a chronological list of the current year's projects and dates.

If you are interested in volunteering but unsure what for, contact our volunteer coordinator. For more information or to register as a volunteer for any of the following projects, phone 403 859-2224 or send us an email.

In celebration of Canada’s 150th Birthday, Parks Canada is pleased to offer free entry to all visitors. Bring your friends and family and get up close to the park by volunteering!

What is citizen science?

Citizen science involves professional scientists and everyday people engaged in activities such as biological inventories, long-term monitoring and scientific research. The goals of citizen science projects are to generate meaningful, useful data that contributes to scientific understanding of a species. That understanding can then be applied to managing species and resources at the park level.

One of the most important components of citizen science is it allows everyday people the chance to gain in-depth knowledge about species found in the park and the issues or threats facing Waterton.

Below is a list of various citizen science projects that volunteers can get involved in.

Mushroom BioBlitz - Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

June and September

The excitement of discovery! Come be a part of our first-ever mushroom BioBlitz and help experts document and learn about the mushrooms and other fungi growing in the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Volunteer in one or both (remember your passport) national parks. Open to beginners as well as those who have experience looking for fungi. 

Registration required to participate:

Please note that the collecting of mushrooms and other fungi is only allowed for the purpose of identification by the registered taxonomic experts who hold a Parks Canada scientific research and collection permit for this BioBlitz. Collection or removal of any natural (eg. wildflowers, driftwood, berries) or cultural (eg. arrowheads) object is prohibited within national parks without a permit for the specific activity.

Join experts, national park staff and fellow volunteers from the Western Montana Mycological Association and the Alberta Mycological Association on June 9 in Glacier National Park and/or June 11 in Waterton Lakes National Park.

BioBlitz Canada 150

If interested while in Waterton, stay the evening of the first day and/or part of the next to assist experts with the mechanics of the sorting and identification process. September dates to be announced.

We will be using the iNaturalist app to record our observations in the field and at base camp (Waterton Park Community Centre). The app is free to download on iOS and Android devices and is a great way to participate as a citizen scientist.

A collection of the species we find will be open for public viewing on June 12 (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at the Waterton Park Community Centre.

This citizen science BioBlitz event is organized in conjunction with the Western Montana Mycological Association and the Alberta Mycological Association, with assistance from Agriculture Canada for DNA analysis. 'Bio' means life and 'blitz' means to do something quickly and intensively. In a BioBlitz, experts team up with the public volunteers to find and identify species, within a set area, over a defined period of time.

Volunteer opportunities in Waterton Lakes National Park:

  • BioBlitz participants (survey participants)
  • Survey assistants (have some fungi experience)
  • iNaturalist assistants (in field and at base camp)

Requirements - all volunteers:

  • Be prepared for a full day outside. Bring your lunch, snacks, water bottle, sun screen, insect replant and clothing for changeable weather, including close-toed footwear suitable for walking off trail
  • If you have them, bring a camera and field guides
  • If you have an iOS or Android device, download the free iNaturalist app and register your account before the event. The app allows you to record observations in the field without using cellular data.

Requirements - BioBlitz participants (survey participants):

  • No experience necessary to participate. Just a willingness to learn about and search off-trail for mushrooms and other fungi.

Requirements - survey assistants:

  • Some experience looking for mushrooms and other fungi.
  • General or intermediate knowledge of fungi and survey methods for fungi.
  • Own collection box is an asset.  Note: collection is for identification purposes only under the Parks Canada permit for the BioBlitz.

Requirements - iNaturalist assistants (in field and at base camp):

  • An iOS or Android device and experience using iNaturalist or willingness to learn on your own prior to June 11.  More information about this web-based species observation tool that uses smart phones or digital cameras is at http://inaturalist.ca/
  • An interest in assisting other volunteers with using their digital tools and iNaturalist.

Volunteer duties - all volunteers:

  • Participate in the orientation at 9:30 a.m. on June 11.
  • Carpool to survey locations and search, usually off trail, for mushrooms and other fungi.
  • Volunteers and other BioBlitz team members may act as a vector for non-native species and/or disease. To mitigate potential spread, team members will make every effort to clear their person and field equipment of plant seeds, dirt or any foreign substance before arriving at the park and between each location within the park.
  • June search areas will be within 500 m of parking. September includes opportunities for searches further away in the backcountry.

Volunteer duties - survey assistants:

  • Follow the survey protocol outlined by the survey leaders (registered taxonomic experts) present and in accordance with the Parks Canada permit.
  • Assist the survey group with correctly collecting and labelling fungi in the field for identification.

Volunteer duties - iNaturalist assistants:

  • Upload observations to iNaturalist.ca or assist other volunteers in doing so on June 11 for the species identifiable in the field.
  • Upload to iNaturalist.ca, observations of the species identified at the BioBlitz basecamp (Waterton Park Community Centre) the evening of June 11 and/or morning of June 12.

Questions?

Waterton-Glacier Butterfly BioBlitz

Tuesday, July 11, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m

Butterfly count

Come be a lepidopterist for a day or two! Join butterfly experts and Parks Canada staff to catch, identify and learn about butterflies on both sides of the international border - one day each in Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park.

Registration required to participate:

Requirements:

  • No experience necessary. Just a willingness to learn about and catch butterflies
  • The park will provide refreshments, sweets and savory sides for lunch. BYOL (bring your own basic lunch)
  • Be prepared for a full day outside. Bring water and clothing for changeable weather
  • If you have them, bring a camera, butterfly net and field guides
  • If you are bringing your own butterfly net, before you come be sure that it is completely clean of all debris including seeds.

Volunteer duties:

  • Carpool to counting locations within Waterton Lakes National Park during the morning and for those who can stay, in the Waterton Park Front (outside the park) for the afternoon
  • Run and catch butterflies, unharmed, with nets
  • Bring butterflies in the net, to count leaders for identification and then, under direction of count leaders, release them unharmed
Christmas Bird Count

Early December

Steller's jay

You'll be surprised at how many different birds can be seen in the start of a Waterton winter; from 12 different species if the weather is really bad on to 38 or more in better weather.

Oh, and it's just not birds, we also list the mammals and the tracks that we see.

Ninety-two different bird species have been recorded here in winter. So there's always the allure of the rare one or two that no other Alberta location gets on their count! Organized by the Crowsnest Conservation Society in collaboration with Waterton Lakes National Park.

Requirements:

  • Ability to identify at least some birds by sight and call
  • Record sightings and submit data to the count organizer
  • Be prepared for a full day outside and able to find you own way in the park

Volunteer duties:

  • Morning of the count or evening before, stop at the Waterton Fire Hall for the self-serve instructions and materials needed to participate (e.g. sheet for recording sightings, bird list).
  • Before starting, mark your counting location on the map in the Waterton Firehall. 
  • Travel through the selected area of the park looking for birds and mammals
  • Record your sightings: species and number of each on count day and/or species seen count week, which is three days before and after count day. Submit the record sheet in-person or by email.
Plant watch

April through the flowering season

By reporting when certain plants bloom, volunteers contribute vital information for climate change studies. With park staff and volunteers contributing, we want to accomplish frequent, repeat visits (every three to five days) to the specific sites.

This is part of Alberta Plant Watch.  More information about Alberta Plant Watch, including the list of plants and information about each is at Alberta Plant Watch.  This is a Canada-wide, citizen science project. To volunteer for sites in Waterton Lakes National Park, email us.

Requirements:

  • Ability to accurately identify or learn to identify one or a couple of plants from the list of 20.

Volunteer duties:

  • Parks Canada staff will join you on your first visit to show you the site(s) and which plants to observe.
  • Select one or a couple plants from the list of 20.
  • Select one or more of the specified sites in the park that you can visit fairly frequently.
  • Record and report the dates the flower buds open, making use of the observation instructions for the specific plant(s) you have chosen.
Spring flowering count

Last Saturday of May

Crocus

This is a wonderful opportunity to explore the park while looking for and learning some of Waterton’s fantastic plants from an experienced botanist.

A spring count of what is in flower is held annually, on the last weekend of May. Your Saturday morning sightings contribute to tracking climate-driven changes in the number of plants flowering in the park as part of an Alberta-wide snapshot. 

Requirements:

  • Come prepared for a morning outside
  • Have some basic knowledge of plant identification. An expert is on hand for confirmation of identifications and assistance
  • You are also welcome to count on your own during the rest of the weekend

Volunteer duties:

  • Identify and count plant species in bloom (noting general location)
  • Coordinate activities with, and submit count information to, project supervisor
Spring bird count

June - 1st week

Chestnut-sided warbler

In support of Nature Alberta's province-wide program, Waterton Lakes National Park volunteers and staff contribute to a count of birds in the park during the first weekend of June each year.

Requirements:

  • Ability to identify at least some birds by sight and call
  • Record sightings and submit data to the count organizer
  • Be prepared for a full day outside and able to find you own way in the park

Volunteer duties:

  • On the morning of the count or the evening before, stop at the Waterton Firehall for the self-serve instructions and materials needed to participate (e.g. sheet for recording sightings, bird list).
  • Before starting, mark your counting location on the map in the Waterton Firehall.
  • Travel through the selected area of the park looking for birds and mammals
  • Record your sightings and submit the record sheet in-person or by email.

Want to know more or volunteer? Contact Teresa Dolman, coordinator of the count for the Lethbridge Naturalists Society.