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Citizen science projects

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 Dianne Pachal. Want to be notified of volunteer events and updates? Fill in the form, submit it to us and we will add you to our volunteer email list.

FREE park entry is provided for all who volunteer on a project.

For more information or to register as a volunteer for any of the following projects, phone 403 859-2224 or fill in the form indicating the name of the project you are interested in within the message box of the form.

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.

Aquatic Insect Bioblitz - Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

Thursday August 25 to Saturday, August 27 (do one or more days). 

Help scientists determine the distribution of rare, cold-water-dependent insect species (like Lednia tumana) along high-elevation streams in the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park. This is for the more able-bodied and adventurous volunteers. The sites we will sample are near Bertha, Carthew, Crypt, Goat and Lineham Lakes. Volunteer for one or two days in the field, collecting samples under the guidance of an expert. The lead scientist has devised methods that are simple, with a minimal amount of equipment required. This is a joint project of the two respective national parks that comprise the International Peace Park and is one of Glacier National Park's centennial events celebrating the 100th anniversary of the USA National Park Service.

Requirements:

  • Bring your own lunch and outdoor equipment, including footwear for working in and out of shallow streams and clothing layers suitable for the very changeable weather.
  • Sampling equipment supplied by the park.
  • Be able to work up to a full 8 hours in the backcountry, including hiking to and from the site and along rugged stream sides.

Volunteer duties:

  • Learn and follow the simple sampling method demonstrated by the expert.
  • Hike to the sampling location(s) with the sampling equipment.
  • Work as part of a small group at the sampling location. The group will collect both immature insects in the water, as well as emergent, adult stages of aquatic insects that will be on the streamside rocks and vegetation.
    • Part of the group will focus on collecting insects from the stream by flipping over rocks on the margins or agitating the stream bottom rocks to make the insects flow into a net, emptying the net into a pan and picking the insects out of the pan. Some may collect directly from the streamside rocks using a tool called an aspirator.
    • Other group members will focus on the land component by beating streamside vegetation with a net and using an aspirator to suck the insects out of the net.
  • Preserve all insects collected in the containers provided, record the GPS location and placed that inside the container with the insects.
  • Where able, take photographs of the collection location.
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.

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.
Butterfly Count

July, 2nd week on a weekday 

Butterfly count

Come be a lepidopterist for a day! This is a great opportunity for families, young, old and everybody in between! Join butterfly experts, park staff and the Nature Conservancy of Canada to catch, identify and learn about Waterton’s butterflies.

Requirements:

  • No experience necessary! Just a willingness to learn about and catch Butterflies
  • 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

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
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