The following project descriptions are in alphabetical order. See our volunteering opportunities page for a chronological list of the current year's projects and dates.

For more information or to register as a volunteer for any of our projects, phone 403 859-2224 or email pc.wlnp-volunteer.pc@canada.ca.

Volunteers receive free admission for the day when they participate in an event.

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.

Butterfly BioBlitz

A group of volunteers with butterfly nets
Butterfly BioBlitz volunteers in Waterton Lakes National Park

Mid-July

Come be a lepidopterist for a day or two! Join butterfly experts and Parks Canada staff to catch, identify and learn about butterflies.

Registration required to participate: Contact pc.wlnp-volunteer.pc@canada.ca or phone 403 859-2224.

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
  • 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

Un mésangeai du Canada dans la neige
Gray jays are often seen in the park in winter

Mid-December

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

A close up of flowers
Plant watch is a Canada-wide citizen science project

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 pc.wlnp-volunteer.pc@canada.ca.

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

Shoreline cleanup

Volunteers picking litter by a lake
Make a difference on a shoreline in Waterton Lakes National Park

First Saturdays in May and September

Don’t let wind blow that litter away! Park volunteers are teaming up with Awesome Adventures to scour Waterton’s shorelines for litter at popular lake shores as part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.

It is a citizen science project, too. We count and record the type of trash as we pick it up and send the data to the national coordinator. That data is also used in the park to track trends.

Pitch in as we work to keep the park litter free. Awesome Adventures of Lethbridge organize the underwater divers and Parks Canada organizes the shoreline volunteers.

Requirements:

  • Able to perform repetitive, light physical labour (bending over, picking up)
  • Comfortable working along the shoreline at the edge of a lake, including supervising your own children there
  • Interested in working in teams that count and record each piece of litter picked up
  • Be prepared for a half-day outside along the shoreline. Bring your rubber boots and a spare change of socks and pants, just in case

Volunteer duties:

  • Hike along shorelines to pick up and bag litter or collect litter from the divers as they bring it out to the shoreline
  • Garbage bags and dish gloves or similar waterproof gloves provided by the park

To register for this event, email: pc.wlnp-volunteer.pc@canada.ca

Spring bird count

A bird sitting on a tree branch
Monitoring birds is an important way for park staff and scientists to keep tabs on the park's ecological health

First weekend of June

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

Spring flower count

A meadow full of flowers
Don't just stop to look at the flowers ... count them!

Last Saturday of May

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