Canada’s national parks agency is a world leader in developing technology and best practices to explore and preserve ecosystems. Its expertise ranges from underwater archeology to sniffer-dog innovation.
Exploring Arctic depths
With a vast frozen ocean waiting to be explored, Parks Canada has become the international expert in undersea archeology. A team of researchers from the agency is in the Arctic this summer to again look for Sir John Franklin’s lost ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. They are deploying an unmanned programmable vehicle, shaped like a giant torpedo, that has been used in defence applications.
Pioneering satellite imaging
Parks Canada has teamed with the Canadian Space Agency and the Canadian Centre for Remote Sensing to perform ecological flyovers of parks to assess the health of the land below. The aerial passes have been used to create maps that measure carbon and light absorption, vegetation and other ecological indicators. Those maps are then verified on the ground to determine caribou migration patterns, the location of polar bear dens and the increase in snow geese. Although this process is still in its development stage, Canadian officials expect to eventually share it with parks around the world.
Tracking animal habitats
How do you unobtrusively count the number of grizzly bears in a place like Banff? Parks Canada has trained a dog that can sniff out grizzly-bear scat. Scientists then extract bear DNA from the scat and use it to tag a certain bear at a particular spot in the park. That information ultimately allows them to determine how many bears are in a particular location and how far they roam. Similar work is being done in Grasslands National Park, where the dogs have been sent to find the location of the greater short-horned lizard, an endangered species.
Fostering aboriginal leadership
Parks Canada is leading the world in co-operation with aboriginal peoples, who are helping to manage the parks in their areas. All of the northern parks in Canada, for instance, are co-operatively managed. The Inuit, who have observed hunting patterns for generations, are sharing what they know with agency scientists. Parks Canada officials say they look at aboriginal cultures as integral to the ecosystem.
Minimizing road-salt damage
When Parks Canada staff in Cape Breton observed the negative effect that winter road salt was having on vegetation, they developed a new program to reduce the impact. It involves cleaning all the vehicles after an operation, relying on the weather service to determine the best time to salt and trying out different types of salt to see which is least harmful. The procedure is still a work in progress, but could ultimately help other parks services in countries where snow is a factor and reduce the impact of road salt across Canada.