WCS Canada uses science to build the case for what needs to be done to help wildlife survive in a rapidly changing world. We focus on the need to protect key habitat and landscape connections, especially in large intact wild areas such as the far north in Ontario, the Northern Boreal Mountains of BC and Yukon and the western Arctic. We have worked extensively with indigenous communities to support their conservation objectives with our science.
Today, WCS Canada continues to focus on building a scientific case for action to protect species:
Over the past 10 years, we have dramatically expanded our baseline knowledge of western bat species -- critical information for effectively preparing western Canada for the arrival of a deadly fungal disease, white-nose syndrome (WNS). Our program is the first to field test a prophylaxis that we hope will reduce the severity of this disease. We have trained and inspired biologists and citizens across North America to conduct bat conservation to extend our reach and impact. We have documented new species in B.C. and Alberta; identified new areas where bat species are found; discovered and described winter and summer habitats and ecology for many species; and measured physiological metrics for bats in winter (the season when WNS kills bats).
- We spent seven winters surveying wolverine populations in the far north of Ontario to create a clearer picture of where wolverine are – and aren’t. This work can help us identify key wolverine habitat before development occurs in the far north of Ontario and better understand wolverine’s tolerance for human activities.
- We have also extensively surveyed boreal caribou populations in northern Ontario and have helped document the impact of human disturbance – particularly roads and forestry – on caribou survival. We played a central role in drafting the federal caribou recovery strategy under the Species at Risk Act and continue to press both the federal and provincial governments to take this innovative plan seriously.
- We have documented the potential impact of increased ship noise on whales and seals in the Arctic, where longer ice-free seasons will likely lead to a large increase in ship traffic. We have also built a scientific case for measures such as ship speed reductions or shifting sea lanes to help whales.
- We have undertaken an extensive study of the vulnerability of freshwater fish in northern Ontario to the impacts of climate change and how these impacts, combined with resource development, could harm valuable fisheries across the north unless we better manage cumulative impacts.
- For generations, Indigenous communities have been monitoring what takes place on their homelands. We are working with First Nations and the Inuvialuit to support community based monitoring as a way to document and address climate change and resource development impacts on their homelands.
- WCS Canada’s Dr. Don Reid was a special advisor to the Peel Watershed Commission, which recommended protection for 81% of this pristine Yukon watershed (the size of Nova Scotia), based on his conservation assessment – a decision that was upheld in December 2017 by the Supreme Court of Canada.
- Our research on habitat use by caribou, Dall’s sheep and grizzly bear demonstrated the need to expand Nahanni National Park. The federal government followed our recommendations in 2009, increasing the park size sevenfold -- from 4,766 to 30,745 km2.
- We have partnered with the Moose Cree First Nation to look at the impact of dams on freshwater fish and how these impacts could be reduced. Similarly, we are working with Inuit in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) to assess seal diets and contaminants (as indicators of a changing Arctic ecosystem).
- We have analyzed the importance of Alberta’s Bighorn Backcountry, nestled next to Banff National Park, for species such as wolverine, grizzly bear, bighorn sheep and trout and are encouraging the Alberta government to establish a major new protected area in this richly diverse mountain region. We also provided key science for the establishment of the Castle Wildland Park in the same region.
- We are working to identify key resting and refuelling areas along Yukon’s Tintina Trench, a major migratory flyway for birds travelling from as far away as South America. Protecting key feeding and resting sites along migratory pathways is one way we can help to address the steady decrease in migratory bird populations.
- WCS Canada advised the Province of Ontario on development of conservation legislation, including the Endangered Species Act and the Lake Simcoe Conservation Act, which ensured both acts were based on conservation science.
- Since 2009, our unique Weston Graduate Fellowship program has provided funding to 86 graduate research projects stemming from 19 universities.