The role of historical Indigenous burning patterns in reducing risk to mountain communities

For thousands of years before European arrival, the Indigenous people of the Rocky Mountains regularly used low-intensity surface fires to keep forests clear of debris and fuel to mitigate the risk of high-intensity wildfire. The proposed project will investigate the historical extent of landscape management by Indigenous burning methods and explore the incorporation of Indigenous burning practices into modern forest management programs to cope with recent extreme wildfire seasons.

Understanding mixed-severity fire regimes, their dynamics and their resilience to climate change in the southern Alberta Foothills - Year two

Mounting evidence shows that boreal and mountain forests are not solely driven by high severity fires that kill most of the above-ground vegetation (i.e. stand-replacing fires). Indeed, wildfire severity can be highly heterogeneous, leading to spatially complex forest landscapes, with multiple species and uneven ages. Many existing fire dynamics models do not explicitly consider the complex interactions and feedbacks between fire, vegetation and climate, which drive mixed-severity fire regimes.

Development and application of physiological markers of Grizzly Bear health

Grizzly bears reside on changing landscapes across Alberta, Canada. The goal of this study is to determine how disturbances in the landscape affect the health of grizzly bears. This will be monitored by analyzing the (1) expression of proteins in skin that are associated with energetics, reproduction, and stress and (2) concentrations of hormones in hair that are associated with reproductive status and long-term stress. In collaboration with the Foothills Research Institute (FRI), skin and hair samples will be collected from free-ranging grizzly bears in Alberta, Canada.

Landscape-scale reconstruction of the spatio-temporal attributes and biophysical drivers of mixed-severity fire regimes in the Alberta Foothills

Ecosystem-based management (EBM) presumes that sustainability is a function of how well we understand ecosystem function and ecological dynamics. This includes understanding relationships among climate, disturbance, vegetation patterns, and ecological services. Recent research on the historical ecology of montane forests in western Canada has challenged the long-standing notion that stand-replacing fires characterized the landscape. Instead, a mixed-severity regime (MSFR) existed in portions of the montane forest.

Mapping associations between drought and simultaneous fires across space and time within the Southern Canadian Cordillera

The sequence of costly wildfires that burned at multiple locations in British Columbia and Alberta during fire seasons in 2003, 2015, 2016 and 2017 remind people that fires play an important part in forests of southwestern Canada. However, people are also increasingly recognizing the role of fire in providing ecological renewal and diversification. As a testament to this growth in understanding, forestry companies are embracing practices which include emulating historical fire regimes that exhibit a wide range of spatial and temporal characteristics such as fire shape and severity.

Georeferencing oblique imagery for vegetation analysis

To responsibly manage forest resources in southwestern Alberta, it is important to understand the disturbance regimes they have experienced in the past, are experiencing now, and are likely to experience in the future. The Mountain Legacy Project has several thousand repeat photographs which show areas of the mountains and foothills of the Rockies a century ago and today. This project will develop methods to georectify those photographs (i.e. flatten the pictures onto a map) in order to analyze them in a spatially relevant way.

Modelling partial mortality wildfire dynamics in boreal and mountain landscapes

An emerging strategy for managing natural resources such as Canada's forests more sustainably and responsibly is to use knowledge of how Mother Nature has done it to help guide our hand. This so-called ‘ecosystem-based” approach has gained favour with provincial and federal governments, as well as national and international certification agencies.

Sustaining our forests in southwestern Alberta

This MITACS internship will support Julie Fortin, an MSc student whose focus is on developing new techniques for analyzing oblique historical mountain survey images based on the world’s largest systematic collection of historical mountain survey images, the Mountain Legacy Project. Her research is driven by questions about shifts in biodiversity over time, built atop biodiversity data and models developed by Dr. Jason Fisher and his colleagues and crews with Alberta Innovates for Willmore Wilderness.

Understanding historical forest landscape dynamics in the Alberta foothills

An emerging strategy for managing natural resources such as Canada's forests more sustainably and responsibly is to use knowledge of how Mother Nature has done it to help guide our hand. This so-called ‘ecosystem-based” approach has gained favour with provincial and federal governments, as well as national and international certification agencies.