Conference & Awards

Conference Overview

10-12 MARCH 2023


Biodiversity is affected by the ecological integrity of their habitat; the more enriched heterogeneous habitat, the more opportunity for species to evolve, coexist, and interact. How species share habitats or occupy specific niches leads to more intra-and inter-species interactions, which fosters ecosystem complexity and diversity. These relationships and interactions inevitably affect community functioning and the survival of all species.

Similarly, wildlife professionals learn to coexist and occupy specific professional niches to create a complex and diverse field of knowledge. How we learn from each other, collaborate with diverse stakeholders, and interact shapes our profession and moves it forward with new knowledge and understanding.  In learning how to coexist with each other and diverse stakeholders, First Nations, partners, and the public, it is essential to have a platform to meet, connect, learn and collaborate. How do you meet with your partners to advance wildlife science and conservation? How has your work shaped our understanding of how wildlife meet and share ecosystems? How does a diversity of interactions, from the field to the boardroom, advance the Alberta wildlife profession and the conservation of Alberta wildlife and their habitats?

Conference Registration Rates

  • Regular Member: $75
  • Student Member: $50


A one-year membership (or one-year extension) is included in the regular member rate.

Student Registration Grants are also available.

Please login to obtain member registration rates.


We are excited to be working with Whova to offer you the best virtual conference! Here are some of the features we are planning for:

  • Pre-recorded sessions that you can view at your leisure throughout the week
  • Live Q&A sessions with presenters to get into the nitty gritty about your favourite topic
  • Poster sessions
  • Social events
  • Various networking opportunities
  • Live panel discussions

The conference will be available on your phone, computer, tablet from wherever you are with a high speed internet connection

Keynote Speaker

We are overjoyed to welcome Naomi Owen-Beek from the Salteau First Nations to speak about the Creation of the Klinse Za Maternal Pen. Caribou maternity pens have been discussed in several jurisdictions as a potential tool for caribou recovery. Naomi will discuss the Caribou Recovery Plan developed by Dr. Scott McNay, the Saulteau First Nations, and West Moberly First Nations Elders. Their goal for a stable population of 1000 caribou is a laudable one and their recovery plan contains objectives around predator management, habitat restoration, and a caribou maternal pen. Naomi will discuss the first maternal pen from planning to construction. Her presentation will discuss community involvement in the capturing and collaring of caribou, as well as the long-term monitoring and the development of a caribou guardians program.


Conference Program

The complete conference program is available above, but here are the concurrent sessions we’ve got planned for March 18:

  • Landscape disturbance
  • The birds and the bears
  • Methods in wildlife research and monitoring
  • Ungulates
  • Creatures of the night
  • Grasslands
  • Wildlife Disease


We’ve also got two panel discussions with pre-recorded presentations available for conference participants:

  • Human-wildlife conflict
  • Social science research and considerations in wildlife management
The whole day will be bookended by engaging opening and closing ceremonies that you won’t want to miss!

Conference Week Agenda

Although the main conference is on March 18, we’ve got events all week leading up to the big day. All of the below events are free to attend, even if you’re not attending the main conference on the 18th.

Committee Meetings

Full information and links to register.
Monday March 14 – Education and Outreach Committee (12-1pm)
Tuesday March 15 – Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee (1145am – 115pm)
Wednesday March 16 – Conservation Affairs Committee (1145a – 115pm)

Networking Events

Tuesday March 15 – Student and Pros Happy Hour (4-5pm). This is a great time to pick the brains of your fellow wildlifers for career advice and perspective. Whether you’re a pro or a student, we can all learn from each other. Sign up by emailing our student director, Phil, at [email protected].

Wednesday March 16 – Wildlife Jeopardy (7-8pm). Show off your mad wildlife skills and have a little fun. Grab a glass of your favourite beverage and your wildlife friends for an hour of wildlife trivia designed to pick your brain, make you laugh, and help you meet new people. Register here.

Annual General Meeting and Awards Ceremony

March 17, 4:30pm – 6:30pm

Our Annual General Meeting (AGM) is open to everyone with an interest in hearing what we’ve been up to in 2021 and what we have planned for 2022. This year, we’ll complete our AGM with our professional and student awards ceremony.  Details here.

Public talk and live auction

March 17, 7:30pm – 9:00 pm

Each year, we host a public talk that shares cutting edge research about Alberta wildlife. This year, we are so happy to have Dr. Jason Fisher sharing decades worth of work about wolverines from around the world. We know so little about wolverines and what we need to do to conserve them – or do we? Join us to find out!

This year, we’re also featuring Matt Besko in a live auction to kick start the evening. Matt will be auctioning off a trip exploring an Alberta trapline, two day passes for the Canmore folk festival, and a surprise item that will get you gleefully opening your wallets! All funds raised from the auction go towards student awards, supporting the next generation of wildlifers in Alberta.
Details and registration link here.

Call for Papers and Posters

Deadline: 13 January 2023

You are invited to submit titles and abstracts for oral presentations, speed talks, and posters at the 2023 Conference of The Alberta Chapter of The Wildlife Society. Presentations on all aspects of wildlife are welcome including ecology, management, research, monitoring, species biology, genetics, and new techniques.

The three types of presentations offered are:

  1. Traditional oral presentations – 12 minutes in length + 3 minutes for questions. Abstracts will be grouped into common themes and placed into concurrent sessions.
  2. Speed talks – 4 minutes in length. Speed talks will be delivered in person at the conference and added to concurrent sessions.
  3. Poster – A poster session will be hosted on one day in the afternoon/evening for all conference participants.

The abstract submission form will ask you to specify your preferred talk format (e.g., traditional oral presentation, speed talk, or poster). While we endeavour to honour everyone’s requests, the ACTWS Conference Planning Committee may ask you to deliver your presentation in a different format based on other abstracts submitted and conference organization. Your understanding and cooperation are appreciated.

Abstracts must include:

  1. Lead author name, affiliation, mailing address, phone number(s), and e-mail address
  2. Names and affiliations of additional authors
  3. Title of abstract
  4. Distillation of the purpose, methods, results and conclusions, 250 words max.

The abstract you submit will be the final version that is printed in the program booklet.

Please note: An automated confirmation email should be received upon submission of the abstract. If you do not receive confirmation, or have other questions, please email [email protected]. Authors will be advised of the final decision on their abstract by 3 February 2023.

Students: Monetary awards are available for all presentation types, posters, and travel to the conference. See details at Awards.

Friday, 13 March
0900 – 2100

Field Trip
Annual General Meeting
Student Conclave
Opening Mixer

Saturday, 14 March 
0900 – 2400
Opening Ceremony
Plenary Session
Keynote Address
Concurrent Sessions
Poster Session
Banquet & Auction
Awards & Dancing

Sunday, 15 March
0900 – 1600

Concurrent Sessions
Student Awards
Closing Ceremony

Plenary Speakers


The role that hunting, trapping, and fishing can play in helping us understand wildlife movements and conservation

Online Auction

We are excited to offer our legendary auction online again this year. The prizes coming in are phenomenal and you will love the
opportunities that our online auction provides. The online auction will run from March 14 to 18 and will be open to the public. Funds raised go
towards student awards and ACTWS operations. As always, the auction is bound to be a conference highlight and offer great opportunities for
members to connect (and compete) for great prizes.

We’re always looking for donations of any kind – goods, services, whatever your heart desires. 
Please contact Alyssa at [email protected] with your donation!

Public Talk

The ACTWS will be hosting a public talk in Camrose the evening of March 17

Details to be announced.



The ACTWS annually administers four professional awards and three student scholarships, as well as conference subsidy awards.

All 2023 awards are now open and accepting nominations and applications until January 20, 2023.

Details at Awards.


The ACTWS is seeking volunteers for the following conference planning committees:

•    Auction Committee
•    Field Trip & Workshop Committee
•    Indigenous Liaison Support Committee
•    Scholarships & Grants Committee
•    Sponsorship Committee

If you are interested in joining, please email [email protected] and indicate which awesome committee you would like to be part of!


As always, the auction is bound to be a conference highlight and offer great opportunities for members to connect (and compete) for great prizes!

The auction will take place on the evening of Saturday, March 11th. Here, businesses, organizations, and individuals are given the opportunity to provide an item (or a monetary donation to the ACTWS) for attendees to bid on. With this item, would come the opportunity to showcase your business card next to the donated item. Your generous contribution (big or small!) will go towards student awards and ACTWS operations.

Many locals will be attending the conference, but also those across Alberta and throughout Canada. Auction items in the past have ranged from gift cards, to merchandise, to funded activities (weekend getaways, etc.) – anything provided is greatly appreciated!

If you are interested in providing an item for our 2023 auction, please contact [email protected].

Conference Week Agenda (Tentative)

Thursday, March 9 (16:30 – 21:00)
Virtual ACTWS Annual General Meeting
Virtual Public Talk (TBA)

Friday, March 10 (08:00 – 22:00)
Conference Registration
Field Trip and Workshops (TBA)
Mixer/Cash Bar and Student Conclave

Saturday, March 11 (08:00 – 24:00)
Conference Registration
Conference Welcome
Conference Plenary
Special Presentation (TBA)
Open paper program, concurrent sessions
Poster Session, cash bar
Live and Silent Auctions
Entertainment and Dance

Sunday, March 12 (08:30 – 15:30)
Open paper program, concurrent sessions
Speed talks
Student presentation awards
Closing remarks

Cancellation Policy

Cancellations made 30 days prior to the conference will be refunded in full (less the processing fee). This refund policy applies to all programs offered with registration (workshops, fieldtrips). If you need to cancel after the deadline, you may transfer your registration to a colleague at no additional cost. Request for refunds will be accepted until 5:00 PM MDT, February 12th, 2020. No refunds will be issued after that date and time. To request a refund please email [email protected]. Please note: one day registrations will not be offered.

The Creation of the Klinse Za Maternity Pen


Naomi Owens-Beek comes from the community of Moberly Lake, BC, she is a proud Cree, Dunne-Za and Canadian woman from the Saulteau First Nations (SFN) and is the honored mother of Spencer Ron Beek. She graduated from the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology and received a diploma in Natural Resources 1999. She then completed her Bachelor of Science from the University of Victoria, majoring in Biology 2008 and registered to the College of Applied Biology 2009 and is now a Registered Professional Biologist as of 2019. Naomi is currently the Treaty Rights and Environmental Protection (TREP) Manager for the Saulteau First Nations, she sits on the Board of Directors for the Twin Sisters Native Plant Nursery, a Society Director for the Nikanese Wahtzee Stewardship Society, a Board Member for the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, sits on the Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment Project Team, a part of BC’s First Nations Wildlife Forum and subset to this is the Ministers Wildlife Advisory Council-research team and participates on SFN’s Indigenous Guardian Committee. 

Naomi’s long term goal is to make connections between biology’s western science and First Nations values of the landscape. She holds high regard for the rights and Spirit and Intent of the Treaty 8 Nations.

Temperate Mountain Bird Responses to Climate Change influences


Dr. Kathy Martin is a Professor of Wildlife Ecology in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and a Senior Research Scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.  Kathy has always held a fascination for how species persist and cope in extreme and challenging environments. She conducts research on population ecology and life history variation of alpine, arctic songbirds, and grouse across elevation gradients, and in relation to climate variation in these increasingly unreliable habitats.  She and her students have written over 200 scientific papers and book chapters on ecology, behaviour and conservation of birds. Kathy Martin is currently President of the American Ornithological Society, the largest member-based ornithological society globally. She is also a Past President of the Society of Canadian Ornithologists, and a member of The Wildlife Society and the International Ornithological Union.  Dr. Kathy Martin received the Doris Huestis Speirs Award for Lifetime Research Contributions to Ornithology from the Society of Canadian Ornithologists (2008), the Ian McTaggart-Cowan Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding contributions to the understanding, conservation, and/or management of wildlife in Canada by The Wildlife Society, Canadian Section (2016), and the Godman Salvin Prize for Lifetime Contributions to Ornithology from the British Ornithologists’ Union (2018).  


About 24% of the North American land base is classified as mountainous, including over 75% of the British Columbia and Yukon land base. One-third of bird species breeding in continental North America use mountain habitats for at least one critical period of their annual life cycle (breeding, migration or winter). In addition to the specialist and generalist birds breeding in mountains, many birds use high elevation habitats for stopovers during fall migration. One quarter of these species are on lists of conservation concern. Temperate mountain birds are considered to be particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts in the short term given the increasingly variable temperature and precipitation regimes, and also from habitat loss or change in the longer term.  I examine the potential impacts of environmental variability for the reproduction and survival of grouse and songbirds in mountain habitats. Factors enabling birds to cope with climate change include flexibility in their reproductive phenology and behaviour, as well as a shift towards a slower life history. However, species differ in their abilities to cope with more variable seasonality, and thus even congeneric and sympatric species experience different reproductive outcomes after storms and extreme delays in breeding. Climate change models predict habitat losses will exceed gains, and alpine patches will decrease in number and size likely resulting in higher costs to conduct seasonal and dispersal movements. As climate change is only one of multiple stressors, the potential of birds to adapt to changing climates will depend on the extent to which their adaptation abilities are constrained by other disturbance processes. Understanding the life history and year-round ecology of species will be critical to predicting responses of mountain birds to climate change.

An accidental icon: climate change and polar bears


Andrew E. Derocher is a Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. He holds a B.Sc. in Forest Biology (Hon.) from the University of British Columbia and a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Alberta. After graduating, he worked with Environment Canada, B.C. Ministry of Forests, and then the Norwegian Polar Institute before returning to Canada. Andrew is a member and past chair of the IUCN/SSC Polar Bear Specialist Group. His research has studied polar bears across the Arctic over the past 35 years. Andrew has published >100 peer reviewed papers on polar bear ecology, ecotoxicology, and the effects of climate change.


Habitat loss is the major threat facing ursids across their range and in the Arctic, rapid warming has fundamentally altered and degraded polar bear (Ursus maritimus) habitat. Polar bears are an accidental icon and became the poster-species for climate change because long-term monitoring revealed the links between sea ice loss and population impacts. The changes in polar bear life history are influenced at several life history points. Energy stores are the primary affected link and the key to understanding the effects of habitat loss on polar bears lies on the balance between energy intake and energy use. Energy use is influenced by habitat conditions and ice-free period duration. Past monitoring of polar bears focussed on abundance estimates, yet the inventory intervals have failed to evolve to the changing ecological conditions. As the Arctic sea ice ecosystem disappears, a new one is emerging, but polar bears are unlikely to retain their top predator status in much of their current range. 

Conservation and management of western boreal birds in a changing climate: What do we expect, what have we observed, and what do we do about it?


Diana Stralberg is a research scientist at the University of Alberta, working with the AdaptWest Project for climate-change adaptation and the Boreal Avian Modelling Project. Her work has primarily focused on predictive modelling and multi-species conservation planning questions at multiple scales, from landscape to continental, with an emphasis on climatic drivers and responses to climate change. Her recent research has involved the development of avian abundance models for the boreal region, which she has used to develop future projections of climatic suitability, and to identify potential refugia from the effects of climate change. She has also worked on modeling vegetation responses to changes in climate and wildfire activity in the western boreal region. Her current focus is on understanding the landscape features and ecosystem characteristics that confer resilience to climate change in the rapidly changing boreal region. Prior to moving to Alberta in 2010, she worked as a researcher at Point Blue (founded as the Point Reyes Bird Observatory) in California. She holds a BS from UCLA, an MS from the University of Michigan, and a PhD from the University of Alberta. 


Climate change is expected to bring rapid and dramatic changes to the boreal forest region of North America, challenging boreal birds and other organisms to keep pace by adapting in place or tracking changing environmental conditions. The magnitude of expected change means that bird conservation and management activities must consider increasingly larger geographies, often spanning multiple jurisdictions. This creates new challenges for conservation research, as scientists struggle to address broad-scale ecosystem transitions across large geographies while also addressing local and regional management needs. Conservation planners and managers are also confronted with high-stakes decisions and trade-offs, given large remaining uncertainties. This begs the related questions: “What are anticipated direct and indirect consequences of climate change on boreal bird populations and communities? What changes have been observed to-date? and How does this information influence conservation planning and management decisions?” With an emphasis on Alberta and the western North American boreal region, I will review results from various types of predictive modeling efforts, including correlative niche models as well as landscape change simulations. I will compare these results with new population trend estimates and present a recently developed vulnerability-adaptation framework to guide bird conservation based on species’ individual vulnerability and exposure to climate change. Finally, I will address ways in which climate-change information and predictions can be synthesized to inform conservation and management of boreal species.

Avian passerines on the move


Dr. Geoff Holroyd’s interest in birds developed as a teenager when he was an active volunteer and subsequently, chairman of the Long Point Bird Observatory.  He earned his MSc and PhD from the University of Toronto for his studies of the foraging strategies and diet of swallows. During his 36 year career with the Canadian Wildlife Service he supervised Ecological Wildlife Inventories of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Glacier and Mt Revelstoke National Parks, and was Head of the Threatened Wildlife Section; then as a research scientist he studied Burrowing Owl and Peregrine Falcon and chaired their Recovery Teams. He was an adjunct professor in the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta. He is now chair of the Beaverhill Bird Observatory which he co-founded in 1984. During his variety career he has published articles as diverse as Green Sea Turtle biology to dung beetles in the diet of Burrowing Owls.


As our climate changes and becomes more volatile, the effect on small birds varies considerably. While average annual temperatures are warming in Alberta, the seasonal and even monthly changes are more important than the annual average. Averages mask variability particularly for temperature which is getting warmer faster in the winter than it is in the summer. This presentation will present species trends from 50+year databases that show Mountain Bluebirds are arriving earlier, Tree Swallows are nesting later and less successfully, Purple Martins appear to be dispersing westward and severe weather event are negatively impacting a variety of avian species, including burrowing owls and peregrine falcons. 

Co-authors: Myrna Pearman and Glen Hvenegaard

Of hosts, parasites, migration and climate change: what can long term studies tell us?


Kathreen Ruckstuhl: I have studied the behaviour and ecology of ungulates for the past 30 years, from work on alpine chamois (MSc), and bighorn sheep (PhD) to a variety of species including ibex, chamois, gazelles, goral, wild and feral sheep, deer, oryx, equids, etc. Since June 2004, I have been a professor for wildlife ecology, department of biological sciences, at the University of Calgary. While my main research focus is on the behaviour and ecology of wild ungulates, my students, collaborators and I, have also worked on rodents of all sorts, fish, canids, and not to forget, their parasites. What I particularly love about my profession is the possibility to gain a deep understanding of an individual’s behaviour and life history, and more directly to be with and observe these magnificent animals in the wild. My long-term (26 years) research on individually marked bighorn sheep in Sheep River Provincial Park allows me to follow each individual’s ontogeny of behaviour in greatest detail, from their first summer as lambs to the time they disappear or die. Over the decades, I have worked both on applied and fundamental studies, investigating human impacts, climate change, behaviour and sociality in a variety of species, and on different continents. We have explored the impact of social networks on individual survival and LRS, group dynamics and sexual segregation, cooperation, feeding ecology, decision-making, mate choice and mating tactics. 


My talk will be a synthesis of various research projects, focusing on the behavior and ecology of wild sheep but also some recent research on parasites and climate change. Long-distance seasonal and breeding migrations are very common in many species of insects, birds, fish, and mammals. While most of these migrations are undertaken to track the phenology of food and water, and to avoid predation on neonates, or parasites, many species also have partial breeding migrations in search of potential mates. During the breeding season, some of the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis canadensis) who winter in Sheep River Provincial Park remain with their natal subpopulation, while others migrate to breed elsewhere. Rams often go on breeding migrations, but we have observed that a subset of ewes also leaves their range to breed elsewhere. The purpose of this study was to determine the proximate and ultimate causes of breeding partial migration. The second part of my talk will concentrate on parasites and how they can affect the behavior and ecology of their hosts, from affecting body condition, sociality to behaviour. Lastly, I will briefly talk about climate change and what potential problems that will entail in regard to parasites and their hosts, and conclude with a remark on the importance of long-term research on marked individuals. 


Lee Foote is an applied ecologist who uses scientific approaches for solving real-world problems.  He holds degrees in Forestry, Wildlife Management and has a PhD in Wetland Ecology from Utah State University.

He has been a professor of Conservation Biology at the U of A for 21 years and his publications and his student’s topics range from wetland reclamation to Botswana biodiversity, to Nunavut peregrine falcon habitat to philosophy of wildlife use.  

Lee is an avid photographer, hunter, and folk musician.  He is married to Dr. Naomi Krogman, Dean and environmental sociologist at Simon Fraser University. Lee retires on 30 June and moves over to join her.  They have two daughters, a Labrador retriever, and a house for sale.


Matt Besko is currently the Director of Wildlife Policy for Alberta Environment and Parks, Resource Stewardship Division. During the course of his career, he has worked as a Landscape Ecologist, Wildlife Habitat Biologist, Game Biologist, Species at Risk Specialist, and Director of Fisheries Policy over a period of 27 years in 3 Provinces. He is especially interested in wildlife ecology, conservation of forested landscapes, and the management of game species. He dabbles in the philosophy of human-dimensions in wildlife management and the concept of wildness, as well as the practical application of novel approaches to wildlife allocation and use.

Matt lives in Edmonton with his family and Scouty the Longhaired Weimaraner, and when not working he is reading, writing, hunting, bbq’ing meats of many origins, and eating. Especially eating.


Dr. Brad Stelfox started the ALCES modeling platform and Group in 1995, which focuses on the interface between human land uses and regional landscapes. The major development stream has been ALCES Online© (A Landscape Cumulative Effects Simulator) a simulator rapidly gaining acceptance by government, industry, the scientific community, and NGOs to explore issues between landscapes, land uses, and ecological and economic integrity. Today, the ALCES Group is a collection of ecologists, landscape planners, and resource analysts whose mission is to be a world leader in the delivery of land use cumulative effects simulation modelling tools, strategic land use planning advice, and the provision of practical strategies to assist government, business, and society in making balanced, informed decisions. 

Dr. Stelfox received the William Rowan Award (The Wildlife Society) in 2011, the Outstanding Leadership Award of the Canadian Boreal Initiative (2009), the Alberta Emerald Foundation Award (2004), and the Alberta Science and Technology Award (2003) for his contributions with the ALCES model in advancing understanding of land use sustainability issues, and in seeking solutions that balance economic, social, and ecological indicators.

Dr. Brad Stelfox is an adjunct professor at the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta and.  He and his wife Sarah live in Calgary.


Todd Zimmerling has an undergraduate degree in zoology from the University of Alberta and an M.Sc. and PhD. in population ecology from the University of British Columbia. He is a Professional Biologist with 29 years of experience working on a wide range of wildlife and fisheries related projects across western and northern Canada. In 2007, after 14 years as an environmental consultant, Todd took over the role of President & CEO of the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA), where he oversees a staff of 85 dedicated conservation professionals. In his spare time Todd enjoys hunting and fishing with family and friends.

PO BOX 4990
Edmonton AB
T6E 5G8

Professional refers to someone who works with wildlife and/or their habitats in a professional setting.

In this context, it is not in reference to a legal professional designation.