Presentations + Events



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Invasion impacts and management: Progress, problems, and polemics

Daniel Simberloff, University of Tennessee

Three decades of intensive research have revealed drastic impacts of hundreds of invaders. They eat native species, overgrow them, outcompete them, infect them, hybridize with them, and have myriad other impacts. Impacts affecting entire ecosystems have been increasingly documented, particularly as ecological research on aboveground-belowground interactions has increased. Despite this hecatomb, the past few years have seen several criticisms of the field of invasion biology and management. Among other bones of contention, critics charge that the field is infected with xenophobia, claim that the damage caused by biological invasions is overblown, and argue that, even if effects of biological invasions are substantial, we can’t do much about the phenomenon in the face of globalization, so we shouldn’t waste our resources trying. These criticisms are misguided. In particular, successful management projects (including eradications) are proliferating, with several evolving new approaches and ambitious goals.

Daniel Simberloff is the Nancy Gore Hunger Professor at the University of Tennessee. His research projects are on the ecology, evolution, conservation, and biological invasions of insects, plants, fungi, birds, and mammals. He is editor-in- chief of Biological Invasions, senior editor of the Encyclopedia of Biological Invasions (2012), author of Invasive Species: What Everyone Needs to Know (2013), and co-editor of Integrating Biological Control into Conservation Practice (2016). In 2006 he was named Eminent Ecologist by the Ecological Society of America, and in 2012 he won the Margalef Prize for research in ecology. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

The Anthropocene: a story of biological gains as well as losses

Chris Thomas, University of York

Today, we contemplate the biological losses that are taking place on Earth, as humans exterminate species, remove habitats, alter the atmosphere and ocean chemistry, change the climate, and unleash invasive species across the planet. Some suggest that we are already en route to the Sixth Mass Extinction. Yet, life on Earth is a story of gains as well as losses, and the processes that generate diversity did not suddenly stop when humans pitched up on the planet. In fact, they accelerated – change is how life on our planet has always survived, and this remains true in the Anthropocene. I will argue that a majority of species are spreading into new areas (at least somewhere in their ranges) and that the diversity of species is growing in nearly all regions of the world as a consequence of the movement of species – biological invasions. I will also argue that increasing numbers of species are adapting genetically to the human-modified world, and that new species are starting to form, usually stimulated by the transport of species around the world. Bizarre as it might seem, the speciation rate on Earth (on land) during the Anthropocene could possibly be higher than ever before, and the evolution of humans could be initiating a Sixth Great Genesis – as well as a Mass Extinction. Since gains are taking place, humans should not treat nature like an old master that requires restoration, but develop a conservation philosophy that accepts and promulgates change that is beneficial to humans. 

Chris D. Thomas is a leading ecologist and evolutionary biologist, best known for his work on the risks to biodiversity from climate change and the impacts of habitat fragmentation. He has published over 275 scientific articles on biodiversity and environmental change, and he is a Professor at the University of York, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and President-elect of the Royal Entomological Society. Now he is taking a fresh and perhaps surprising perspective. We may be in the midst of a mass diversification event on Earth, as well as a mass extinction, with globalized biological invasions representing one of the most important contributors to that diversification.

The Ungulate Invasion: White-tailed Deer Creep Across the Continent and Into the Boreal Forest

Jason T. Fisher, InnoTech Alberta; Adjunct Professor, University of Victoria

Most invasive species appear suddenly and distinctly out-of- place, a distinct mark of disturbance and a clear target for management. Creeping normality renders white-tailed deer’s leisurely advance across the continent almost imperceptible, until the system has changed and other species dwindle. In the boreal forest, white-tailed deer have expanded, largely unnoticed, until their role in caribou declines was deduced. The cause of invasion is debated –is climate change the culprit, or does liability lay with landscape change? Our 5-year research program suggests the two are inextricably linked. Old-fashioned winters can no longer contain distributions or effectively suppress populations. The buffet of supplemental food sprinkled across northern Canada suggests white-tailed deer are the new normal as long as disturbance persists. The deer invasion has severe ramifications for caribou, but more subtle and no less complex effects can be anticipated in the future.

Dr. Jason T Fisher is a wildlife ecologist with an obstinate obsession for all things mammalian. As Senior Research Scientist with InnoTech Alberta and Adjunct Professor at the University of Victoria, he and his crack team research mammal communities spanning the Alberta boreal and Rockies, reaching to the Pacific Ocean. Most species he studies are in decline, so deer provide a welcome, if ecologically troubling, change.

Globalization, Invasive Species…. and Wildlife Disease

Margo J. Pybus, Alberta Fish and Wildlife and University of Alberta, Edmonton

Parasites and the vast majority of infectious disease agents are living beings and are components of the natural biodiversity of the planet. As such, they are integrated into and governed by essential functions that pertain to all ecosystems. At times, they find themselves in changed environments. Some, perhaps most, drivers of the changes are anthropomorphic, and involve direct human transfer or inadvertent translocation via global networks associated with humans as well as planes, trains, and automobiles…and agricultural combines from Ontario. Activities associated with Global Travel (white nose syndrome in bats, West Nile virus in birds), Global Trade (varroa mites on honey bees, chytrid fungus on amphibians), and Exotic Pets (salamander virus, monkey pox in African rodents) have all introduced novel pathogens into new ecosystems. Changing environments, changing climates, and natural dispersal also expand the opportunities for pathogens to relocate. As with all translocated fauna, the outcomes of translocated parasite and disease agents are governed by basic ecological factors that may or may not lead to significant perturbation of local ecosystems. The presentation will focus on two examples with very different outcomes.

Dr. Margo Pybus spent the better part of a life-time learning from wildlife. She was schooled early in life among the fields, forests, and marshes of southern Ontario and later in the prairie, foothill, mountain, parkland, and boreal landscapes of Alberta and beyond. Margo received a B.Sc. in Fish and Wildlife Biology and M.Sc. in Wildlife Parasitology, both from the University of Guelph. She holds a PhD in Wildlife Parasitology from the University of Alberta and is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, UofA. Margo is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the international Wildlife Disease Association and various professional awards for service and contributions to wildlife management and conservation. Margo is on staff with Alberta Fish and Wildlife as the first Provincial Wildlife Disease Specialist. She leads high profile provincial wildlife disease surveillance and management programs and advises on related policy, management, and research initiatives.

Margo has an abiding interest in natural history and readily shares her knowledge and enthusiasm for all wild species and spaces. Specific to ACTWS: former President, ongoing chapter mentor and historian, and grateful recipient of the Dedicated Service Award and William Rowan Award.

Plenary Session



  1. What is the future of solar and wind energy production in Alberta? Canada?
  2. What are some of the effects of solar, wind and hydro energy production on wildlife?
  3. What policies is the Alberta Government implementing to mitigate impacts on wildlife?

Wind Energy Development in Alberta Under the Renewable Electricity Program

Evan Wilson, Regional Director of Prairies, Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA)


In December 2017, Alberta’s Renewable Energy Program Round 1 resulted in the lowest-ever price for wind energy generation.  This 600 MW procurement is the first of a series that aims to secure 5,000 MW of renewable energy capacity, to support the government’s goal of providing 30% of provincial electricity from renewable sources by 2030.  This presentation will outline how the wind energy industry will be working to make sure the government of Alberta reaches this goal.

Evan Wilson is the Regional Director, Prairies for the Canadian Wind Energy Association, with responsibility for Alberta and Saskatchewan. Prior to joining CanWEA, he worked with the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, and with Global Public Affairs, where he worked as a consultant on transportation and energy files, including renewables.

Solar Energy Development in Alberta: Best Practices for Wildlife Conservation

Patrick Bateman, Director of Policy & Market Development, Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA)


The development of large solar electricity generation facilities in Alberta has rapidly increased since the province’s Climate Leadership Plan committed to phasing-out coal-fired electricity and increasing the share of renewable electricity generation from 10 to 30%  by 2030.  This session will begin with a description of the anatomy of a solar facility followed by a discussion of the best practices for wildlife conservation that should be employed by the solar industry during site selection, development, construction and operation.

Patrick D. Bateman is an advocate for a cleaner, smarter and more distributed electricity system in Canada with solar energy, energy storage and smart-grid technology.  He leverages a decade as a solar energy, electricity sector and built environment professional in Europe and Canada.  Patrick currently serves as Director of Policy & Market Development on the executive team of the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA).  Since joining CanSIA in 2010, he has been responsible for policy development and regulatory affairs throughout the build-out of almost 3 GW of solar electricity generation facilities in Canada.  Prior to joining CanSIA, Patrick’s previous roles included working as a consultant for local government clients on renewable energy and planning policy in England.  Patrick holds an MSc in Renewable Energy and a BSc in Environmental Biology.

Impacts of solar energy on wildlife

Marc d’Entremont, PhD, R.P.Bio. – Senior Wildlife Biologist, LGL Limited Environmental Research Associates


Large scale solar energy developments are increasing in North America as the demand for alternative energy rises and the cost-competitiveness of solar energy technology improves.  These projects require relatively large tracts of land for their photo-voltaic arrays, substations and connections to the electrical grids, which can overlap with wildlife habitat.  Peer-reviewed studies on the direct effects of solar energy developments on wildlife are lacking; however, possible impacts from the construction, operation and eventual decommissioning of solar energy facilities include direct morality, destruction and modification of habitats and cumulative effects.  Although, these impacts can be benign and possible benefits to wildlife are capable, if projects are designed and managed properly.  This paper presents the common impacts of energy development on wildlife and wildlife habitat that can occur at solar energy developments as well as some unique impacts and benefits to wildlife that are specific to the solar energy industry.  Mitigation and conservation measures will also be discussed.

Dr. d’Entremont is a past member of the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists and is currently a member in good standing with the College of Applied Biology in British Columbia.  He is also a member of the College’s Audit and Practice Review Committee as well as Chair of the Working Group for In Training and Student Support.  He has over 25 years of experience in the public and private sectors and is currently based out of LGL’s Sidney, BC office.  Dr. d’Entremont serves as a key senior resource for work relating to environmental permitting and regulatory affairs, environmental assessment legislation, and assessments of impacts to birds, wildlife and terrestrial and marine resources.  He completed his undergraduate degree in Biology at Acadia University, his Masters degree in Environment and Management at Royal Roads University and his PhD in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia.  Dr. d’Entremont’s core regulatory expertise lies in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Migratory Bird Convention Act, Species at Risk Act, and provincial and territorial Wildlife Acts.  Dr. d’Entremont’s technical expertise is in the field of wildlife management and his recent work has focused on the assessment of project developments on impacts to wildlife, wildlife habitats and terrestrial resources.  Dr. d’Entremont has been involved in numerous projects within the renewable energy sector, where he has managed the preparation of environmental assessment applications, managed the preparation and implementation of environmental management and mitigation plans, and provided senior advice on post-construction monitoring plans for reducing impacts to wildlife.

Bat fatalities at wind energy facilities: population consequences and efforts to reduce the impacts

Robert M.R. Barclay, Professor, University of Calgary


As with all forms of electricity generation, harnessing the wind has ecological consequences. Although habitat loss is an issue for some species, for flying animals such as birds and bats, direct mortality caused by the turbines is the most significant factor.  Fatalities of bats at wind turbines far outnumber those of birds in North America, and are focused primarily on three species of migratory bats during their fall migration.  Modelling and various sources of data support the hypothesis that populations of these species are declining, including in Alberta.  We focus too much attention on fatality measures per turbine or per facility, and not enough on the cumulative effects inherent in migrating populations of bats encountering multiple turbines and facilities as they move south.  While siting facilities where migrating bats are less common would reduce fatality rates, we know little about the migratory paths these bats take.  Methods to warn or scare bats away from turbines are being tested, but the effectiveness and cost is not yet known.  Changing how turbines operate during the migration period significantly reduces bat fatalities, but is becoming more costly as turbines become more efficient in low wind speeds.

Robert Barclay is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary.  He and his students conduct research on the basic biology and conservation biology of various organisms in western and northern Canada, although their focus has been on the ecology, behaviour, and conservation of bats.  Their applied research includes work on the effects of logging, fire, and wind turbines on habitat selection and population viability.

Wildlife and wildlife habitat in the drawdown zones of hydroelectric reservoirs

Virgil Hawkes, M.Sc., R.P.Bio., Vice-President & Senior Wildlife Biologist, LGL Limited Environmental Research Associates


The drawdown zone of a hydroelectric reservoir is a challenging environment for plants and animals, particularly when the annual change in reservoir elevation averages 25 m.  Flooding and flow alteration resulting from reservoir creation and operations combine to create complex disturbances that can modify entire ecosystems.  To assess and potentially mitigate for the varied effects of reservoir operations on wildlife and wildlife habitat occurring in the drawdown zone of Kinbasket Reservoir in southeastern, British Columbia, BC Hydro implemented several longer-term programs to study the occurrence and distribution of select species of wildlife using habitats in the drawdown zone.  The objective of the programs is to understand how reservoir operations affect wildlife and wildlife habitat and whether various mitigation measures can increase the cover and diversity of vegetation growing in the drawdown zone and improve wildlife habitat suitability.  A summary of work conducted between 2007 and 2016 highlights some of the challenges associated with a program of this magnitude, particularly as they relate to the somewhat predictable, but varying effects of changing reservoir elevations.  The results to date of the various revegetation prescriptions, physical works trials, and vegetation and wildlife effectiveness monitoring projects are summarized and a discussion of the data gaps and lessons learned is provided.

Virgil Hawkes has studied wildlife and their habitat relationships in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest, extending from California to coastal, central, eastern, and the north‐central regions of BC, as well as portions of Yukon and Northwest Territories and Alberta, for more than 20 years.  He has conducted studies of terrestrial and aquatic mammals, forest birds, waterfowl and songbirds, terrestrial and aquatic amphibians, and reptiles in many regions of B.C., Washington, Oregon, and California.  Much of his career has focused on the conservation of rare and endangered species and the interaction between rare and endangered species, their habitats, and human-induced disturbances on those habitats.  Mr. Hawkes is currently leading several long-term, large-scale projects to evaluate the impacts of hydroelectric operating regimes on the foreshore development and flora and fauna of reservoirs in British Columbia as well as the impacts that reservoir operational regimes have on wildlife and wildlife habitat.  Related to this is his current involvement with the development of ecosystem-based function goals and objectives to address effects of river regulation, impoundment, and reservoir creation on wildlife and wildlife habitat in affected watersheds of the Canadian Columbia River Basin.

Renewable energy development and wildlife: Alberta Environment and Parks policy and tools

Brandy Downey, Senior Species At Risk Biologist, Alberta Environment and Parks – Operations Division


CO-AUTHORS: Dave Stepnisky, Section Head, Fish and Wildlife Habitat, Alberta Environment and Park – Policy Division; Gavin Berg, Provincial Wildlife Habitat Specialist, Fish and Wildlife Habitat, Alberta Environment and Park – Policy Division

Wind and solar developments pose both direct and indirect risk to wildlife.  Direct impacts include bird and bat collisions with the infrastructure or mortality through other means including but not limited to barotrauma or strandings.  Indirect impacts include fragmentation, habitat loss/degradation, and disturbance from increased human activity on the landscape which may impact habitat use, wildlife productivity, and survival rates.  The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) is the regulator (public interest decision-maker) for construction and operation of solar and wind power developments in Alberta.  Since 2006, Alberta Environment and Parks Fish and Wildlife have been involved in the AUC’s review process by providing a renewable referral report identifying the risk of proposed projects to wildlife and wildlife habitat for all wind and solar energy projects.  This referral is to ensure a wildlife and habitat review is conducted to minimize the risk of wildlife loss and wildlife habitat destruction.  This referral process is a required part of all wind and solar applications in Alberta as defined under AUC Rule 007.  The resulting renewable referral report is used by the AUC to make their regulatory decision and to determine the specific approval conditions for a project.  AEP has developed a suite of tools and policy to support this process including Wildlife Directive for Alberta Solar Energy Projects, Wildlife Directive for Alberta Wind Energy Projects, Bat Mitigation Framework for Wind Power Development and Renewable Energy and Wildlife Sensitivity Map.  The policy and tools are designed to support the Government of Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan while meeting the AEP mandate to manage and conserve wildlife and wildlife habitat.

Brandy Downey completed her education through Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge.  She has worked primarily on the management of species at risk in all three Prairie Provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta).  Brandy has been with the Alberta Government since 2003 and is the Operations Chair of the AEP Renewable Energy and Wildlife Committee.  She has the dubious distinction of reviewing more wind and solar referrals than anyone else within AEP.  Aside from her provincial role on the renewable file, she is also the Provincial Lead for Ferruginous Hawk, Burrowing Owl and the MULTISAR program.  Outside of work, she enjoys hiking, fishing, birdwatching, and camping with her family.