Development of monitoring program for the Whooping Crane food sources in Wood Buffalo National Park

Regions: South Slave Region

Tags: food web, wildlife, breeding habitat, endangered species, whooping cranes

Principal Investigator: Classen, Claire M (1)
Licence Number: 13797
Organization: University of Alberta
Licenced Year(s): 2005
Issued: May 05, 2005
Project Team: Dr. William Tonn (Project Supervisor, University of Alberta), Dr. Heather Proctor (Project Supervisor, University of Alberta)

Project Description: The last self-sustaining population of whooping cranes breeds in a vast wetland complex in northern Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP), Canada. For the past fifty years, Canada and the United States have participated in successful conservation efforts to prevent the species’ extinction. However, the population of whooping cranes is still not large enough for the cranes to be de-listed from their current endangered status. More research is needed on the whooping cranes' summer breeding habitat. The overall objective of this project is to research and test sampling methods that are appropriate for the potential prey of whooping cranes and for the unique habitat of the WBNP diatom ponds. This will lead to the development of a long-term program to monitor and assess whooping crane prey populations, to be implemented by WBNP.

The researchers will be based in Fort Smith, and will travel daily to their study sites. Two methods of wetland sampling will be done. Active sampling will entail 'timed sweeps' where the sampler will use a dip net to collect all invertebrates in a given area during a given time. Passive sampling means setting 1) 'minnow traps' to collect fish and larger macroinvertebrates, and 2) 'activity traps' to collect smaller macroinvertebrates. Passive traps will be set for about 24 hours. Collected invertebrates will be placed in sample vials and taken to Fort Smith to be processed and preserved. All fish will be identified in the field and released. Ponds will be visited where Preble Creek crosses Highway 5 in WBNP, as well as in the Klewi and Sass River regions north of Highway 5. Preble Creek ponds will be accessed via vehicle, and because no cranes are known to nest in this particular area sampling will begin in early-mid May. Klewi and Sass River ponds will be accessed via helicopter, and sampling in these regions will not occur during critical nesting and rearing stages (mid-May). Approximately 1000 samples will be collected and specimens will be used to make a reference collection for Parks Canada to continue long-term monitoring. Residents of Fort Smith and the surrounding area, as well as Parks Canada employees are invited to volunteer for this project. Volunteers will help sample Preble Creek ponds along Highway 5 in Wood Buffalo National Park. A final report and a reference collection will be kept at the Parks Canada Wood Buffalo National Park headquarters.
The study will be conducted in Wood Buffalo National Park. Sampling locations include where Preble Creek intersects Highway 5 at approximately N 60 02.100, W 113 11.521; and in the Klewi and Sass River regions north of Highway 5 at approximately N 60 19.286, W 113 24.512.