Conservation Volunteers pause during their hike to Gambling Lake to observe a flock of pelicans in the sky. (Photo by NCC)

Conservation Volunteers pause during their hike to Gambling Lake to observe a flock of pelicans in the sky. (Photo by NCC)

There’s a scientist in us all

Citizen science at Gambling Lake

Pollinator at Gambling Lake (Photo by NCC)

Pollinator at Gambling Lake (Photo by NCC)

Citizen science is an up-and-coming way of engaging amateur scientists in scientific research. Nowadays, there are many apps, such as iNaturalist, that encourage contributions from amateur scientists all over the world.

Many organizations, including the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), benefit from and are grateful for the contributions from the public, whether through time, donations or expertise.

This past year, NCC implemented our own citizen science program on the Gambling Lake property, located in Alberta's Cooking Lake Moraine Natural Area. This program was part of a larger native pollinator restoration project.

Equipped with training from NCC staff, a monitoring manual and a passion for nature, several seasoned NCC Conservation Volunteers dedicated themselves to this project.

Over five months, three volunteers spent 20 hours monitoring five different pollinator-friendly planting plots at Gambling Lake. Volunteers visited the plots twice a month and recorded their observations, noting the breakdown between native and non-native pollinators. The plots had also been weeded and replanted with native flowers and shrubs.

The data collected will be used to determine if the replanting efforts were successful in increasing the number of native pollinators on the land. If so, this will be used to direct further initiatives of this kind on this and other properties in Alberta.

“I enjoyed being part of the pollinator monitoring at Gambling Lake,” said citizen scientist Mark Tempest, who contributed 10 hours of monitoring time to the project. “I wanted to follow the native pollinator restoration project through the year and see how the various native plants and shrubs were surviving, as well as what kind of pollinators were present.”

Volunteers removing solarization sheet at Gambling Lake (Photo by NCC)

Volunteers removing solarization sheet at Gambling Lake (Photo by NCC)

One part of the restoration process involved laying down circular sheets of polythene around newly planted species to deter weeds from growing in close proximity and prevent them from outcompeting the new native species.

“I learned that many of the native plants and shrubs established themselves quite well, given the advantage provided by the polythene sheets,” said Mark. “It was interesting to observe the different types of pollinators, including bees, through the year, and which colour and species of flower they preferred.”

The types of pollinators were identified based on visible differences. The highest levels of activity were observed during the late July and early August visits, and fewer types of pollinators were observed early and late in the season. You can see a summary of the results by clicking here.

Thank you to everyone who contributed their time to this project. If you’re interested in lending your hand to citizen science on the Gambling Lake property in 2018, please contact Zoë Arnold, NCC’s Conservation Volunteers program manager, at

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