The Grizzly Scat App

Alberta grizzly bear recovery needs non-invasive ways to monitor population trends. Current DNA methods using barb wire hair snags can be expensive and difficult to implement on large scales. In Scandinavia, bear managers advocate the use of hunter volunteers to collect scat DNA samples as a cost-effective monitoring method. This approach offers a robust way to assess populations across large areas with reduced costs, and has the added benefit of engaging citizens and stakeholder groups in the collection of scientific data that is used to make management decisions.

Recently, the fRI Research Grizzly Bear Program and our collaborators in Scandinavia have made significant advancements in extracting DNA from grizzly bear scat. With this exciting development we have implemented pilot projects to assess the feasibility of using scat DNA and citizen science to determine population size, abundance, and distribution of grizzly bears in Bear Management Area (BMA) 3 and Jasper National Park.

Pilot Programs

Information on past pilot projects will be added soon. Please watch this website for future pilot projects or subscribe to our mailing list and be the first to know!

Collection Depots

You must visit a collection depot and pick-up a scat collection kit prior to participating in the pilot.
We will not accept scat samples if they haven't been collected in the issued vials.
You must collect the sample using the app or using one of OUR portable GPS units that can be signed-out at any of our collection depots. 

Hinton

  • Hinton Fish & Wildlife Office
    Provincial Building
    131 Civic Centre Road
    Hinton, Alberta

    Hours:
    8:00am-12:00pm
    1:00pm-4:30pm

    Phone: 780-865-8264

Edson

  • Edson Fish & Wildlife Office
    #203, Provincial Building
    111 54 Street
    Edson, Alberta

    Hours:
    8:00am-12:00pm
    1:00pm-4:30pm

    Phone: 780-723-8244

Drayton Valley

  • Drayton Valley Fish & Wildlife Office
    Main Floor, Penn West Buidling
    6521 50th Ave West
    Drayton Valley , Alberta

    Hours:
    8:00am-12:00pm
    1:00pm-4:30pm

    Phone: 780-542-6616

Rocky Mountain House

  • Rocky Mountain House Fish & Wildlife Office
    2nd Floor, Provincial Building
    4919 54 Street
    Rocky Mountain House

    Hours:
    8:00am-12:00pm
    1:00pm-4:30pm

    Phone: 403-845-8230

Upcoming Info Sessions

Hinton

  • July 30th, 2014

  • 7:00pm

  • Hinton Training Centre
  • Room 134

Edson

  • July 31st, 2014

    7:00pm

  • Edson Provincial Building
  • Room 110

Drayton Valley

  • August 5th, 2014

  • 7:00pm

  • Penn West Building
  • Main Conference Room

Rocky Mountain House

  • August 6th, 2014

  • 7:00pm

  • Provincial Building
  • Room 125A
  • MAP

Why Scat?

Readily Avalible

Scat is fresh and plentiful in the fall as bears prepare for hiberation.

Complementary

DNA from scat samples relates well to existing data-sets and complements ongoing research activities.

Less Invasive

Scat collection doesn't require any human/bear interaction making it less invasive than other sample methods.

Easy to CollecT

It is easy to collect with our provided collection kits.  All you need is the app and a collection kit from one of our regional depots.

Affords Participation

Using scat DNA as an inventory method allows citizen scientists to participate in grizzly bear research.

Transportable

Scat is easy to carry once you have collected it in vials and it is also easy to ship to our lab in Norway for processing.

DNA – species and Sex

DNA from scat provides researchers with information about whether the bear is a grizzly bear or black bear and whether it is male or female. This data forms part of the picture when determining a population estimate and analyzing trends.

DNA – genealogy

Grizzly Bear DNA allows researchers to determine whether the scat sample came from a bear that is already in our database or if the bear is new to us.  We are then able to determine if the sample came from a bear that is related to any other bears in our database.

DNA – Distribution

Knowing where the scat samples are collected helps us to piece together a picture of a bear's home range and distribution.  We can compare this information to existing data if the scat came from a bear that is known to researchers.

WHY a smartphone app?

The provincial distribution of Grizzly Bears makes collecting large amounts of trend monitoring data (scat and hair samples) a logistical challenge. Furthermore, the human and financial resources needed are high. By developing a data collection app that runs on popular smartphones we can reach a large number of Albertans and effectively engage potential citizen scientists to collect this data on our behalf.

The smartphone app will allow citizen scientists to easily record sample information and then submit it directly to our database. Not only that, the app will keep citizen scientists informed about the status of their samples – right from its collection in the field to its arrival at the genetics lab, and the final results of the DNA analysis. As soon as we know the bear’s identity, you will too, along with any other information that we may learn about that individual!

The app and data collection framework are based on three core principles: (1) easily capture data using a mobile device, (2) rapidly process live data, images or documents, and (3) transmit data to our key research applications behind our corporate firewall. More simply put, transmit the data from citizens directly into our database without the need for manual data entry and processing.

How do I get Started?

Step 1

Download the app.

Download the smartphone application from either the iOS app store or Android play store.  If you don't have a smartphone or will be in the backcountry for an extended period of time please contact us.  Depending on the pilot project, we have  a limited number of portable GPS units (shown below) that can be used to log time and location based information.

Step 2

Find a pilot program and register as a citizen scientist.

Open the app and register as a citizen scientist. Ensure you have location services enabled on your Android or iOS device so the GPS can acquire your location which is needed for submitting samples.

Step 3

Obtain scat collection kit from local depot.

Once you have successfully downloaded the app or have made alternative arrangements head to you nearest collection depot to obtain a scat collection package.  Collection depots will vary for each pilot project. You must collect scat in the approved vials issued from our collection depots.

Step 4

Get familiar with the app in advance of your first trip.

You are all geared up! Now get familiar with the app so you will be ready to start contributing to the long term conservation of grizzly bears in Alberta.  You are almost ready to head out and collect scat. But before you do... 

Step 5

...open the app and initiate a trip so we can gauge search effort.

Open your app!  Every time you head out into the field open the app, initiate a trip, and let the app run in the background on your phone. We need scat samples but we also need to understand the effort required to collect those samples.  The app logs this search effort data and shows us what areas of the pilot study are being surveyed and which areas aren't.  Our lucky researchers get to fill in the gaps!

Step 6

Head out on your first trip!

If you are hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, biking or exploring a trail via an off-highway-vehicle you can be contributing to the long term conservation of grizzly bears in Alberta. Thank you for becoming one of Alberta's first grizzly bear citizen scientists and for collecting scat that will support ongoing trend monitoring research!

No smartphone?
No Problem!

i-gotu

If you don’t have a compatible smartphone or will be in the backcountry for an extended period of time please contact us. Depending on the pilot project, we have a limited number of portable GPS units that can be used to log time and location based information when you are out in the field.  The process will require more manual effort but the results are just as valuable as those collected by citizen scientists using a smartphone application. These units have a longer run time (multiple days) compared to that of a smartphone.  Please contact us for more information or sign-out a unit at one of the collection depots set-up for the pilot project that you will be participating in.

WHAT Everyone is Saying

As a long time resident of Hinton and long time employee of fRI Research  I am excited to see technology being used to involve citizens in world class grizzly bear research.

Fran Hanington 
Hinton, Alberta

As a GIS professional with fRI Research, I am excited to see the results of the citizen science samples and look forward to integrating this information into our existing data sets!

Julie Duval
Hinton, Alberta

Rarely do members of the public have a chance to contribute to our research projects.  This is that opportunity.  Citizen science is new ground for fRI Research and I am excited to be involved.

Sean Kinney
Hinton, Alberta

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photo credit : Sylvie Berube Tenniscoe