Well, there’s an app for that!
Within the confines of his office located in the Biological Sciences Building at the University of Alberta, Dr. Mark Boyce scans reams of data which is proving to be useful when it comes to getting a handle on just how many moose there are in Alberta.
Organizing hunters to help track moose populations is not a new concept. Norway and Sweden have been relying on hunter observations for 30 years. Aware of the success these two countries are having regarding solid moose population numbers, Dr. Boyce and an undergraduate student at the U of A developed an app in 2012 to better reflect hunting practices here in Alberta. Since then, results have been positive according to Boyce, “What has been shown is a strong correlation between the number of moose seen by hunters and those counted by biologists flying surveys.” It would validate the role hunters can play in contributing to science, providing certain guidelines are met.
The app will remind hunters at the end of each day to enter the number of moose seen. Even if the hunter happens to be out of cell phone coverage, the information is stored and automatically sent to Boyce’s computer once a cell tower is within range. While the technical issues of the app appear to be worked out, there is still one drawback according to Mark, and that’s the number of hunters participating in the moose survey.
Still, the information being collected is solid according to Boyce. To the point, the data being collected by hunters could be trusted to verify moose populations in those WMU’s (Wildlife Management Units) during the periods where aerial surveys are not being flown over that particular area — which in some cases could be as long as 10 years.
Other applications of this app are being picked up. Alberta's Transportation Department has developed a data-gathering application called the Alberta Wildlife Watch. According to department spokesperson Julie MacIassic, "This is the first of its kind developed by the province. The Alberta Wildlife Watch program uses a smartphone application that allows our operations and maintenance staff to track animal carcass and live sightings throughout the province. Staff can quickly enter highly accurate GPS locations, take photos and enter the type of animal sighted via their smartphone."
As Alberta continues to grow in population and we expand our resource base, it will be ever more important to have good information on how our growth is impacting wildlife and habitat. Such information will go a long way to helping managers can make informed decisions.
Listen to the full interview on the development of the Moose App with Dr. Boyce: