Riding Mountain Forum – March 20-21

The Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve (RMBR) hosts the 2009 Knowledge and Research Forum at the Elkhorn Resort, Spa and Conference Centre.  The purpose of the forum is:

With the assistance of knowledgeable local individuals, experts, researchers, institutes and agencies,

  • To identify the critical areas of knowledge and research that is needed within the RMBR to ensure healthy and sustainable communities, working landscapes and protected areas.
  • To identify an expanded list of individuals, research institutes and agencies that could be involved in future forums and initiatives
  • To identify a group of interested individuals that would provide on going guidance in the gathering of knowledge and research within the RMBR into the future.    

I look forward to participating in this forum, as an invited member.  Lots to learn.  The Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve, in my view, is one of the best locations in Western Canada for investment, business, research, and sustainable tourism over the next few decades.

Why? Because the emerging local carbon economy requires leadership communities where people, businesses, producers, and tourism operators can work together to demonstrate how our economy and environment can sustain each other.  We are blessed by having Riding Mountain National Park in our backyard.  

However, the economic investments that will help local people to sustain themselves will need to include clean energy production (wind, solar, geothermal), agriculture that demonstrates lower scales of production without intensive chemical management, cattle that are range-managed and grass-fed (not feedlot), environmental research and monitoring that is state-of-the-art (and complements the national park mandate), and the establishment of sustainable tourism businesses (new tourism experiences; opportunities for youth to learn about climate change and environmental science; new travel experiences; new B&B accommodations; year-round tourism).    

The Benefits

If we can sustain these types of activities, we will demonstrate community viability (wealth generated by economic activities that keeps local people here and help to nourish and protect the national park, water systems, and ecological health of the area), and long-term sustainability.  I’ll be Twittering as I learn from the forum.  Stay tuned!


Lab at Riding Mountain National Park centre for scientific research


Dissecting Lymph Nodes from White-Tailed Deer to assess for diseases

Dissecting Lymph Nodes from White-Tailed Deer to assess for diseases

[Photo by Cate Watrous]

Roxanne Grzela, a technician at the lab in  RMNP  examines  the  lymph  node  from a white-tailed deer shot east of Onanole  earlier  in  the  day. Grzela is part of a team of researchers who work  at  the  lab  to  monitor wildlife health in deer and elk populations living in and around the park.


From November to January, staff at Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP) receive up to 50 samples of white-tailed deer and elk daily from hunters participating in the wildlife health monitoring program. For the general public, this may be the only work that the lab at the Maintenance Compound does that they are familiar with, but this facility is involved in many other research projects as well.

RMNP with its varied ecosystems is an ideal location for scientists to examine species within their natural habitats. The lab serves as a hub for Parks Canada Agency (PCA) initiated studies about the Riding Mountain area, as well as for visiting researchers who use it as a remote base for processing samples collected in the park.

Since an expansion to the lab in 2002, this facility has played a role in studying a variety of wildlife species: wolf, deer, elk, coyote, beaver, fish, songbirds, waterfowl, and insects. Also coordinated through the lab are research projects on plant species. In these plant studies, field sampling plots are monitored for signs of environmental change as well as for the effects of fire.

Clear Lake Project – This past summer, as it has for several years now, monitoring Clear Lake has been an important part of the work done by RMNP staff. In their water sampling program, they are looking at water chemistry, total phosphorus and nitrogen content, as well as checking for pathogens and water clarity. It is hoped that this data will provide a snapshot of the health of this very special lake, and help RMNP, along with its First Nations partners and community stakeholders, to develop strategies to keep the “clear” in Clear Lake now and into the future.

Wildlife Health – From November to January, the lab processes deer and elk samples brought in from Game Hunting Areas (GHA) 23 and 23A. It also acts as a depot for the many check stations that surround RMNP, including McCreary, Dauphin, Grandview, Russell, Roblin, and Rossburn where hunters in those areas can drop off their samples. RMNP technicians examine these samples for signs of disease. They also coordinate elk population surveys, blood test programs, and elk movement studies as part of a larger strategy to manage wildlife health in the Riding Mountain Area.  

The management of RMNP is an important responsibility involving consultations with partners and discussions with stakeholders. Planning for the protection of the ecological integrity of the park is enhanced by the monitoring and research being done by RMNP’s Resource Conservation staff.   The science-based information that they gather helps to make sound decisions about how best to preserve and present the natural and cultural heritage for present and future generations of Canadians.

-Information Bulletin from Riding Mountain National Park