A Creative First-Nations Workshop in Manitoba
by Christian Artuso, Bird Studies Canada Manitoba Program Manager
|Birding at Opaskwayak Cree Nation|
Photo by Christian Artuso
While the BEN Bulletin focuses mainly on implications for bird education in the U.S., we have here an opportunity to highlight an effort by our neighbors to the north. Here is a description of a creative bird-education activity in Manitoba, led by Bird Studies Canada and the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources. It may present an interesting model for others.
The Manitoba Program of Bird Studies Canada (BSC) and the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER) have begun delivering a series of capacity-building workshops at northern Manitoba First Nations. These workshops are funded by the Canadian federal government's AFSAR program (Aboriginal Funds for Species At Risk). This fall, workshops were conducted at Dahlu T'ua (Northlands Dene) at Lac Brochet, which has no road access, in northwestern Manitoba, and also at Opaskwayak Cree Nation near The Pas, in west-central Manitoba.
These workshops were designed to provide upper high school students with the equipment (BSC donated GPS units, binoculars, and field guides) and basic knowledge needed to become involved in, or perhaps embark upon a career in, wildlife monitoring. Practical examples of monitoring protocols and fieldwork exercises utilize the framework of the
Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas
. These workshops began with the basic principles of bird identification. Although there was a lot of ground to cover, it is interesting to note the capacity for observation that many of these students already possessed, which they quickly put to use when asked to identify birds from photographs in teams.
Following a brief introduction on GPS technology, the students were also quick to show off their ability to navigate using hand-held GPS units. On the second day, these skills were brought together with an outdoor field exercise, identifying and recording birds and their precise locations and later entering this information into a database.
The workshops were very well attended and were seen as a resounding success. Some youth demonstrated exceptional talent and showed strong interest. BSC and CIER will revisit these communities for a follow-up workshop in the spring, and an evening information session will also be held for interested community members. We also discuss community-based environmental monitoring, Species At Risk, and options available to help communities further develop monitoring projects.
Celebrate with a Christmas Bird Count!
The 114th Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count will take place Dec 14, 2013 to January 5, 2014. The longest running Citizen Science survey in the world, Christmas Bird Count provides critical data on population trends. Tens of thousands of participants know that it is also a lot of fun. Data from the over 2,300 circles are entered after the count and become available for review online. Locate a free CBC today near you!