The Beaver Hills Biosphere is excited to host you at our first ever open house, forum and mini trade show. In all, it will be a great opportunity to learn, connect and network with others who are interested in and passionate about all the Beaver Hills Biosphere has to offer. Here's a snapshot of what's in store.

Please note, if you are attending one or both days of our event, here are the parking options at the Strathcona County Community Centre.

Day 1 - Open House - March 1, 2023

6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

We begin our two-day event by re-introducing the Beaver Hills Biosphere and exploring the importance of two-eyed seeing within the Biosphere with our keynote speakers, Amber Paquette, Nehiyaw and Métis multi-disciplinary artist, writer, educator and storyteller and Edmonton’s 6th historian laureate, and Dylan Reade, documentary filmmaker and IMAX cameraman whose credits include the Biosphere’s series of video vignettes that recount the stories of the Beaver Hills from past to present.

Beverages and refreshments will be served. In addition, our partners, stakeholders, fellow non-profit organizations and community groups will be present at our mini trade show to highlight their activities and programs.

Amber Paquette, Nehiyaw and Métis multi-disciplinary artist, researcher, filmmaker

About Amber

Amber is a Nehiyaw and Métis multi-disciplinary artist, researcher, filmmaker and the 6th Historian Laureate for the City of Edmonton. Amber was born and raised in amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton). She has worked as researcher, story-teller and Indigenous People's Interpreter for several years. Her work with the public has centered on the historic representation of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities who have lived on Treaty 6 Territory since time immemorial. 

She has a passion for exploring traditional Indigenous lifeways, ethnobotany, trade relationships, gender roles and the imprint of past human and ecological relationships which continue to shape the land today. She is Director and Executive Producer of the documentary series Miskamowin, a historical documentary project dedicated to the history of amiskwaciwâskahikan, which collaboratively explores the histories, stories and legacies of the places we call home."

Amber's Presentation: Indigenous Stewardship: Ecological and Human Relations on the Landscape

A discussion on Indigenous land and resource management systems and the importance of co-constituted relationships within our biospheres.

Dylan Reade, documentary filmmaker and local history enthusiast
Dylan is the one on the right.

About Dylan

Dylan Reade is a documentary filmmaker and local history enthusiast. His forty-year career in the film industry began with an internship at the National Film Board and includes three decades as an international cameraman specializing in the formats of IMAX and IMAX 3D. He has created nine short films celebrating the Beaver Hills Biosphere. Stay tuned for more!

Dylan's Presentation: The Biospherians 

"The Biospherians" presents a sneak peek of works in progress for the ongoing Beaver Hills Biosphere video series. Clips from the upcoming episodes BHB-10 and BHB-11 will reveal how all of the stories told to date now fold together into a narrative of the Biosphere in its entirety and of the many threads of community linking its past to its present.

Day 2 - Forum - March 2, 2023

8:30 am - 4:00 pm

On day two, we delve deeper into the work underway in the Biosphere. We will share what we do, what we are passionate about and explore the untapped opportunities the Biosphere has to offer through a variety of presentations from engaging speakers talking about the important projects that have taken place within the Biosphere and which are defining what it means to be a learning place for sustainable development. The day wraps up with a speaker panel, inviting questions and open discussion from attendees.

Beverages and a light meal will be served. In addition, our partners, stakeholders, fellow non-profit organizations and community groups will be present at our mini trade show to highlight their activities and programs.

Brian Ilnicki, Executive Director, Beaver Hills Biosphere

The Beaver Hills Biosphere – A Learning Place for Sustainable Development 

Speaker Bio: For more than 30 years, Brian has been bringing people together to work on common priorities for achieving sustainability on the landscape. Working throughout the diverse landscapes of Alberta, Brian has partnered with individuals, organizations and all levels of government to design and implement conservation and stewardship programs that benefit landowners, land managers and biodiversity. Brian has served as the Executive Director of the Beaver Hills Biosphere since 2019.

Presentation Summary: The Beaver Hills Biosphere is located just 20 minutes east Edmonton and encompasses an area of approximately 1600 square kilometres (618 square miles) that includes portions of the counties of Strathcona, Leduc, Lamont, Beaver and Camrose. The Beaver Hills, known as amiskwaciy in Cree, is a special place that provides a diversity of productive, critical habitat to many species of wildlife and migratory bird species, and is home to many people, past and present. As one of Canada’s newest Biospheres, the Beaver Hills Biosphere has embarked on a variety of projects and initiatives that focus on conservation of biological and cultural diversity, land use planning and community engagement. This presentation will provide an overview of some of these key initiatives and explore areas of future programs and community engagement.


Seeing things: A multi-method approach for detecting biodiversity in the Beaver Hills Biosphere

Speaker Bio: Dr. Glynnis Hood is an ecologist and Professor of Environmental Science and Vice Dean at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus in Camrose. Prior to signing on with the university, she worked for 24 years in various protected areas, from Canada’s west coast to the subarctic. In July 2007, she left a 19-year career with Parks Canada’s warden service and followed her passion for teaching and research. Her research interests include aquatic ecology, wildlife management, and human-wildlife interactions. She is the author of Semi-aquatic mammals: Ecology and Biology and The Beaver Manifesto. Her first children's book, A Cabin Christmas, was released in November 2022.

Presentation Summary: The Beaver Hills Biosphere (BHB) supports high levels of biodiversity and provides critical habitat for many species; however, quantifying use of these habitats by various species can be challenging, especially for cryptic or rare species. This study examines habitat associations of a broad range of species within the Beaver Hills Biosphere Reserve in Alberta. Using a multi-method detection approach – including camera boxes and camera rafts, eDNA, and sign surveys, we were able to dramatically advance our understanding of biodiversity in the BHB. We identified over 84 wildlife species via specially designed cameras boxes alone. Using eDNA, we identified four semi-aquatic mammals (American water shrew, northern bog lemming, mink, and river otter). Spatial distribution of beavers and muskrats in all of the protected areas were detected through extensive winter sign surveys. In addition, citizen scientists, using the iNaturalist app, provided an inventory of over 1,600 species within the BHB, including fungi, plants, and large mammals. The use of modified camera traps dramatically increased detection of cryptic riparian species, while the use of eDNA and iNaturalist enhanced detection of species that were not readily “captured” by traditional studies alone. 

Shari Clare, Fiera Biological Consulting Ltd.

From wetlands to wetlandscape: opportunities for collaborative wetland management in the BHB 

Speaker Bio: Shari Clare is a professional biologist and one of the co-founders of Fiera Biological Consulting Ltd., an environmental consulting firm based in Edmonton. Shari has over 20 years of experience working in western Canada and specializes in watershed management, wetland ecology, and conservation planning. Over the last decade, Shari has focused a great deal of her professional and academic work on creating better tools and policies for managing wetlands, including more accurate inventories and standardized methods for assessing wetland and riparian habitat condition using GIS and remote sensing technology. She also has expertise in developing and critiquing environmental policy, and in ecosystem service assessments, including the use of market-based instruments to improve environmental management outcomes.

Presentation Summary: The Beaver Hills Biosphere Reserve is well known for its unique knob and kettle topography, which has resulted in an abundance of wetlands. These wetlands provide essential habitat for many aquatic and terrestrial species, while also providing important ecosystem services to communities within the Biosphere, as well as those further afield. As ecosystems that receive atmospheric, surface water, and groundwater inputs, wetlands are important sentinels of local and regional ecosystem change. Despite their environmental importance, it is estimated that more than half of the wetland habitat that existed in the BHB prior to European settlement has been lost, with the primary drivers of loss being agricultural production and urbanization. These losses have resulted in changes to regional biodiversity, as well as major surface water management challenges across the BHB. There are a range of existing policies and programs that can be leveraged by landowners, municipalities, and other organizations to restore or enhance wetlands in the BHB to address these challenges; however, effectively utilizing these resources, and navigating the complex legal and policy requirements for wetland restoration, requires collaboration and a new approach that moves away from restoring single wetlands, and towards restoring the larger wetlandscape. This presentation will explore what opportunities exist for collaboratively maintaining existing wetlands in the BHB, as well as restoring those that have been lost.

Dr. Greg King, University of Alberta Augustana Campus

Dendroarchaeology in the Beaver Hills: Contributions toward hydrological reconstructions

Speaker Bio: Dr. Greg King is an assistant professor of environmental science at the University of Alberta Augustana Campus located in Camrose. His research investigates tree response to environmental drivers, specifically using tree-rings and dendrochronology. He has worked in northern and alpine ecosystems and is now applying research methods to urban forests and working on a regional climate history in the Beaver Hills Biosphere located east of Edmonton. Greg teaches a range of courses in the Environmental Science and Sustainability Studies majors at Augustana including a project-based sustainability course as well as courses on climatology, soils, biogeography, and the science of climate change. 

Presentation Summary: Water is a key characteristic of the UNESCO Beaver Hills Biosphere and despite this integral connection our knowledge of historic water levels is quite limited. Often attributed to declines in precipitation, current lake levels are estimated to be 9 feet lower than the historic high, but there are few long-term records. Stories in local histories and old newspapers, old photographs and estimates of occasional years made by previous researchers are the only sources of information on lake levels prior to 1958 - when regular measurement began. However, the potential of using natural archives to extend this record exists! Those archives are in the form of annual ring widths collected from old white spruce trees within the Biosphere along with logs from cabins of some of the initial European settlers. These ring widths have the potential to connect with regional precipitation and water level changes in Cooking Lake developing a timeline of change that extends from today back through time to the early 1800’s and beyond. In this presentation I will explain how we used a combination of living and long-dead trees to build a long-term record that has the potential to reconstruct environmental signals inferred from the annual tree-ring records and to provide support for local historical resources that are relatively unknown.

Lexi Maxwell, Environmental Planner & Landscape Designer

A Review of Municipal Policies within the Biosphere

Speaker Bio: Lexi Maxwell is an environmental planner and landscape designer with EDS Group Inc. (EDS). Lexi's work with EDS primarily focuses on working with municipal governments to design and plan parks and open space. With a background in landscape architecture and community planning, Lexi applies an interdisciplinary lens to her work, recognizing the important role that outdoor spaces play in climate action and social equity. Lexi holds a Master in Community and Regional Planning from the University of British Columbia and Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from the University of Guelph.

Presentation Summary: This research was completed to catalyze conversation between the Beaver Hills Biosphere (the Biosphere) and its municipal partners, the Counties of Leduc, Strathcona, Lamont, Camrose, and Beaver. An inventory of the planning tools (statutory plans, non-statutory plans, strategies, initiatives, policies, and partnerships) that municipal partners utilize in the management of land, water, air, and biodiversity was created to understand the existing environmental planning landscape. This research also identified gaps and opportunities for municipal policies, tools, and partnerships that support shared goals between the Biosphere and partner municipalities.

Michael Boyd

Declining Water Levels in the Lakes of the BHB: A History and Current State of Miquelon, Ministik, Cooking and Hastings Lakes

Speaker Bio: Mike worked for the Alberta Government for 32 years and during that time was involved in research projects related to wildlife, recreation, sports, economic impact, tourism and energy. He finished his career with Alberta Energy in 2010 as a Senior Director. After retiring Mike developed an interest in local history. He researched and wrote a book detailing the lengthy history of the Lakeview Pavilion which operated on Cooking Lake for almost 50 years. He is currently working on a study of lake water levels in the Beaver Hills Biosphere as well as writing a history of the past resorts of Cooking Lake. He is a volunteer Associate Researcher with the Strathcona County Museum and Archives. All of his research is conducted without charge and is available to the public. Mike holds a BSc and a Master’s of Environmental Design.

Presentation Summary: The history of water level changes in four major BHB lakes is reviewed from 1900 to the present based on historical accounts and available data. Weather records going back as far as 1884 were examined. All four lakes have suffered major declines in water levels. The time period from 1998 to the present is of particular concern with several lakes losing as much as 2 metres in depth. The effects of precipitation and evaporation are considered and the implications for these lakes discussed.

Carnivores, Connectivity and Coexistence: Getting Ahead of Human-Wildlife Conflicts in the Beaver Hills Biosphere Reserve

Speaker Bio: Ramona is currently an Ecologist Team Lead with Elk Island National Park. Prior to that, she was the territorial carnivore specialist for Yukon. Ramona completed her doctorate at the University of Calgary, and holds a Masters in Natural Resource Management from Simon Fraser. She has work for the IUCN to monitor the implementation of the tiger status assessments across India, and has worked across Canada to develop orphan cub policies, examine the effects of forestry on grizzly bear habitat fragmentation, genetically delineate coastal wolf populations, understand the implications of disease on wildlife populations, and develop management plans for species. She currently sits as an active member on the Beaver Hills Biosphere Science Committee. She grew up in Sherwood Park, and currently lives, works and plays in the Biosphere.

Presentation Summary: Elk Island National Park is one of the core protected areas in the Beaver Hills Biosphere, and is also considered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as one of the last remnants of the aspen parkland ecosystem. It is an important reservoir for elk and bison, providing seed populations to recover these species across North America. In an effort to protect these important conservation herds, large carnivores were extirpated from the Beaver Hills, all the way up to the 1970’s, pushing their ranges to the north and west, into undeveloped landscapes. With a strong global shift toward greater conservation mindedness over the last 5 decades, and a reduction in direct killing, cougars, wolves and black bears have started to expand their ranges across North America, bringing these species back to the Beaver Hills, and many of the places they historically occupied. However, the landscape in the Beaver Hills has undergone significant change in the last 100 years, with residential, agricultural and industrial developments now occupying significant portions of the historical range of these species. Return of these species is fraught with the potential for conflicts with humans, which can in turn erode public will for conservation of the species. To get ahead of the potential conflicts that may result from these range expansions, Elk Island National Park is working with regional partners and stake holders to understand where conflicts might happen, and how education programs can be effectively applied in these areas. Elk Island is also supporting work of the Beaver Hills Biosphere to develop an engagement strategy and plan to work with stakeholders and partners to prevent and mitigate conflicts within the Biosphere. The goal is to create a working landscape where coexistence between people and wildlife is an underlying principle.

Bob Montgomery, Indigenous Engagement Coordinator

NIB: Re-establishing First Nations and Métis presence in the Beaver Hills Biosphere

Speaker Bio: Bob Montgomery (he/him) comes from both settler (Scottish/Irish) and Métis (Cree/Scottish) ancestral lineages. He embodies his ancestry through work that focuses on the land and learning to live more harmoniously with it. Bob is the BHB's Indigenous Engagement Coordinator.

Presentation Summary: Beyond acknowledging Indigenous prior presence on the land BHB is searching for ways to ensure that Indigenous peoples can live out their cultures and responsibilities to their homelands everyday including through: ceremony, language, harvesting and kinship. Two First Nations (Papaschase First Nation Association #136 & Louis Bull Tribe), one Indigenous organization (Indigenous Knowledge and Wisdom Centre) and the Beaver Hills Biosphere partnered to host land-based learning camps throughout the last year. These camps facilitated re-connection between people and their homelands. Our hope is that reconnection will facilitate renewed relationships, healing and eventually Indigenous peoples and their knowledges will guide all conservation work moving forward as they have for past millennia.

Milena McWatt, Green Acreages Coordinator, Land Stewardship Centre

Rural Residential Stewardship in the Beaver Hills Biosphere

Speaker Bio: Milena (she/her) grew up in rural northern Alberta and has a Master’s in Resource and Environmental Management from Dalhousie University and a degree in Biology from the University of Alberta. With a professional background in stewardship outreach, environmental education, and project management, Milena is thrilled to be working with rural municipalities and landowners to promote and facilitate stewardship initiatives on privately-held acreages and recreational properties across the province through Land Stewardship Centre's Green Acreages Program and the Beaver Hills Biosphere.

Presentation Summary: This presentation will provide an overview of the application of Land Stewardship Centre's Green Acreages Program to the Beaver Hills Biosphere context. Rural residential landowners have the opportunity to have significant cumulative effects on the state of the biosphere's air, water, soil and wildlife resources and the associated ecosystem services that these provide. We will also discuss some of the BHB-specific content that has been developed for the Green Acreages Guide workbook resource and opportunities for municipalities and acreage, hobby farm and recreational property owners to participate in the program, including stewardship incentives for landowners.

To wrap up day two, all our presenters will participate in a panel discussion, inviting questions and open discussion from attendees.

Both Days: Trade Show

Several of our partners, stakeholders, fellow non-profit organizations and local community groups will be participating in our mini trade show to highlight their activities and programs. We are grateful for their support and invite you to stop by and chat with them during the open house and forum.