Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Conference
Winnipeg, Manitoba
February 19 - 21, 2019

Young Professional Stewarship Grants - 2016 Recipients

Aaron Bell – Saskatchewan

“Chasing Tigers: population assessment of the imperiled Gibson’s Big Sand Tiger Beetle in the Saskatchewan Sand Hills.”

Biography: Aaron is a naturalist and ecological entomologist from La Ronge, Saskatchewan. Aaron graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in 2012 with an honours degree in biology. His undergraduate thesis focused on the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals on the premigratory behaviour of red-winged black birds. Although initially interested in birds and fish, Aaron made the leap to studying insects when he began working for a Saskatchewan-based NGO called TRoutreach towards the end of his undergrad. His work with TRoutreach led to the discovery of several new provincial insect records for Saskatchewan, including a new family of caddisfly in the Cypress Hills. These exciting discoveries led him to continue his work with insects and on to a master’s degree at the University of Alberta focusing on carabid beetles and the island biogeography of Lac la Ronge. Aaron hopes that through education and awareness, he can help foster a greater appreciation for insects and all they have to offer. When not staring at beetles through a microscope, Aaron spends his time playing music, sports, and enjoying the great outdoors.

Project summary: The Canadian Sand Hills are major hotspots of biodiversity in Canada. As a result, the loss of these habitats through gradual dune stabilization presents a serious conservation concern for many dune-adapted species. Tiger beetles are iconic flagship species for conservation of the sand hills due to their use as model organisms of ecology and evolution.The Gibson’s Big Sand Tiger Beetle is listed as ‘Threatened’ under COSEWIC. However, current population numbers are unknown and less than a quarter of historical collection sites have been confirmed since initial assessment. Aaron plans on inventorying the abundance and distribution of the tiger beetle while engaging the public to promote stewardship and conservation of sand hill ecosystems in Saskatchewan. School districts from the surrounding areas will actively participate in field activities and workshops orchestrated by TRoutreach staff and volunteers. This project aims to provide information that is crucial to the status report of the tiger beetlewhile engaging the public to help foster appreciation for biodiversity and promote stewardship of sand hill ecosystems.

 Aaron Bell


Jordan Becker – Manitoba

“Manitoba Trails Project”

Biography: As an avid outdoorsman, Jordan has dedicated both his personal and professional life to environmental conservation. Upon graduating from the University of Manitoba in 2010, his diverse career has included working for various government and non-government organizations and has provided Jordan the means to explore the magnificent ecological diversity across all of Manitoba from the far north to the southern prairies. As a Conservation Biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Jordan is now able to take an active role in the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems and be truly engaged in conservation. For him, no place in the world matches the boreal shield for its rugged beauty and tranquility.  Jordan spends most of his spare time with his young family and looks forward to introducing his two sons to the world of hiking, camping, skiing and backpacking in the coming years. When he’s not enjoying Manitoba’s wilderness, Jordan enjoys spending time in his second adopted home, Italy.

Project summary: Despite having a diverse and well-maintained recreational trail system, it remains difficult to find detailed information and explore the hiking opportunities in Manitoba. The establishment of a database and interactive website encompassing all recreation trail opportunities in Manitoba would provide the public with the means to explore all trails within Manitoba and increase the public’s awareness of natural history and biodiversity conservation through increased visitation to natural areas in the province. This project aims to increase awareness and usage of hiking trails by establishing a website housing all of the information in one place. Data for the website would be collected through various channels, including partner sharing agreements, user (crowdsourced) collected data and aerial photo interpretation. In total, the goal is to compile at least 100 trails during the first two years of the project. All data will be made openly available to the public in multiple formats for private use.

 Jordan Becker

 *Chris Friesen and Cary Hamel accepting the award on Jordan's behalf.


Laura Griffin - Alberta

“Engaging Communities in Nocturnal Conservation: Why Nocturnal Preserves are Needed in Canada”

Biography: Laura has been the Educational Interpreter at the ASCCA for over six years, where she enjoys sharing her love of the environment with school groups. She is actively engaged in the creation and delivery of the ASCCA’s school programs. Born in Calgary, Laura loved exploring the parks and mountains around her home and was particularly fond of tracking animals at night. Her passion for ecology led her to complete an applied bachelors degree in Ecotoursim and Outdoor Leadership (ETOL). Her degree also provided her with opportunities to work as a videographer. She conducted and filmed both interviews and expeditions across Alberta and Baffin Island. Laura is excited to be given the opportunity to work on a project that shares her enthusiasm for protecting the nocturnal world.

Project summary: The Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area (ASCCA) is made up of 4800 acres of rolling foothills and  is home to over 400 plant species and an abundance of insects, birds, and mammals. Located just SW of the City of Calgary, the ASCCA protects habitat for native species of wildlife while providing people with the opportunity to experience nature first hand though education programs and hikes. In 2015 the ASCCA became the first Nocturnal Preserve in Canada as recognized by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC). This project will focus on two deliverables to engage and educate community members on the importance of preserving dark skies for wildlife.  Firstly, The ASCCA will produce an Educational Video on Nocturnal Preserves and Light Pollution Impacts on Native Nocturnal Species. Using footage of experts, animals, education participants and the ASCCA to bring a further appreciation about the nocturnal world and its inhabitants into the public’s eye, the video will be used as an outreach tool into the community and will showcase simple ways that citizens and communities can make a difference to conserving the nocturnal environment in prairie and parkland ecosystems. Secondly, Community Learning Events will be designed and delivered to engage community members in the natural surroundings and become better nocturnal stewards. By providing both practical and informative sessions we will strive to become a leading example in the community of what it means to be a Nocturnal Preserve for wildlife under the RASC 's guidelines.

 Laura Griffin

 * Kayla Balderson Burak and Brandy Downey accepting the award on Laura's behalf.