Augustana students blaze new trails in nearby Beaver Hills Biosphere land

Working with the Global Foundation, three Augustana students are busy identifying plant and animal species and infrastructure, as well as doing watershed analysis and map-making for the 760-acre site in order to help future hikers and volunteers as part of an environmental sciences senior seminar course.

Tia Lalani - 26 February 2020

Students Carson Hvenegaard, Katherine Kenworthy and Kate Lovsin (left to right) are working to provide a framework for hiking and wildlife trails on land in a nearby UN-designated Beaver Hills Biosphere as part of an environmental studies capstone course. Photo courtesy of Global Foundation.

Three fourth-year students from the University of Alberta, Augustana Campus have taken up the challenge to help create miles of hiking and wildlife trails within 760 acres of land, currently owned by Ducks Unlimited, within Camrose County.

Carson Hvenegaard, Katherine Kenworthy and Kate Lovsin began the Community-Service Learning project this year through their capstone environmental science course. It began when Global Foundation (GFoundation) became the designated "MarshKeeper" of the land for Ducks Unlimited, which is in the UN-designated Beaver Hills Biosphere. GFoundation is located in the heart of the Beaver Hills' wetlands in Alberta, and seeks to pursue harmony, promote education and advocate for environmental protection.

Until the end of April, Carson, Katherine and Kate will prepare a framework for conducting a wilderness baseline (including identifying both plant and animal species on the site), against which future observations can be compared. The students will also identify indicators and infrastructure, do watershed analysis, topography probing and map-making for the site. They'll also mark-out where the first trails are to go, part of which will straddle headwaters that feed both the North Saskatchewan and Battle River watersheds.

"We're establishing a system of trails where wilderness hikers/GFoundation volunteers could eventually use their smartphones to report on a range of environmental issues related to wildlife, habitat, plant health or insect behavious," says GFoundation President Winston Gereluk. He said some trails would monitor infrastructure, including fences and buildings.

Gereluk says "the trails will help GFoundation become a better MarshKeeper, by involving more people in the oversight of lands that must be managed and protected, in the long term."

One of the students working on the project, Kate Lovsin, really likes the fact that GFoundation aims to educate the public. "I got into my degree in environmental science to hopefully educate the masses on environmental policy and consult in management techniques across various landscapes," she said. "This project is in line with my post-school goals and gives me an opportunity to practice these skills in a low stakes environment while still affecting change in a local way."

The capstone course is led by professor Glen Hvenegaard, who teaches environmental science at Augustana. He says the Community-Service Learning Project is aimed at providing learning opportunities for students while serving the community.

Because project is ambitious, and still in the early stages it will likely lead to future CSL placements with the GFoundation to continue to the work that these students began on gathering baseline data, as well as creating educational tools for private landowners.