The effects of climate change and human activities on mountain species and ecosystems

Principal Investigator: Stan Boutin, Professor, University of Alberta 



This project supports high-quality land- and place-based research that identifies and addresses urgent challenges and opportunities important to mountain communities and other knowledge users.


Project 1 will address how Indigenous and scientific partners can come together to identify how and where to successfully restore mountain caribou to ecologically- and culturally-significant numbers. Severe population declines have been observed in southern mountain caribou populations, leading to formal listing under the Species at Risk Act. Declines are linked to resource extraction and the associated governance of landscapes that has marginalized communities most affected by caribou decline. Consequently, the restoration and management of culturally and ecologically functional populations of caribou brings to the fore conflicts between pathways to reconciliation, new legal frameworks, economic growth, and evidence-based policy making. 

Project 2 will address the ways that classic western natural science can move toward two-eyed seeing by training Indigenous and academic trainees to learn how mountain species and ecosystems are changing in response to climate change. Dr. Boutin et al. have been conducting detailed ecological studies in the Kluane region since 1977 and this has become the most comprehensive and long-term ecological monitoring program in Canada and possibly even in the world (high quality land- and place-based research that identifies and addresses urgent challenges and opportunities important to mountain communities). The Community Ecological Monitoring Program (CEMP) is a partnership between biologists at Environment Yukon, Yukon College, Squirrel Camp, and the Outpost Research Station at Kluane Lake. We will use this longterm program as a test case to determine how western science and Indigenous ways of knowing and doing can be braided through
an on-the-land training approach for Indigenous and academic trainees.

Key Outcomes & Impact:

  • Work with the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations to assess the SARA partnership agreement and efficacy of short-term actions for recovery of the Klinse-Za caribou herd.
  • Identify prescriptive measures required to recover caribou (e.g., road density and forest cover targets, specific roads to decommission) which would position us to collaborate with the Nations and provincial governments on habitat restoration.
  • Provide a tool to support Indigenous-led conservation for one of Canada’s most imperiled wildlife species in the only part of their range where population recovery is succeeding.
  • Leverage data from the Community Ecosystem Monitoring Program (collected since 1977) to address questions related to global warming effects on mountain species and ecosystems.
  • Develop ways of effectively exchanging ways of knowing between western natural scientists and Indigenous knowledge holders through Indigenous youth on-the-land learning.

Other Team Members:

Mark Hebblewhite, Professor, University of Montana
Tom Jung, Senior Biologist, Yukon Government
Dennis Murray, Professor, Trent University
Charles Krebs, Emeritus Professor, UBC
Alice Kinney, Research Associate, UBC
Rudy Boonstra, Professor, University of Toronto
Murray Humphries, Professor, McGill University
Adam Ford, Assistant Professor, Canada Research Chair in Wildlife Restoration Ecology, University of British Columbia
Scott McNay, Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society
Aerin Jacob, Y2Y Inititative
Tamara Dokkie, West Moberly First Nation
Chief Roland Willson, West Moberly First Nation
Estelle Lavi, Saulteaux First Nation
Naomi Owens, Saulteaux First Nation