Award to industry leader illustrates Ducks Unlimited Canada’s growing relationship with cutting-edge GIS technology

Winnipeg, Man., October 21, 2005 – There is simply no denying the importance of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology in wetland and waterfowl conservation.

Recently, Brian Kazmerik, national manager of Ducks Unlimited Canada’s (DUC) Geographic Information Systems, and Dr. Henry Murkin, DUC’s director of conservation programs, presented ESRI Canada’s president Alex Miller, with the prestigious Diamond Teal Award at the annual ESRI Canada Regional User Conference being held this week in Winnipeg.

“It is an honor to be recognized by Ducks Unlimited Canada and a privilege to support their excellent work in wetland conservation,” said Miller. “DUC’s use of GIS technology has facilitated comparison of historical aerial wetland imagery to current images, providing a powerful visual display of the need for wetland restoration, protection, and conservation. We are pleased to work with an organization that is dedicated to making a difference in the conservation and restoration of Canada’s wetlands. I applaud their efforts.”

The ESRI partnership has given DUC access to cutting-edge GIS technology that has illuminated some alarming facts. Recent change detection studies conducted by DUC in several priority watersheds across Prairie Canada have confirmed wetland loss as high as 90%. Theses studies capture baseline wetland distributions from historical photography allowing comparison to current imagery. While DUC has previously confirmed that up to 70 per cent of Canada’s wetlands have been lost in the settled areas of Canada, data from the aerial photo studies suggests that wetland loss could be as high as 90% in highly developed landscapes.

“GIS technology plays a critical role in Ducks Unlimited Canada’s conservation efforts, and it is becoming the strategic planning tool used in all areas of our organization.” said Kazmerik. “From membership information to monitoring policy changes; marketing initiatives to wetland inventory and beyond, GIS is used on a daily basis to strengthen our relationships, guide our efforts, and help us operate as efficiently and effectively as possible. None of this could happen without ESRI Canada’s support.”

Since 1996, ESRI Canada has helped provide DUC with the tools to develop some of Canada’s most advanced GIS applications. These applications have played an important scientific role in many projects and supported the conservation mission as a whole. Past projects involved mapping continental waterfowl movements, conducting regional land inventories, and developing conservation decision support systems. GIS applications are now being used in variety of ways throughout the organization.

Geese in Space was a unique study using satellite technology to track the little known movements of the North Atlantic population of Canada Geese as they migrated up and down the Atlantic coast. Another migration project, in cooperation with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), involved the development of an interactive map system to show the migration of ducks from Canada to the United States and Mexico through the analysis of banding and recovery data. DUC’s GIS and remote sensing specialists have been conducting satellite and aerial photography based land cover inventories since the mid 1980’s to identify wetlands and associated habitats to support conservation efforts in the prairies and the boreal forest regions of Canada.

DUC’s GIS team is currently working on many ambitious projects. A corporate conservation geodatabase is being developed to store and manage features for over 7,000 habitat projects. Users from twenty locations will edit directly against the enterprise geodatabase using a customized ArcEditor extension, referencing local base data and imagery. This nation-wide geodatabase will allow the monitoring of progress towards landscape conservation goals, asset and risk management, as well as sharing spatial habitat information with conservation partners.

The Watershed Legacy project is an educational program being developed to promote awareness and knowledge of water-related resources to create a watershed database (legacy product) that can be expanded and used for a variety of purposes in future years. The Watershed Legacy team will work with communities in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Northwestern Ontario to identify and map the significant natural, cultural, and/or historical features that make their watershed unique. The highlight of the Watershed Legacy project will be an online interactive watershed map site using ESRI’s ArcIMS technology.

A nation-wide wetland inventory is being developed using remote sensing and GIS technologies to support a number of national programs, accords and international commitments to protect and restore Canada's wetlands. The Canadian Wetland Inventory is an enormous project with an estimated 148 million hectares of wetlands in Canada, or about 25% of the world's wetland area. DUC is playing a major role in developing the methods needed to identify wetlands from remotely sensed images with several partners including the Canadian Space Agency and Environment Canada. Once again ESRI’s internet mapping software is being utilized to share study site results.

On a more localized scale DUC is leading efforts to map wetlands in urban environments. The City of Calgary and the Quebec Metropolitan Community have partnered with DUC to produce high-resolution wetland inventories based on aerial photography and satellite imagery. Wetland maps and a geodatabase were created to provide base wetland information. With the creation of these maps partners will be able to integrate wetland conservation into urban planning and raise awareness of the importance of wetlands and natural habitats.

Research, monitoring, and evaluation are key components of developing new conservation initiatives and refining existing programs. GIS technology is instrumental in supporting these efforts. The Spatial and Temporal Variation in Nest Success of Prairie Ducks (SpATS), is a long-term study of how nesting success of Prairie waterfowl varies in relation to landscape composition. ArcGIS is used to classify habitat and perform spatial analyses on waterfowl surveys and nesting data. Species of concern such as Lesser Scaup and Northern Pintail are also the subjects of research studies that rely heavily on GIS technology to collect and analyze spatial information.

DUC Education, and Marketing and Communications are creating a national education GIS project. This is the first of a number of initiatives to support the alignment of their business plan and to guide an urban outreach strategy. The Canadian GIS maps will help focus marketing programs and messages, aligning communication and conservation priority areas. Creating a map based on current and historical education programs will help plan and visually represent our progress toward goals. Spatial analyses will focus on DUC’s Project Webfoot school education program, Canadian conservation efforts, customer profiling and lifestyle clustering.

DUC is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of wetlands and associated habitats for the benefit of waterfowl, wildlife and people. Generous support from individuals, foundations, governments and corporations like ESRI Canada is instrumental to DUC's conservation success. Visit today to learn how you can help save wetlands.

For more information contact:
Sarah Hodges, Ducks Unlimited Canada, 204-467-3202, or Email Contact

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