by Genevieve Rowe
Our Native Pollinator Initiative is fortunate to work in several of Canada’s provinces, each with their own set of species, landscapes, and conservation challenges. Our team has spent the past three bumble bee seasons at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, a protected area just outside of Calgary that is uniquely located where the prairie grasslands meet the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Alberta Program Coordinator, Tiffani Harrison (left) and Lead Biologist, Genevieve Rowe (right) at the entrance to Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park in 2019.
With its diverse set of habitats and pollinator communities, Glenbow Ranch has given us an opportunity to do what our team does best—educate and engage communities, and fill in knowledge gaps in pollinator ecology. We’ve certainly been feeling at home on the range working in Glenbow Ranch, and here are a few reasons why.
Pollinators love Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park
Gathering information about the whereabouts and abundance of different bee species within a region is the first step in allowing us to understand changes that might occur in bee populations in the future. It also helps the provincial park with their management strategies, species assessments, and conservation priorities.
Since our work began in 2017, and with the help of our amazing volunteers, we have recorded a total of 5,183 bees in the park, representing 77 species in 21 genera. These include 2,758 bumble bee records of 18 species—120 of which are observations of five at-risk species!
It has been an informative few years conducting work in one of the few remaining Canadian landscapes where the ranges of several species at risk overlap.
We have also recorded a myriad (646 records!) of other native bees. Canada’s prairie system is home to over 300 native bee species, and not a lot is known about the current status of many of these important wild pollinators. Our efforts have begun to dramatically increase our knowledge of the biodiversity within the park, and of course, there have been many confirmed records that have really caught our eye.
Albertans love their pollinators
In our three years exploring Glenbow Ranch, we have delivered community science programs to educate participants about pollinators and engage them in bumble bee conservation. Through these programs, participants get outdoors, connect with and explore nature, and, most importantly, contribute to Canada’s conservation needs.
Over 180 volunteers have participated in one or more of our activities in Glenbow Ranch, which has included the installation of hundreds of artificial bumble bee domiciles, known as nest boxes, and the submission of 530 bumble bee observations, representing 18 different species (including several species at risk), to BumbleBeeWatch.org.
There is a wonderful sense of investment and engagement in pollinator conservation in the communities around Glenbow Ranch, and we are grateful for their continued dedication.
New methods and new collaborators are keys to success
New biologists, new methods, and new research questions have all forced us to adapt and learn continuously in these three years, but change has been good for us. Through this process we have collected more pieces of the bumble bee ecology puzzle in a changing environment, bringing us closer to developing species-specific conservation strategies.
A huge thanks to our many collaborators and partners who have helped support our work in Glenbow Ranch!
A variety of bumble bee species were found during three years of surveying. A-D are native bumble bees who are either already considered at-risk, or soon to be (Bombus terricola, Bombus occidentalis, Bombus fervidus, and Bombus suckleyi). E-F are lesser known bees (not of the bumble variety) who also play an important pollination role (Leafcutter Megachile bee and sweat Lasioglossum bee). Photos A-D: Tiffani Harrison Photos E- F: Sarah Johnson.
Lead Biologist - Native Pollinator Initiative
Genevieve manages the native pollinator recovery programs across Canada. She has worked with renowned experts in the fields of pollinator ecology, taxonomy and systematics, and has taken part in various species at-risk monitoring and recovery programs, both nationally and internationally.