Conservation in the time of coronavirus

Curious young polar bear on the newly frozen pack ice reaches for remote camera with paw, Beaufort Sea

Conservation isn’t exactly an indoor activity — though much of our work, especially data analysis and our Science, Research and Innovation team’s research like the Wildlife Protection Assessment, Living Planet Report Canada and our in-progress national carbon mapping collaboration with McMaster University, can be conducted from laptops. (The SRI team is also often called on to provide their species expertise, like this CBC interview on the foxes in Toronto’s east end, which they can still do from home.) Many of our scientists would normally be gearing up to get out in the field, if it weren’t for the fact that nothing is normal right now. But we’re all still getting vital conservation work done during quarantine.

Arctic Species Conservation Fund-travelling in Nunavut is obviously not possible, even for our Iqaluit-based staff, but while this means extra time for the Arctic team’s research, data analysis and planning, some of our Arctic Species Conservation Fund projects are implemented completely by locals and can continue unaffected. The Inuit-operated polar bear den mapping project on Southampton Island we are supporting, for instance, was deemed safe to proceed by the local hamlet council. The polar bear patrol that we’re funding in Whale Cove to reduce human-animal conflicts will also be proceeding this fall.

Lucky for the Oceans team, some members have been able to continue their fieldwork by shifting schedules, adapting workplans and developing creative solutions with partners, while other work has moved online. They’re paying particular attention to the added challenges faced by Indigenous partners in dealing with the pandemic, and the importance of restricting travel to keep their communities safe. One thing that hasn’t changed is their advocacy work to protect priority species and marine areas. (See sidebar below)

While our Nature Connected Communities team sadly can’t connect with community members in nature, they’ve been doing it virtually by hosting Zoom webinars on gardening for wildlife and the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Schools and campus closures haven’t stopped the Living Planet @ School and Living Planet @ Campus teams from providing online educational resources on Netflix’s Our Planet series and supporting post-secondary students through the final phases of their WWF Living Planet Leader certification. Our corporate partners are also continuing to engage employees through Living Planet @ Work  actions like virtual screenings of the film Our Planet: Our Business and interactive online sessions with our conservation experts on native plant gardening.

Our Quebec team has continued its research on the resilience of communities to floods and on urban biodiversity with its many partners and collaborators, including the University of Montreal. The public events planned for spring quickly transitioned to virtual and our team increased our science cafés to weekly events! As expected, the Biopolis project continues its Canadian momentum in all major urban and peri-urban centers and twenty inspiring and concrete projects for urban biodiversity have already been selected. As our Quebec program is also responsible for communications and Francophone media, here are two articles in which our Quebec director, Sophie Paradis, answers questions… from her living room! (La Presse and Radio-Canada).

Finally, the Freshwater team is working with developers to bring tech solutions to water data management and pushing for this data to be the basis for decision-making, all while showcasing the Generation Water Tech Challenge winners. They’re also getting ready to launch the updated Watershed Reports in September that will tell us about the health of Canada’s 25 watersheds. The federal government also recently announced the creation of a Canadian Water Agency, and WWF-Canada is working with them to figure out how it can best serve nature and people.
Fieldnotes is WWF-Canada’s newsletter about our evidence-based work finding solutions in the face of an unprecedented crisis in climate change and wildlife loss. Please click here to subscribe to future issues.