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Dave Bruinsma

Employer: The Federation of Alberta Naturalists
Position Title: Bird Atlas Technician
Location: The Percy Page Centre, in Edmonton, as well as various locations around Alberta
Dates of Employment: May - August 2004 (approx. 14-15 weeks)

My duties as a Bird Atlas Technician for The Federation of Alberta Naturalists (FAN) were focussed around assisting with the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Alberta Update Project. This citizen science project aims to gather information regarding the presence/absence, breeding status, and relative abundance of Alberta's bird species and to present the project results in a comprehensive publication, an update of FAN's first Bird Atlas which was completed in 1991. The Update Project will provide more current information on Alberta's birds and illuminate any changes in breeding status or abundance since the last atlas. Data for the Bird Atlas comes from hundreds of volunteer birders ("atlassers") from all over the province, who send in checklists from their birding excursions.

I performed a wide variety of tasks - essentially any odd jobs that needed doing in order to facilitate the project and assist the assistant project co-ordinator, Philip Penner (a graduate of King's ENVS program…). Some my primary activities included data collection (field surveys of birds to gather breeding status and abundance data) and database entry (of both my own observations and the observations of volunteer atlassers). I also attended a variety of bird/environment related festivals and conferences and presented at birding seminars around Alberta in order to educate the public about birds, generate interest in the Atlas Project, and recruit volunteer atlassers. The remainder of my duties involved an assortment of office tasks, including writing newsletter articles, corresponding with volunteers, and database development.

This experience was an excellent way to begin to get me acquainted with professional environmental work. The Atlas Project and my tasks addressed ecological science and human society's role in it. I was surprised at how often the skills I learned during my first three years at King's, such as EIA analysis and GIS, came in handy. Over the course of the summer I learned a lot about Alberta's bird species, and met many people in the ornithological and environmental NGO community that will be helpful contacts and references for future endeavours. I highly recommend employment with FAN to any future interns!