Research projects provide us with a better understanding of the Cypress Hills' ecosystems. Research also supports the development of tools for the long-term management and well-being of these ecosystems.
A research and collection permit is required to conduct research in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park-Alberta.
Here are some examples of recent or ongoing research projects.
The cougar is also called the mountain lion, puma, or panther. It is native to parts of North, Central and South America. These large, secretive cats have extraordinary hunting ability. They are the Cypress Hills' largest predator. The range of individuals varies from 50-200 square kilometres depending on food availability and competition.
In 2007, a master's student from the University of Alberta began research on the cougar. The research program intended to identify and monitor individual cats, their habits, and prey in and around the park. The thesis was completed in 2010.
Cougars are of key interest as they are beginning to move east of the Rockies. Cypress Hills is the most easternly area of a known reproducing cougar population in Canada. The density of the cougars is higher than predicted. As cougars are top predators, they are good indicators of the health of the ecosystem and prey species such as mule deer.
A new, related master's study has started with a focus on the dispersal of cougars out and away from Cypress Hills. This study will be based on the Saskatchewan side of Cypress Hills but will also enter into the Alberta side.
Though cougars are rarely seen, we ask that visitors follow the cougar safety guidelines.
Lodgepole pine and white spruce have contributed to a modest loss of fescue grasslands in the park over the last half century.
A master's study which looked at forest encroachment into native fescue grasslands in the park was completed in 2009. The study involved field work, air photo analysis and GIS (computer mapping) work.
The study revealed that forest cover increased by 768 hectares between 1950 and 2002. There were also another 750 hectares of tree ingress onto the fescue plateau during the same period. This is about 10 percent of the plateau surface. Ingress areas contained low density juvenile trees of various sizes within grassland areas.
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park and the Calgary Bird Banding Society began an impressive partnership in 2010. This partnership introduced spring and fall migratory bird monitoring to the park as part of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network.
Using banding (with mist netting), census and casual observations, researchers obtain a daily estimated total of diversity and numbers. This provides insight on life history, longevity and migration routes.
The top ten banded species in spring of 2010 were: least flycatcher, yellow warbler, Audubon's warbler, Traill's flycatcher, cedar waxwing, chipping sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, orange-crowned warbler, American redstart and American robin.
Other related bird studies by the Calgary Bird Banding Society in the park include
For more info on these projects, check the current projects section of the Calgary Bird Banding Society.
The little liver fluke is a newly emergent parasite. It is now present in the livers of a large proportion of elk, deer and beef cattle in Cypress Hills. The fluke's larval stages are found in alternate hosts - ants and land snails.
A master's student has been conducting field and lab analysis of both alternate hosts from selected sites of the park. This is followed by lab analysis to detect infection status.
Livers from hunted elk and deer in the area are collected. Livers are also purchased from local ranchers. The livers are then analyzed for liver flukes.
This study hopes to quantify liver fluke infection rates of native ungulates and cattle. It will also assess alternate host populations throughout the park which contribute towards fluke transmission.