University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

BGS Institute: Watersheds and Long-Term Research Sites

The Marmot Creek and Lake O’Hara watersheds are the only research watersheds in the Canadian Rockies. Marmot Creek Research Basin is located in Bow River Kananaskis Valley at 1450-2886 m a.s.l. Its terrain is alpine, subalpine, and montane with > 600 mm precipitation, 70% snowfall, and 50% runoff annually. Nine hydrometeorology stations have been installed by the University of Saskatchewan and Environment Canada in level; north facing, east facing, and south facing pine forests; a hay meadow; an alpine ridge top; a high elevation clearcut; a small clearing; and a high elevation spruce forest. Measurements of snowfall and rainfall, evaporation, soil moisture, soil freezing, snowmelt, radiation, wind speed, air temperature and humidity, and surface temperatures are being taken every 15 minutes at these sites.

The Lake O’Hara watershed is situated in the upper Cataract Brook Valley in Yoho National Park, British Columbia. Lake O’Hara is at an elevation of 2015 m a.s.l. The surrounding peaks reach heights over 3000 m. The terrestrial vegetation zones range from subalpine forests, dominated by spruce and fir trees, to heath tundra meadows and rock fields dominated by lichens and mosses. Two weather stations, numerous streamflow gauging stations, water level devices, and shallow groundwater wells are installed at the site. Water, soil, aquatic plant, and invertebrate samples are collected as well.

BGS has researchers and collaborators involved with maintaining a meso-grid of backcountry weather stations in the southern Alberta foothills. This mountain-foothills climate array (FCA) will provide an unprecedented dataset of mesoscale meteorological variability in complex terrain.

Scientist from BGS and other collaborators have been conducting research in Sheep River Provincial Park in Kananaskis Country and on Ram Mountain (close to Rocky Mountain House) for well over 30 years, with sheep censuses being conducted at Ram Mountain since 1971 and at Sheep River since 1986. All resident bighorn sheep in Sheep River and Ram Mountain are marked and their population continues to be monitored for survival, predation events, individual reproductive success/tactics, relatedness, and gene flow between populations, habitat use/health, animal health, and population trends.

Long-term studies have focused on behavioural ecology, life histories, and population dynamics of Columbian ground squirrels, with research programs going back to the 1970’s. These programs form the basis for intensive monitoring that began in 1992, and is now addressing the influence of climate change on phenotypic and genetic characteristics of populations in natural alpine and subalpine environments.

Small mammal monitoring has been conducted since the 1970’s at Fortress Mountain and Grizzly Creek. These populations have been studied and monitored to investigate the evolution of life history strategies and tactics in mammals living in short-season environments. Field studies begin early May to late August every year. The small mammal populations continue to be studied using both field and laboratory techniques (i.e., stable isotope).

The observation and monitoring of golden eagles migrating in the spring and fall near Mount Lorette by volunteers of the Rocky Mountain Eagle Foundation (RMERF) has been carried out since 1993. Researchers at BGS have been working with the group to understand the population dynamics of the golden eagle.