Lab Blogs

Thinking Big with Open Access data

Studying a wide-ranging and highly-mobile mammal like the grizzly bear means thinking big. To address questions that are relevant for individual bears or populations over space and time, our research group has to seek out comprehensive datasets that span thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of square kilometres and often over many decades. These data can range from salmon counts to bear-human conflict records to primary productivity indicators. I am very excited to currently be working with open-access remotely-sensed datasets that are continental in scale.

Inspired by our work last year that showed hotspots of salmon consumption from coastal to interior habitats, I am examining how human footprint (with data from Venter et al. 2016) and landscape disturbance (with data from White et al. 2017) might affect dietary patterns in grizzly bears throughout British Columbia from 1994 to 2014. These remote sensing datasets  – captured from satellite images and other aerial technologies – allow us to address landscape change at spatial and temporal scales appropriate for grizzly bears.

Example of human footprint index data alongside salmon spawning reaches and grizzly bear detections in an interior region of British Columbia.

Even better than knowing the data come from satellites?  Knowing that they come for free: they are Open Access, and the product of the hard work of so many others over time. At our lab and Raincoast, we strive to work with and produce Open Access data, code and – ultimately – publications. I feel privileged and humbled to be working on an analysis with superb open-access data sets assembled by so many people over so many years!

By Megan Adams, Raincoast biologist and ACS PhD candidate