Human recreation and wildlife

Mitch Fennell, a Masters student in the Wildlife Coexistence Lab at UBC's Biodiversity Research Centre, explains his research camera trapping recreational and wildlife activity in Cathedral Provincial Park.

Hi, my name is Mitch Fennell. I'm a master's student in the Wildlife Coexistence Lab in the Biodiversity Research Centre as well as the Faculty of Forestry here at UBC.

What do you study?

My research takes place in Cathedral Provincial Park, in the south Okanagan, on the territory of the Syilx Okanagan nation. What I'm looking at is the interface between human recreation and wildlife in protected areas. To do that I use camera traps to capture signals of both human use of habitat as well as wildlife. What we're mainly looking at is whether increasing human recreation in protected areas is having negative effects on the wildlife within them. These areas have a dual mandate of both protecting natural environments and the species that live within them, as well as providing amazing opportunities for people to enjoy these same environments

How did you get started in biology?

I got into biology in childhood, when my parents would take me out into the natural world doing activities like hiking fishing looking at different plants. I would say my dad was a very big influence on that, who was a biologist himself, would occasionally take me out to to be his field assistant. Although I'm not sure how much help I was actually giving... I was probably more of a hindrance.

Why do you study at UBC?

I did my undergrad as well as moving into my grad studies here at UBC. What inspired me to come to UBC was the amazing campus as well as the draw of all the different activities around Vancouver that we're able to do in our free time, as well as with our research activities. Things like Pacific Spirit Park where we're able to do labs in our courses in the actual forest.

What is your favourite research memory?

One of my favourite research memories would be working as a summer field tech in Banff doing wolf kill site investigations with a field partner of mine who is also a UBC student. We were up on a plateau in the mountains coming up over a ridge. I remember just seeing an expanse of green in front of us and a massive grizzly bear digging up roots just a couple hundred meters away completely indifferent to us. It was such a serene setting with a pretty amazing animal right in front of us.

What is your favourite organism?

I would say my favourite study organism is the mountain goat, which is pretty famous in Cathedral Provincial Park where my master's studies takes place. They're pretty amazing creatures being able to go up almost vertical faces, surviving in conditions that you wouldn't really think possible, and they're also just very wise looking.


Mitch Fennell shows how to set up a camera trap.

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