Our Work

WCS Canada uses a unique combination of field science, conservation planning, policy development and public engagement, including working with First Nation and Inuvialuit communities, to protect wildlife and wild places across Canada. Whether measuring the growing impact of noise on whales and seals in the Arctic, racing to help bats survive a deadly disease in Western Canada, or highlighting the importance of the intact boreal forests in Ontario for cold-water fish and caribou, peatlands, songbirds and people, our research provides scientifically grounded solutions for Canada’s conservation challenges.

We get ahead of problems by, for example, working to get new measures put in place to control ship noise in Arctic waters that will become increasingly busy (and more like the heavily trafficked Atlantic and Pacific Oceans) thanks to melting sea ice. And by working to help as many western bats as possible survive a disease that has wiped out millions of bats in eastern North America.

We also use major planning levers and policies to influence change, sharing our scientific observations of wildlife and ecosystem health. For example, our support of new federal impact assessment legislation opened the way for regional impact assessments to address cumulative impacts. Such “big picture” assessments are vital for preventing the kind of “death by a thousand cuts” outcomes that often result from conventional piecemeal planning processes. We are providing advice to the federal and Ontario governments, Indigenous and local communities on how to develop a regional assessment for roads and proposed mining activities in the Ring of Fire in the heart of the undisturbed boreal forest.

We are also working in a variety of ways to help ensure Canada’s “high ambition” commitment to protecting 30% of its lands and waters by 2030 results in the greatest biodiversity protection benefit. This is in contrast to the traditional approach of protecting areas of low interest to resource industries rather than of high interest for ecological protection. Our Key Biodiversity Areas program, for example, is zeroing in on areas with rare and threatened species and ecosystems or with a high percentage of a species’ global or national population or areas that still boast high levels of ecological integrity. We are making great progress with this work and have identified more than 200 potential KBA sites across Canada so far.

Similarly, we are providing technical advice to a number of First Nation communities on Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs), in support of Indigenous-led conservation that meets community priorities as well as conserves ecological values. For example, we have completed an extensive scientific assessment of areas requiring protection in the Muskwa-Kechika in north-central BC, which provided important context for the Dene Kʼéh Kusān IPCA developed by the Kaska-Dene. In the far north in Ontario, we surveyed fish habitat to determine the most important areas of freshwater habitat in some of the world’s largest intact watersheds. This work supports our partnerships with Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and Moose Cree First Nations and their proposed IPCAs that include some of the priority areas for freshwater fish that we identified. WCS Canada supports reconciliation through conservation through our work with Indigenous Peoples.

WCS Canada is focusing on the importance of carbon-rich areas by supporting approaches to protected areas with Indigenous Peoples, to ensure this carbon stays in the ground and isn’t released into the atmosphere. Our work on peatlands has demonstrated just how critical it is to protect these areas. One hectare of peatlands holds five times more carbon than one acre of Amazonian rainforest and this carbon will will be stored up to 10 times longer in a peatland than in a rainforest. In particular, we are focused on drawing attention to the importance of the Hudson and James Bay Lowlands, the world’s second-largest peatland complex. Not only is this area a huge carbon storehouse, it is also important habitat for everything from caribou and polar bears to migratory shorebirds and the homelands of many First Nations communities.

By focusing on key species such as caribou, wolverine, bats and freshwater fish, we can better understand the state of vast wild landscapes and recommend measures that can help these and other species survive. For example, we are focusing on learning more about the wolverine’s reproductive habitat needs by capturing and tracking females and identifying den sites. So far, we have captured and tracked 14 females and followed a number of them to den sites. This work is helping us shape government forest policy to better protect these sensitive sites.

In Western Canada, we are watching closely for signs of the spread of deadly white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that kills bats during hibernation. Bats provide us with valuable pest control services thanks to their voracious appetite for insects and help shape ecosystems, so we are anxious to prevent the kind of devastation that has occurred in eastern North America. Our approach is multi-faceted and starts with developing a baseline understanding of the relative abundance, distribution and habitat preferences of the many bat species in the west. This allows us to develop strategies to mitigate the impacts of white-nose syndrome upon its inevitable arrival in Western Canada, including getting ready to deploy a new probiotic preventative treatment co-developed by WCS Canada.

WCS Canada is unique because we have scientists on the ground in big wild places across Canada, building an understanding of how to protect the irreplaceable natural wealth and invaluable ecological services of our remaining wild areas and partnering with Indigenous communities. At the same time, we are mentoring the next generation of field scientists and Guardians – and gaining valuable insights into ecological challenges – through internships, post-doc positions, youth mentorship projects, and our Garfield Family Foundation Fellowship Program, which has made it possible for 98 graduate students from 19 different institutions to work with our scientists on projects directly relevant to our conservation goals.

Our unique approach of using scientific research to inform new approaches to land-use planning, resource extraction, endangered species recovery, and biodiversity protection is unparalleled in Canada. We are the voice for a science-first approach to protecting Canada’s natural heritage and we are using that voice to make a real difference for wildlife and wild places.

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Learn more about the impact
of WCS Canada's science

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Our work during the pandemic

A Year Like No Other

The COVID-19 crisis created a wide array of new challenges for our organization over the past year. However, we are very proud of how our staff and scientists rose to the challenge and carried on with their important conservation work.

In our northern field sites, we have always worked closely with First Nation and Inuvialuit communities, but we quickly put a pause on much of our own field presence when the crisis erupted. However, with some remote training sessions and other communications, our Indigenous partners were able to retrieve data recording devices and sound recorders and send them south to our scientists for analysis. In our western Arctic work, the Canadian Coast Guard came to our rescue by taking our equipment from Victoria, BC and deploying it in the Arctic waters so we could get another year’s worth of whale recordings.

Some of our work with bats was also put on hold while we considered how best to protect our only flying mammals from the virus (no North American bats have been found to carry COVID-19). With new protocols in place to ensure that our field teams would be safe and that we would not pass the virus to bats, we resumed our work to monitor bat populations – relying on remote sensing equipment rather than direct capture. We also educated Canadians on why protecting bats remains important for disease control and even as a potential source of new virus-fighting knowledge.

For some of our scientists, COVID-19 restrictions provided an opportunity to hunker down and focus on turning research into actionable recommendations. We published a number of papers based on research from previous field seasons as well as a major analysis of the best fish habitat across the far north in Ontario that was a mammoth data crunching exercise.

Of course, we also regularly communicated the link between the COVID-19 crisis and human interference with wildlife and wild habitats and our President made a number of presentations over the past few months explaining how the increasing human impact on wild places is leading to viral spillover events and the spread of diseases that affect both wildlife and humans.

In fact, the biggest lesson out of this challenging year was the importance of increasing the undestanding among both the public and policy makers of the critical importance of adopting a “One Health” approach that embeds an understanding of the interdependence of our health with the planet’s health in all our decision-making.

Our staff talk about what COVID-19 has meant for them both personally and professionally in a WCS Canada Muddy Boots blog.

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Our Activity Across the Country

WCS Canada Conservation Programs

WCS Canada Conservation Programs Map
A quick look at WCS Canada

By the Numbers


Using science
to identify
priority places


Protected over 8 million
hectares through WCS
Canada field research in
BC, Yukon and Alberta


WCS Scientists and
Support Staff: 40


Mentoring the next
generation through
Weston Family
Fellowships: 98 to date
with students from 21


200 potential Key
Biodiversity Areas


80+ bat research sites


A Voice for Science


21 public commentary


15 media appearances
and interviews


19 scientific papers
and reports


12 submissions on
government laws and


Image Credits


Wolverine: Liam Cowan/WCS Canada
Black bear: Susan Morse
Marten: WCS Canada
Sandpipers: Allie Anders
Moose: WCS Canada


Boat on river: WCS Canada


Boreal aerial: © Garth Lenz

Our Impact

Field assistant Jacob Seguin preparing equipment: WCS Canada
Blackpoll warbler on hand: Hilary Cooke/WCS Canada
Scientist Dr. Steve Insley preparing acoustic recorder: WCS Canada
Tradescantia occidentalis: A Moorehouse/iNaturalist
Running caribou: Don Reid/WCS Canada
Dr. Cori Lausen exploring Queen Victoria mine in BC: Nelson Star