Come Hell or High Water: The Calgary Stampede Wades On – This Year Featuring the ABMI!

by Elyse Williams

Ever wondered how many species of plants, birds and mammals call a hectare (about 2 football fields) of Alberta native prairie home? And, I bet you can’t guess how many hamburgers this hectare can produce…

To get the answers, visit the ABMI’s interactive display at The 2013 Cattle Trail exhibit at the Calgary Stampede (or stay tuned for an upcoming blog post)! Thanks to the initiative of the Canadian Cattleman’s Association, The Cattle Trail will include an environment booth for the first time ever. The goal: to educate and engage the public on sustainable land use in the context of the beef industry.

For those who haven’t experienced the interactive maze that is The Cattle Trail, it’s described as the story of beef, “from pasture to plate”. As you move through the exhibit – inside the Agriculture Building on the stampede grounds  – you’ll have the opportunity to see live animals, meet beef producers, learn from scientists about the latest in genetic research, and more. By the end of the journey, you’ll have seen all the stages involved in beef production, including pasture management, herd maintenance, the science of selective breeding, and even auctioneering.

The ABMI will be playing a key role in the Environment Booth, alongside Alberta Environment Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD), Multiple Species at Risk (MULTISAR) and Cows and Fish: Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society, to highlight the significant contributions our native grasslands make to health of Alberta’s environment and economy.

Over the last several weeks, the ABMI has been in high-gear preparing for the Cattle Trail. Our working group has been rapidly setting and meeting deadlines to create an interactive display that showcases the biodiversity found in native grasslands, and the role the ABMI plays in monitoring it.  The ABMI’s booth will engage the senses, from the sounds of birds, to the smell of soil, to the sightings of mammals captured by our trail cameras.  Oh, I should mention participants will also literally be able to feel the grasslands, thanks to the one metre square chunk of prairie we’ll be bringing along!

Although preparing for the Cattle Trail has been a whirlwind, it’s been rewarding to see the contributions of ABMI scientists, project managers, and communications folks come together. From editing mite videos, hunting down bird songs or digging up earth, everyone has pushed hard to get our display completed to a very high standard.

Of course, the recent flooding in Calgary has captured all of our attention. Our thoughts have been with the people of Calgary, including our remote sensing team out of the University of Calgary. As of this post, the news is that “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth Will Go On!” The ABMI Cattle Trail working group asks the greater ABMI community to promote the Stampede, perhaps even purchase a Stampede t-shirt (proceeds to be donated to the southern Alberta flood relief). Also, please tell your friends and family to come visit our volunteers at the environment booth (you may even get a prize!), which will be open every day throughout the event, from July 5-14.

So, put on your boots, hat and bolo tie and stomp on down to join the ABMI at the 101st  Calgary Stampede!