To your average city-slicker, native grasslands may not be the first thought when it comes to a unique and diverse ecosystem.
Hey — no judging — I am a city-slicker. I might not compare Prairies to the majesty of the Rockies or roaring ocean sprays, but once I saw the sprawling beauty out here, I discovered it’s a unique and special place.
Grassland Insect Project
Raised in Southern Alberta, I had a decent idea of what I was getting into when I signed on for the Grassland Insect Project. Prior to this, grasslands were never at the forefront of my interest. Visiting our sites on cattle ranches that first week, I was impressed by their variation! Flora, fauna and even topography was much different between these native grasslands — not just the big empty flats I’d imagined.
Born to Collect Bugs
Being part of the Grassland Insect Project was a good fit for me. While I was still in school, I really enjoyed my entomology class — I even kept bugs at home. Now, I was excited to catch and identify the unique species we could find out here.
The usual suspects of bees and butterflies are commonly thought of as the most important pollinators. But flies and moths are the true unsung heroes in native grasslands and, thankfully, we were finding them in droves.
Once we were trained, sampling almost didn’t feel like work. Using a sweep net really does just feel like being a kid chasing butterflies. My net would get weighed down from a David Cronenberg-esque mess of grasshoppers and flies, and I’d let out an excited “whoa!” when transferring them into the photocollector.
Photocollector? What a cool device! Before the summer, I tried to look it up online but came up short. This clever light box was invented for this project to help sort the bugs from the grass and seeds we also get in the nets.
Being able to take in so much of such a special ecosystem really made my summer and getting to start on some meaningful fieldwork and get out of a lab is a great start for a future in biology.
Learn more about the work the Canadian Wildlife Federation has been doing to help our Native Grasslands >
Broden is the crew leader for the native grassland insect sampling team this summer with CWF. Alberta-born, before turning to biology at school and work, he served in the Canadian Armed Forces as a tank crewman, and was later attached to Defence Research and Development Canada.