24 Apr 2019 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

Banff National Park’s first Endangered species: what have we learned during nearly a quarter-century of field research?

Speaker: Dwayne Lepitzki, Ph.D.

Location: Fletcher Wildlife Garden Interpretation Centre

In a handful of thermal springs on Sulphur Mountain in Banff National Park, Alberta lives a small, endemic snail. In 1997 Banff Springs Snail, Physella johnsoni, made history by becoming the first currently-living mollusc to be formally assessed by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada). In 2000, it was uplisted from Threatened to Endangered and became the first Endangered species living entirely within Banff National Park. In 2007 it again made history by being the first wildlife species in Canada to have completed all the steps required for protection and recovery under Canada’s Species At Risk Act: an approved Recovery Strategy, an approved Action Plan, and delineated Critical Habitat. In 2018, COSEWIC confirmed the status of Endangered. Achieving these milestones has only been possible because of continuing and intensive field study. What questions were initially asked and answered? What new questions resulted? What have been the challenges? What’s been learned over nearly a quarter century of field research? What will happen to the species and its habitat in the future? How does the snail fit into the story of conservation in the 21st century?

Dwayne has been on annual contract with Parks Canada since 1996 as the Principal Investigator on the Banff Springs Snail Research and Recovery Program. He has also been a member of COSEWIC since 2009 after first serving a 4-year term as a member of the Molluscs Species Specialist Subcommittee of COSEWIC. In 2014, he became the first Canadian to become a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Mollusc Specialist Group. His name might be familiar to readers of the premiere scientific publication of OFNC as he became Editor-in-Chief of The Canadian Field-Naturalist in spring 2016.