Meet the ABMI, and new WildCAM member Marcus Becker

Wildlife Management 11.02.2020

WildCAM recently expanded to become an official partnership between Alberta and BC, adding several new Alberta members in the process. One of the latest additions is the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI). 

The ABMI is a not-for-profit, non-regulatory, arm’s-length institute that is delivered jointly by the University of Alberta, the Royal Alberta Museum, and InnoTech Alberta. Since 2007, we’ve been implementing and managing science-based programs to monitor and report on the changing state of biodiversity throughout Alberta. 

At thousands of sites that span the province from border to border, we monitor birds, mammals, plants, moss, lichen, and soil mites using both systematic and targeted protocols. In addition, we monitor landscapes, including the state of Alberta’s human footprint via our Human Footprint Inventory (HFI), and land cover through the Advanced Landcover Prediction and Habitat Assessment (ALPHA), both of which are created using high resolution remotely sensed imagery and datasets. Over the years, we’ve compiled extensive open-source data on biodiversity and landscape conditions, and produced many reports and peer-reviewed publications, all of which are available through our website. 

Source: Instagram, @abmi

More recently, the ABMI has developed online tools and platforms to foster engagement and improve data sharing and management. These include the Biodiversity Browser, which includes status summaries for hundreds of species (and counting); NatureLynx, an app and platform to unite and empower community scientists; our interactive Mapping Portal; and WildTrax, an online platform for storing, managing, processing, and sharing biological data collected by environmental sensors like cameras and autonomous recording units.

The ABMI has been using remote cameras since 2013 to monitor mammals. Over that time, we’ve placed cameras at over 3800 locations, collecting (and processing!) nearly 20 million camera images across multiple projects of varying scales and purposes. Most of these projects include estimating animals’ density and abundance at multiple spatial scales, and evaluating alternative deployment designs, analytical methods, and protocols. The ABMI also plays a role in the Alberta Remote Camera Steering Committee.


Marcus Becker

Marcus is a data scientist with the ABMI, and his role is to process, analyze, and derive scientific insight from those millions of camera trap images collected. He guides the development and continued refinement of methods used to estimate animal density from camera trap data, and builds open-source tools to share these techniques with other researchers. He also supports the development of various tools designed to supplement use of the WildTrax platform, including management, wrangling, and analysis of data from both remote cameras and autonomous recording units (ARUs) through R statistical software.    

Marcus’ background is in the social sciences, and he did his graduate work at the University of Alberta in economics assessing the cost-benefit tradeoffs of different land management scenarios for environmental improvement. Although he’s traditionally been confined to screens and numbers, Marcus is happy to report that he designed and implemented his first camera trap study this past fall (including field work!). There were only 8 cameras, but still, baby steps.     

He’s excited for the opportunity to work with WildCAM and its many members and collaborators. Please say hi and get in touch anytime at mabecker@ualberta.ca.