This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 edition of TRU’s Bridges Magazine.
By Anita Rathje and Linda Komori
Researchers at TRU are collaborating with two local mining operations on unique environmental sustainability projects that benefit the university, community and industry.
The arid grasslands and scattered ponds at New Gold’s New Afton mine site south of Kamloops are home to the tiny subjects of a wildlife conservation research project: the Great Basin spadefoot (Spea intermontana). New Gold approached Dr. Karl Larsen in the Natural Resource Science department for help to learn more about these at-risk amphibians, providing the funding for graduate research. Master of Science (Environmental Science) student Jo-Anne Hales is studying how spadefoots use the grassland landscape.
“It amazes me how such a small creature can adapt and survive in this harsh environment,” says Hales. Her project focuses on the habitat selection of spadefoots within the disturbed landscape at New Afton, an underground gold and copper mine.
She is using radio-telemetry and pond surveys to determine how the spadefoots select water bodies for breeding and terrestrial sites for foraging and aestivation, to find out what elements of the arid ecosystem around the mine site are important for the animals.
“Knowing that I’m making a difference and contributing to the conservation of the spadefoot is exhilarating,” says Hales. “New Afton has been extremely supportive of my project. They have gone well over and above what I would expect from a financial partner.” Her work and that of future graduate students will help understand the spadefoots’ needs and assist in the development of regional conservation management plans and policies.