Caribou Guardians – Q&A with Dr. Clayton Lamb

Research Excellence | Strategy 10: Research Culture
Theme: Innovation
A caribou calf with researchers | Photo credit: Giguere, Wildlife Infometrics

Dr. Clayton Lamb is a wildlife scientist at UBC Okanagan and a Liber Ero Postdoctoral Fellow. His recent co-authored publication on Indigenous-led conservation of the recovery of an endangered subpopulation of southern mountain caribou has created a buzz around this all too rare success story for wildlife conservation.

In May 2022, Dr. Lamb was interviewed by Linda Nowlan, Senior Director, UBC Sustainability Hub. Here is an excerpt of their conversation.

Please describe your work as a conservation scientist. Why do you do what you do?

My goal as a conservation scientist is to make an impact on the world.  Scientists traditionally thought their work ended at the publication stage and that somehow it would percolate out into the world and make change, but we now know there are more steps needed to make change happen. As a wildlife scientist at UBCO, I fill knowledge gaps and help translate scientific evidence into management actions that can be used by resource managers, Indigenous Nations, and other governments. My major focus has been on wildlife population ecology, road ecology, and wildlife coexistence across western North America, using techniques like non-invasive DNA sampling, and tracking individuals with GPS collars to understand fine-scale connectivity and demography at a population level. Evidence to action is a key part of my work to achieve conservation gains for wildlife, wild places, and local land stewards.

Can you give an example of your evidence to action research?

Roadkill is a big problem in the Rockies, attracting grizzlies out to roads where they get into trouble with cars and nearer to communities where they cause trouble with people. I worked on ‘bear bunkers’ in one spot along the highway in partnership with the Mayor of Fernie, BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Wildsight, and BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations. The road workers would pick up the elk, deer, and other wildlife killed on the highway and drop them at a roadkill pit that became a magnet for bears. We put in concrete blocks, electric fences, and gates in one exclusion pit, the ‘bear bunker’, where the roadkill could be stored in a way that reduced its attractiveness to bears. It’s working. Grizzly bears are no longer being attracted to roadsides and communities by this roadkill.

How did working as a Liber Ero Fellow help your career?

The Liber Ero program was a natural fit and helped me hone my skill set so my science can have more impact. I am now part of a fantastic network of Fellows and a rich suite of mentors and learned how to engage with policymakers, interact with media, improve my science communication, understand the law, as well as deepen my understanding of reconciliation.

Please visit the Sustainability Hub website to read the rest of the interview.

Through Strategy 10: Research Culture, UBC is committed to fostering a strong and diverse research culture that embraces the highest standards of integrity, collegiality and service.