Moose app

An app developed by University of Alberta researcher Mark Boyce takes a citizen science approach to population modeling for moose in Alberta.

Vince Crichton

There's now an app for moose. Well, not for the moose themselves to use, but for scientists looking for an easier way to track the large ungulates.

Ecologists in the University of Alberta's Department of Biological Sciences have developed an app to improve population modeling for moose, asking hunters to record the number of moose they see while hunting in Alberta.

Population modeling for big game, such as moose, is difficult but important for understanding the status of moose in Alberta to aid in the development of conservation strategies. Traditionally, biologists have used helicopters to track moose populations, which is expensive and dangerous for researchers.

Inspired by similar practices in Norway and Sweden, Mark Boyce, a UAlberta professor, came up with the idea of a smartphone app. Simple and easy to use, the app provides invaluable information about moose in Alberta engaging wildlife aficionados who are already in the field.

"At the end of every day, your phone will emit the sound of a cow moose in heat to remind you to enter data," he said. "The interface prompts users to enter how many moose they saw and the number of hours they were hunting that day."

Having cellphone service isn't necessary, a critical factor for analyzing remote populations of moose that are typically deep in Alberta's forests. "The information is stored on your phone until you have access to cell service," Boyce said.

Developed by a second-year undergraduate student in the U of A's Department of Computing Sciences, the app has been disseminated to hunters through the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Division of the Ministry of Environment and Parks since 2012.

"They simply contact everyone who drew a moose tag and invited them to participate in the project," Boyce said. "Hunters specify their Wildlife Identification Number as well as the Wildlife Management Unit they're in."

The app received nearly 14,000 submissions in 2016, up from 3,000 in 2012.

The Alberta Conservation Association has now taken over management of the app and accompanying data.

"As an ongoing project managed by the ACA, the app can be used for modeling, monitoring, and managing moose populations across the province," Boyce said. "This allows us to detect and understand the impact of changes in harvest regulations, disease outbreaks, territory shifts and potentially even climate change."

Moose Survey is available free of charge for iPhone and Android users on the Moose Hunter Survey website.

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