When a young man, I took my first steps into that wild vastness to research red squirrels. I lost myself in those landscapes of drunken tilted black spruce, jack pines twisting aimlessly into grey heavens, and undulating bogs with fascinating carnivorous plants and bottoms so deep they threatened to swallow me whole. Some of my best hours were lived seated in the reindeer lichen with my back against the trunk of a white spruce tree, watching those animals eat, and nest, and play, and fight, and live. I became part of that landscape, a part of something ancient, and untameable, and Real.
I recently returned to that beloved landscape. Our team launched a new research project: Wildlife CAMERA. We are deploying large remote-camera arrays across the Alberta boreal forest and Rocky Mountains to understand the effects of landscape and climate change. Camera trapping has revolutionized wildlife research. We can gain insights into animal behaviour, abundance, and interactions in ways never before possible. Deploying cameras into some of the most remote landscapes south of the Arctic isn't easy - but it is fun. The helicopter is a wild ride, of which I shall never tire. But once the helicopter lifts away, I am left in that perfectly still, perfectly random crash of bogs and spruces and limitless cold skies. And I become that young boy again, standing in the undefinable wildness of a Tom Thomson painting.