Capacity: New faces and fresh ideas in Alberta

Capacity. What does that mean and how do you measure it? Capacity building can mean a variety of things to different people and organizations. The Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Network (ESBN) members understand this is a challenge, but equally know it can’t be ignored. To the ESBN, capacity means having the understanding, the competencies and the knowledge to develop and execute ecosystem services (ES) and biodiversity markets. Capacity means we understand the science, the economics and the social benefits to develop ES and biodiversity markets. Capacity signifies we have the means to develop accounting protocols, assessment platforms and decisions support systems.


For Carol Bettac, Executive Director with Alberta Innovates, capacity is also about collaboration and working in teams, which she says “is a bit of a skill in itself”.  “Capacity is about knowing who’s who and where to find assistance when needed, accessing the knowledge of others and providing opportunities to get experience and training.” Bettac adds that capacity isn’t just about building a tool or platform, but also the ability to apply and execute, or as she stated, “being organized and able to deploy our knowledge to solve specific problems”. 


Developing capacity to support improvements in desired ecosystem services through market based approaches is a key outcome for the Alberta Ecosystem Services Roadmap. To demonstrate success, we’ve put some thought towards how we might measure capacity building.  Measurement includes numbers and analytics that pertain to expanding participation in our network, strengthening our expertise and skills, increasing our understanding, sharing our knowledge, applying the tools and platforms developed, and efficiently using our human and financial resources.


We have enhanced expertise, expanded our network, and increased the number of highly qualified personnel (HQP) in Alberta, by connecting with new researchers that have specialized knowledge and skills related to ecosystem services and biodiversity. Recently, our science teams have linked with two new postdocs; Sarah Pogue and Danielle Maia de Souza.


Sarah is a post-doc fellow at the University of Lethbridge and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Centre. She comes to Alberta with a wealth of knowledge in ecosystem services, from University of Southampton (UK), where she studied the long-term human-environmental interactions and ecosystem services delivery in the New Forest National Park. (Resilience management in social-ecological systems: developing a new evolutionary approach: a case study - the New Forest National Park .) Through her work in Alberta, Sarah will assess the impact of agriculture on the delivery of ecosystem services.


Danielle Maia de Souza is a postdoc fellow researcher at the University of Alberta, and at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge Research Centre. She has worked in the past as a researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and at the European Commission Joint Research Centre, as a Scientific Officer. In principle, her research assessed ecosystem services affected by biofuel production in Sweden. Currently in Alberta, Danielle aims to improve life cycle impact assessment methodologies used to integrate biodiversity and ecosystem services indicators into life cycle thinking and decision-making.


The ESBN uses an online toolkit to help build capacity on ecosystem services and biodiversity markets. This Toolkit is intended to house resources pertaining to ecosystem services assessments, policy, market infrastructure, and science. We’ve designed it so that experts can build a profile, and then add ideas, information and tools. We’d also like to hear your ideas on building capacity in ES and biodiversity markets. Where have you had some success? Share your resources under “capacity building” that will support improvements in desired ecosystem services through market based approaches.