Population Models
Workshops
Big Game Aerial Surveys
Risk Assessment Systems
Project and Report Reviews
Custom Databases
Living Management Plans
Recent Projects
Bio: Brian Knudsen

Consulting Services

Enhancing Your Project Team

The consulting services of Knudsen Wildlife Management Systems are primarily oriented toward providing tightly focused expertise at specific points in the life cycle of a project, such as while:

  • reviewing literature
  • preparing proposals
  • designing data collection
  • training staff
  • analyzing data
  • creating projections

Longer committments will be undertaken as permitted by the schedules of major projects. To learn more about available services, recent projects, or Brian Knudsen, please click on the topics at left.

Brian Knudsen
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Population Models

Population models (computer simulations) can be massive or tiny (Very Simple Models). The correct choice of model depends on the goal of the project. Does the project require precise predictions in small geographical area? Or does it require reasonably realistic predictions across a province, country or continent?

Knudsen Wildlife Management Systems emphasizes small, clear models that can be readily understood by a wide range of stakeholders and colleagues. These models can be traditional or fuzzy.

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Workshops

There are many contexts in which information is best disseminated by bringing an appropriate group together in a workshop setting. Participants can be the field staff of a project, stakeholders in a management plan, or individuals needing a starter or refresher course in a specialized skill area.

One type of workshop that is particularly appropriate for wildlife biologists is the practical aspects of parametric statistics. Many statistical methods that biologists have learned and applied must be used with caution, or avoided. Fortunately, these concepts can be conveyed clearly in a few hours. Significance tests and confidence intervals are two statistical tools which are appropriate in far fewer cases than many biologists believe.

I have had 30 years of experience in conducting these types of workshops, and am available for sessions ranging from half a day to three days.

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Big Game Aerial Survey Design

Aerial surveys are the principal technique for estimating big game populations. Knudsen Wildlife Management Systems offers support in designing aerial surveys to use aircraft time efficiently, simplify navigation for pilots, optimize sample units for GPS application (see The Three Minute Grid) and reduce the time to generate populations estimates for inclusion in reports.

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Risk Assessment Systems

The concept of risk assessment is a pervasive one in current natural resource management. A variety of analytical tools have been developed to quantify risk levels, but their utility has been restricted by two significant drawbacks. Some, such as Habitat Suitability Indices, have restricted their input data to a small number of dimensions (vegetation, topography, shoreline, etc.) when other factors (predation, hunting, disease) are the overarching causes of changes in abundance. The second drawback is the requirement of many models for complete sets of quantitative data. These data are often unobtainable under any circumstances, and certainly not within the time and funding boundaries that exist for most projects.

Knudsen Wildlife Management Systems builds models based on fuzzy logic, that adjust their data requirements to levels of input that are available. Intensively quantitative data, with clearly established relationships that have been subjected to peer review in scholarly journals, are incorporated as fully as possible. Relationships that are less precisely known, and baseline data that are known only approximately, are incorporated at the level of precision that they provide.

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Project and Report Reviews

Critical reviews of project plans and reports are available with short turnaround times.

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Living Management Plans

Wildlife management plans have, unfortunately, a history of being developed with enthusiasm, announced with fanfare and implemented with neglect. Recent increases in the level of public scrutiny of natural resource management has caused a change in this pattern. Management plans must now include tangible targets along a timeline, with verifiable measures of progress. If circumstances change or targets are not met, it is expected that mid-course corrections will be applied. These corrections require that projections be adjusted. If such corrections are to be developed and implemented in a timely fashion, the structure of the underlying models must allow for rapid change. This is a particular benefit of using Fuzzy Expert Systems in managment plans.

Knudsen Wildlife Management Systems offers a range of fuzzy systems for incorporation into living management plans.

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Custom Databases

There are substantial benefits to be gained by storing project data in well-designed databases, rather than in spreadsheets. A relatively small investment of time before beginning field work pays off in the following areas:
Clarifying and Testing Data Acquisition Plans
Building a database forces members of a project team to be explicit about what data they will be gathering. How will numbers (especially dates) be stored? How will missing values be coded? How will geographical coordinates be recorded (UTM? Degrees/Minutes/Seconds? Decimal Degrees?) Which data will be in specific fields and which will be in "Comments"? Which fields are repetitive (such as the current date, recorder, sample unit), and available for automated entry? Which field could be filled in more accurately and faster by a live GPS connection? Which fields can be left blank?
Data Checking and Validation
Database software provides a rich set of tools for checking data in real time. Code can be written that goes far beyond built-in data validation tools to match the specific needs of a project.
Exporting Data
Spreadsheets invite users to add formatting improve the appearance of data on the screen or on hardcopy. This formatting always precludes efficient exporting of data to other formats or software. A database, regardless of its appearance on the screen, always sits on a foundation of perfect, rectangular tables of data. These tables can be sent anywhere.
Archiving Data
This is closely related to the above topic. Software and hardware change so rapidly that archiving of data MUST be in some non-proprietary format, such as plain text files. Database software makes this easy. Spreadsheets don't.

Of course, the reason spreadsheets are used so often is that almost everyone knows how to plug data into one in a reasonably organized way. And it takes a lot of time (years) to be able to put together a custom database relatively quickly. The answer is to have custom databases created by someone who has already invested the time.

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Recent Projects

July 2016: North Shore of Lake Erie

Areas of the Great Lakes states have experienced considerable increases in feral swine populations in the past ten years. I moved to the Leamington ON area to be able to visit a number of potential infestation sites and connect with local wildlife personnel.

July 2015 - June 2016: Deux Montagnes QC

I was located in Deux-Montagnes QC for one year, just north of the Lake Champlain NY area, which had experienced considerable wild boar infestation in recent years.

May and June, 2015: Nova Scotia Projects

Sheet Harbour Camp In early May I gave a presentation to Nova Scotia Natural Resources staff in Kentville on methods to strategies to detect, monitor and eradicate feral swine. In discussion, it appeared that the only threat of feral swine infestation in Nova Scotia is in the southernmost stretch of the South Coast, where there is a captive wild boar herd. The facility is on a peninsula (referred to locally as an island), and therefore seems secure so far. June was spent investigating various portions of Nova Scotia (bases at Kejimkujik, Graves Island, Sheet Harbour, Baddeck), speaking with local residents. Special thanks to the Sheet Harbour Wildlife Association for their hospitality, especially for warm shelter on a cold and rainy night. Nova Scotia has many areas that would be suitable habitat for wild boars, especially in the Annapolis Valley, with its mild climate and extensive agricultural lands.

December 2014 - March 2015: Aerial Survey of Moose in the Southern Split Lake Area

In late 2014 and early 2015 I conducted the quantitative component of an aerial survey of the southern two Moose Management Units in the Split Lake Resource Management Area. The field work was conducted by Wildlife Resource Consulting Services, the lead consultant for the project.

Fall 2013 to Spring 2014: Keeyask Hearings, Move to Nova Scotia

I relocated to Canning, Nova Scotia, in May 2014 to begin a five-year exploration of corners of Canada where feral pigs are either present or pose the threat of infestation from nearby regions. Our stay here will last until May, 2015. Earlier this year, I completed the caribou risk assessment project with the Manitoba Model Forest. I also worked with Wildlife Resource Consulting Services and North/South Consultants on the Clean Environment Commission hearings on the Keeyask Generating Station project. The manuscript on the distribution of northern feral pigs is with my co-authors to transmit for publication. Work is ongoing with North/South Consultants on moose and caribou populations in northern Manitoba, and will continue until February 2015.

March, 2013: Moose Survey, Hunter Questionnaires

I have been working on moose surveys in the Split Lake Resource Management Area and the Fox Lake Resource Management Area with Rob Berger and his team at Wildlife Resource Consulting Services. I also worked with Saskatchewan Environment on getting a new hunter harvest survey in place.

October, 2010: Fuzzy Logic in Woodland Caribou Management

In October 2010, I presented a paper, entitled "Fuzzy Expert Systems As A Tool To Convey 'Weight Of Evidence' In Natural Resource Management', at the 13th North American Caribou Workshop: Sustaining Caribou and Their Landscapes - Knowledge To Action. The paper emphasized the ability of fuzzy systems to incorporate Aboriginal expert knowledge into the functioning of models, and has an intrinsic link with the weight of evidence concept that is proposed as the core approach to identifying critical woodland caribou habitat in Canada.

September, 2009 - March, 2011: Fuzzy Logic Risk Assessment Models for Woodland Caribou in Manitoba

In collaboration with the Manitoba Model Forest and Manitoba Conservation, Knudsen Wildlife Management Systems has been developing a process for assigning a risk index to each woodland caribou herd in Manitoba, based on disturbance, the trend of the population, and the size of the population. The system is written in Python, and can be run from within ESRI ArcGIS.

June, 2010: Feral Pigs in Quebec

In June 2010, Rosemary Dzus and I visited Ste-Perpetue, Quebec, in the county of L'Islet, near the Maine border, where feral pigs (wild boars) had been reported, dating as far back as 1995, to see if any local populations were persisting. In a meeting with local ATV enthusiasts, Wild Boar Habitat Quebec 2010 we learned that there were indeed wild boars west of Ste-Perpetue, and that they were being hunted ("Sangliers!!! Barbeque!!!") . This type of information is important to record, because it often stays under the radar of sample-based monitoring. In areas where feral pigs have become a problem, it has been common to discover that local residents had been aware of pigs for years, but never thought they were a problem. Then they found that, quite suddenly, there were pigs everywhere, rooting and feeding, and it had become impossible to get rid of them. If warmer winters persist, feral pigs will only move further north in North America, and become more of a problem.

June/July, 2010: Woodland Caribou Habitat in Eastern Canada

Avalon Peninsula 2010 In the summer of 2010, Rosemary Dzus and I also visited several locations in Quebec, Labrador and the island of Newfoundland, where woodland caribou herds occur. This was a valuable opportunity to get a feel for the variation in environments that woodland caribou occupy, from the Avalon Peninsula to the Northern Peninsula to the Mealy Mountains and the Red Wine area. The access provided by the Trans-Labrador Highway, which only opened in 2010, gave us the chance to do this, but will also bring a massive increase in disturbance to the Mealy Mountain area. That is unlikely to bode well for the local herd.

December, 2008 - May, 2010: Aerial Surveys of Moose in Northern Manitoba

In the spring of 2010, Knudsen Wildlife Management Systems and Wildlife Resource Consulting Services of Winnipeg, Manitoba, completed a two-year aerial survey of moose populations in a 43,000 square kilometer area north of Gillam, Manitoba. The survey involved two levels of stratification flying (with participation by local First Nations individuals), sample units based on the three minute grid, consultation with First Nations communities, automated development of GPS route files and complete storage of data within GIS.

June/July, 2009: Feral Pig Studies in the Texas Panhandle

Caprock June 2009 In the summer of 2009, I worked with colleagues at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, setting up a framework for recording observations of feral pig penetration into the agricultural land of the Southern Plains area around Lubbock. Until recently, feral pigs had not moved west from the rugged land below the rock escarpment called the Caprock (photo at right), into the extensive irrigated agricultural areas of the Llano Estacado. Knudsen Wildlife Management Systems created a system of recording information on a three minute grid, in ESRI ArcGIS, whereby reports of feral pig presence and activity could be summarized in a way that would allow eradication efforts to be implemented in a strategic way, gradually pushing feral pig populations back to the edge of the Caprock.

May, 2009: Feral Pig Locations in Saskatchewan

Brian Knudsen Frenchman River 2009 In May, 2009, Rosemary Dzus and I travelled to several locations in Saskatchewan at which feral pigs had been reported, to gather data on local persistence or disappearance. We learned that in the valley of the South Saskatchewan River, just north of Sceptre, wild boars were persisting. Sows were using islands in the river as sites for having their litters, and local residents were hunting boars. At Grasslands National Park, just downstream on the Frenchman River from a large captive wild boar herd, there were no reports of any pigs remaining at large. At Moose Mountain Park, pigs were apparently seen only rarely outside of the park itself, and eradication methods were being structured as organized, focused teams working from the air and on the ground. This is the method which seems to have worked well in western North Dakota in 2008.

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Bio: Brian Knudsen

I have been working in zoology and wildlife management in a variety of settings since 1966. In the summer of 1966, I worked on nematode parasites of mustelids as an assistant in the lab of Dr. Harold Welch at the University of Manitoba. I examined skulls of various mustelid species, generating the first species-specific infection rates for Manitoba, and isolating Skrjabingylus larvae from the droppings of captive weasels.

Lorraine In the summers of 1967 and 1968 I began working on polar bears, as a field assistant to Dr. Charles Jonkel of the Canadian Wildlife Service. The project conducted trapping and tagging operations on Southampton Island, Coats Island, North Twin Island, Cape Henrietta Maria, La Perouse Bay, Cape Tatnam and Cape Churchill. In 1969 I began my graduate research studying the behavioural ecology of polar bears on North Twin Island in James Bay, an uninhabited island of approximately 150 sq km, which held as many as 50 polar bears during the summer months. I captured and tagged polar bears, and observed the movement patterns of the bears. These data allowed the calculation of time budgets of bears during the ice-free period and the degree of inter-year fidelity to specific islands. I lived on North Twin Island for a total of 13 months from 1969 to 1972, and attended university at the University of Montana, receiving my M.A. in 1973.

Brian Knudsen's camp on Devon Island 1974 From 1972 to 1974, I worked on polar bears as a freelance biologist on various projects, including trapping problem polar bears at Churchill, capturing polar bears for physiology experiments, searching for maternity dens in the Arctic Islands, observing polar bears from cliffs on Devon Island and tagging polar bears from a helicopter in Ungava Bay.

gulls on cliff Baffin Island 1976 In 1975 and 1976 I made trips to Home Bay on Baffin Island for the National Museum of Canada, studying the taxonomy and the cliff-nesting adaptations of a group of species of large white-headed gulls in a zone of sympatry. This was also beginning of my Doctoral program at the University of Manitoba under Dr. Roger Evans. From 1977 to 1979 I did field research on Herring Gulls (also on cliff-nesting adaptations and on parent-young communication) at the Bowdoin College research station on Kent Island, in the Bay of Fundy. During this study, which resulted in my doctoral dissertation: "Reproductive Success amd Behaviour of Herring Gulls Breeding in Adjacent Cliff and Flat Habitats", I discovered patterns of explosive mortality within the gull colony, caused by predation by nesting adults on their neighbours' chicks. This was a rare event, and therefore very difficult to document by observation in the field - Herring Gull restrained on board you could never get a large enough sample size. So I was led into building models of the process, and also, eventually into 30 years of building biological models. I was also led into more intensive statistical work, using multivariate techniques to distinguish between the vocalizations of individual Herring Gulls.

Jane, Dan and Barry This worked out very nicely indeed, because three wonderful new priorities, by the names of Dan, Barry and Jane arrived in my life during these years. It's difficult to be an Arctic biologist and also be involved in soccer, baseball, dancing, judo, etc. But it's easy to do those things If you have a 9 to 5 job as a Biometrician, Which was exactly what the Wildlife Branch of Manitoba Natural Resources offered me in the summer of 1979. From then until the fall of 2007, I served as Biometrician, Population Ecologist and (for a few years) Chief of Wildlife Management for the Province of Manitoba. My four main roles in the Wildlife Branch were designing aerial surveys of ungulates, writing population models to forecast the consequences of hunting seasons, conducting the annual Big Game Hunter Questionnaire and maintaining a database of all these bodies of information. I also taught courses on quantitative and theoretical ecology and natural resource management at the University of Manitoba.

Brian Knudsen Paint Lake 2007 In addition to the core tasks listed above, I had the opportunity to be involved the the early years of remote sensing of wildlife habitat, working on moose and caribou projects in Northern Manitoba. I conducted workshops on statistics and other quantititive methods for wildlife biologists, and began to investigate the application of fuzzy expert systems in wildlife management. The years in the Wildlife Branch were a time of neverending delight in the increasing computing power on my desk. From my first machine, my beloved little Apple II+, which I bought to be able to run very CPU-intensive simulation work for my dissertation, personal computers made me smile every time I sat down at my desk. Well, not absolutely every time. But that's the spirit of the thing. It was a great era to love using computers - pretty much like living in a gingerbread house. There were some wonderful people who shared my delight in the flow of great new software and hardware.

It wouldn't have been the same journey without their companionship. Away from the keyboard I was also blessed with great colleagues and great friendships. In the office, the group was supportive through thick and thin. Out of the office, thanks to people who know Manitoba like the backs of their hands, I was able to see parts of the province that I only dreamt of seeing when I was a teenager, and more places that I didn't even know existed. Delta, the Summerberry, the Mantag, Chatfield, Souris River Bend, George Lake, Clematis. Places to go back to.

Brian Knudsen collage 10 Thanks to all my friends and teachers in Manitoba, Montana, and up North, who were along for the trip. It was great, you guys.

Brian Knudsen Turtle Mountain 2008 Whale tail Since leaving the Branch, I have been making the most of escaping from fluorescent lights and cubicles. I operate Knudsen Wildlife Management Systems, initially out of Warren, Manitoba and then out of Canning NS, Deux-Montagnes QC, and now Leamington ON. (Next stop: Eastend SK.) Some of the details of work since 2007 are described in Recent Projects.

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