Ducks Unlimited Canada – Leading Conservation Utilizing Geospatial Technology

Project: New Pakowki Landscape Inventory

Pilot project tests new semi-automated mapping methodology


Who is Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC)?

As a leader in Canadian habitat conservation, DUC works with government, industry, non-profit organizations, and landowners to conserve, restore, and manage wetlands and grasslands for the benefit of waterfowl, wildlife, and people. Their goal is to ensure abundant wetlands and waterfowl for generations to come while improving the lives of Canadians. And because waterfowl are migratory, efforts to conserve the species impact diverse areas across the entire country—including your community.


Wetlands are an extremely important resource for all Canadians. These vital ecosystems provide benefits such as clean drinking water, flood and drought relief, recreational opportunities, as well as habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. Wetlands are disappearing at an alarming rate; since record keeping began, 70 per cent of wetland ecosystems have disappeared throughout the settled regions of the country and more are lost every day. It is critical to have a complete national inventory and system in place to monitor our country’s wetlands, which is why the Canadian Wetland Inventory (CWI) wetland mapping initiative is so important.


The Canadian Wetland Inventory (CWI) was established in 2002 by DUC, Environment Canada, the Canadian Space Agency and the North American Wetlands Conservation Council. CWI partners, including several provinces and academic institutions, have accepted the standard for detecting, classifying, and mapping the different types of wetlands across Canada. DUC has been conducting high-resolution wetland mapping in the Canadian Prairies since the CWI standard was released in 2004.



The benefits of the Canadian Wetland Inventory (CWI):

  • Assist industry, governments, and conservation groups to develop land-use policies and protocols.
  • Measure performance of those policies and protocols towards landscape sustainability objectives.
  • Provide easy access to digitally mapped and classified wetlands using standardized data structures and management protocols.

The Mission:

Recent developments in available satellite image platforms, Objected Based Image Analysis (OBIA) techniques, and machine learning inspired the creation of this pilot project to evaluate the efficacy and efficiency of a semi-automated methodology for mapping wetlands throughout the Prairie Provinces. The recent release of the Alberta Wetland Mapping Standard and Guidelines and the existing CWI standard are the benchmarks to evaluate this new methodology.

Initiated in 2020, the project assessed a 6,000-square-km area in Southern Alberta centered on the Pakowki North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) Priority Landscape.

This area is important for breeding waterfowl, in particular Northern Pintails, a waterfowl species which have experienced a 50 per cent decline in population since the 1970s.


Using a new semi-automated method developed by DUC, a 2018 wetland baseline for the Pakowki Target landscape was developed. The baseline meets the mapping accuracy and classification standards of both the Alberta Classification System and the CWI. This data is critical to the successful implementation of conservation programming in the region.

You can visit an interactive web map showcasing the Pakowki Landscape Inventory here:



A complete wetland inventory map is an invaluable tool and assists in:

  • Supporting environmental assessment and sustainable development planning
  • Modeling wetland carbon storage and climate change; carbon budgeting
  • Developing policy based on science for all levels of government
  • Managing wetlands to sustain their functions and values
  • Focusing conservation, restoration, and scientific research programs
  • Providing a foundation for national wetland monitoring and reporting
  • Enhancing management of water quantity and quality


Partners and Support:

DUC led the project with financial support from the Alberta NAWMP Partnership and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North American Waterfowl Conservation Act (NAWCA). As DUC’s partner on developing the next generation of wetland mapping in Alberta, the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) committed valuable expertise and the hydroperiod layer of the wetland inventory. Southern MD’s of Alberta Aerial Survey Project provided aerial photography at no cost in support of the project. Highly accurate LiDAR data, sourced through Tarin Resource Services, and provided by Airborne Imaging and Hexagon Geosystems, was critical to the success of the Pakowki Target Landscape wetland mapping project.


Lyle Boychuk, Manager of GIS and Inventory Programs, DUC

“A challenge with this venture was the lack of appropriate, publicly available LiDAR to support our mapping projects, and the high commercial cost of available products. There is an absence of non-profit pricing with the main commercial sources within the industry.”


Kim Koons, Lead Executive Officer, Tarin Resource Services Ltd.

“When Lyle first approached me to discuss this pilot project for DUC, I was excited to learn more about the machine learning technology and how LiDAR could assist with conservation efforts. We were happy to do the research and connect Lyle and his Team with a cost-effective solution. Tarin has access to a community of geospatial data and technology specialists, and because of our long-standing relationship with Martin Maric of Airborne Imaging Inc., we new he was the right connection for DUC, as we both understand the importance of conservation.”

Martin Maric, Corporate Sales Manager, Airborne Imaging Inc.

“We have been fortunate to partner with Tarin as a re-seller of our LiDAR library. By doing so, we can offer innovative solutions to clientele that in turn brings together various remote sensing technologies, from multiple other sources. Seeing the LiDAR data from our library used for great projects like this is rewarding for our group and equally important for the public at large.

Airborne Imaging has a large portion of Alberta covered with a 1m grid digital terrain model. For this project, Airborne provided a 5m digital terrain model, created using the original higher density model. This allowed DUC to benefit from a very accurate ground model, while allowing them to reduce their up-front costs significantly and hence facilitating the purchase of larger areas than would have been possible otherwise.”

Lyle Boychuk, Manager of GIS and Inventory Programs, DUC

“Tarin successfully negotiated pricing based on DUC’s ability to pay (non-profit) eliminating the need for me to negotiate with individual LiDAR vendors.

The LiDAR distributed by Tarin has allowed us to evaluate a new semi-automated wetland classification technique. Its success has led to significant operational improvements to our mapping program.”

Kim Koons, Lead Executive Officer, Tarin Resource Services Ltd.

“We often find that the forerunners of new geospatial technology are those companies focused on conservation. Tarin has a long history with DUC, and I am happy to be a trusted source to Lyle for geospatial data. We are honored to play a part in the conservation of Canada’s wetlands and look forward to working together with DUC for many more years to come.”


Although wetland inventories have been completed for some areas of Canada, large portions of the country do not have a current CWI compliant wetland layer.  In partnership with numerous stakeholders, DUC continues to innovate with the goal of having a national wetland inventory that contributes to the sustainability of Canada’s wetlands. It is your continued support that assists DUC in conservation efforts.



For more information, please contact:

Lyle Boychuk

Manager of GIS and Inventory Programs, Prairie Region

Ducks Unlimited Canada

306-359 -2209



With community support, DUC pursues research that looks at new ways to positively affect the environment, support education initiatives that empower future generations and invest in Canadian habitat conservation.

“We need your help to conserve water, wetlands, and wildlife for the generations of tomorrow”

Using science to find solutions, DUC continues to find new opportunities to help conserve some of Canada’s most vital habitats.