The importance of wetlands in the city: Yes, there’s an app for that

In and around Calgary, Call of the Wetland app leverages citizen science to track amphibian populations

The northern leopard frog likes its water. In fact, it rarely wanders more than 30 feet or so from a water source.

In Alberta, though, northern leopard frogs began disappearing steadily about 40 years ago. And in Calgary—despite their importance to our ecosystem and our overall well-being—more than 90 percent of the city’s pre-settlement wetlands have been lost due to urban growth, pollution, fragmentation and climate change.

In Alberta, the northern leopard frog is a species at risk. So is the long-toed salamander. In fact, of the six amphibians that live in the rural areas surrounding Calgary, three are at-risk—and very little is known about amphibians in the city itself.

That’s why the Miistakis Institute, a conservation research organization, launched in 2017 the Call of the Wetland project—a citizen science program that encourages people to report amphibian sightings and calls, using a mobile app, in the Calgary area as a gauge for wetland health.

“It’s a bit early to tell, but we see momentum already building toward a community that we expect will champion wetland protection and restoration,” says Tracy Lee, project coordinator for Call of the Wetland.

Parks Foundation Calgary’s Rotary/Mattamy Greenway, a nearly complete 138-kilometer urban pathway that encircles Calgary, is an ideal backdrop for this amphibian monitoring program, with its series of 12 interpretive wetlands, off-leash dog parks, memorial gardens, family fitness parks and nature-inspired playparks along its route.

People using the Rotary/Mattamy Greenway, or any other pathway in Calgary’s extensive system, are encouraged to report amphibian sightings in various ways:

  • One-off sightings via the Call of the Wetland app (available in the App Store or Google Play);
  • Participating in planned amphibian surveys, using the app; or
  • Directly submitting photos or articles to

The Miistakis Institute plans on sharing the collected data with the City of Calgary and Alberta Environment and Parks, in the hopes that it will help influence important decisions on future urban development and planning.

“During our first season (which runs from mid-April to late August), we had more than 200 people download our app, and we had data submitted by 80 volunteers,” says Lee. “We also had a very active Facebook page, and members of the public were alerting us to their concerns about local wetlands, which is an encouraging sign.”

Enbridge is committed to sustainability, and helping to meet North America’s growing energy needs in ways that are environmentally, economically and socially responsible. We actively invest in non-profit organizations and initiatives that promote environmental stewardship, conservation, education and habitat remediation.

In 2016 and 2017, we contributed a total of $250,000 toward construction of the Rotary/Mattamy Greenway, and development and launch of the Call of the Wetland app.

And as the second season of citizen science gets underway, we’ve committed another $40,000 toward this important environmental monitoring initiative, which is also supported by the Calgary Zoo, the Alberta Conservation Association, the City of Calgary, the Calgary Foundation and the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.

“We created this program to get people out enjoying the natural environment, to create a stronger connection to nature in the city, and to understand why we need to pay attention to wetlands,” says Lee. “So far, it’s working.”

(TOP PHOTO: A boreal chorus frog, Alberta's smallest amphibian. Photo courtesy Kris Kendell.)