"The benefit of an improved, adaptive and dynamic wildlife deterrent strategy is that it opens the door to continued innovation across the oil sands." - Buddy Dupuis
Keeping ‘feathers and fuzzies’ free from harm
Tailings ponds are necessary for recycling approximately 80 per cent of the water used in the oil sands production process rather than continuously drawing it from its original source. However, these ponds can also be harmful to wildlife.
Buddy Dupuis doesn’t see a catch 22. He sees an opportunity for innovation.
As a wildlife specialist, Buddy is responsible for managing, evaluating, and improving the systems that keep birds and other wild animals away from harm at Shell’s Muskeg River Mine. It is a complex job, considering the natural lure that large water bodies like tailings ponds can have on these creatures. Buddy has two critical tools at his disposal – an innovative technology called the BirdAvert™ system, and a strong personal commitment to making change and improvements in the industry.
BirdAvert™ is an ‘on-demand’ system that uses radar to track approaching birds. When a bird is detected near the a tailings pond, a radio signal activates several deterrents, including cannon sounds, a strobe light, scarecrows, and a mechanical model of a falcon that flaps its wings and screams attack cries, simulating a predator, which all create a highly effective scare tactic.
The system is an advance over traditional deterrent methods that typically involve firing cannons randomly over a given time interval. The problem with those systems is that they may not fire when the birds are present, and over time the birds learn that they are not something to be afraid of. BirdAvert™ also helps Shell fulfill a noise reduction commitment to the nearby community of Fort McKay since the deterrents fire significantly less often than those on random timers.
Buddy uses the system software to track all information in a database, including what the radar is tracking flying over the pond. This allows Shell to present an open book to regulatory inspectors.
Buddy is committed to implementing change and improvement across the industry. He is the Chair of the Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (Fisheries Subgroup), the Oil Sands Bird & Wildlife Protection Committee, the CEMA – RWG – Biodiversity and Wildlife Subgroup and the CONRAD Wildlife Habitat Effectiveness and Corridor Steering Committee. “The only way to significantly make change in the world is to be the change you want to see,” says Buddy.
So where do the fuzzies come in? Another part of Buddy’s job is to keep the animals he refers to as “the fuzzies” away from operations. Whether he is scaring away black bears and coyotes that wander on site, educating employees about maintaining site hygiene and waste practices (to limit the “rewards” that attract animals), or even safely relocating a family of foxes that took up residence in a pipe near the pond, Buddy has many “fuzzy stories” to back up his claim to never being bored on the job.