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Workshop on a Canadian Biodiversity Observation Network (CAN BON)

Call for expressions of interest

General news

May 26, 2021

Update: The CAN BON workshop will be held online from July 27 to 29, 2021. This workshop is a preliminary phase for identifying a need for a potential CAN BON. EOIs submitted by the May 31, 2021 deadline will be considered for attendance at the workshop. However, EOIs will be accepted until September 30, 2021 in order to enhance the collection of information on relevant activities as well as for inclusion on follow-up communications from the workshop.

Short summary

A workshop is being organized to discuss the feasibility and desirability of establishing a Canadian Biodiversity Observation Network (CAN BON) to transform Canada’s capacity to research, survey, and monitor biodiversity, natural resources and ecosystem services in ways that will better inform management and conservation. The emphasis of the workshop will be: (1) identifying existing initiatives, data and resources related to biodiversity observation and monitoring that could contribute to a CAN BON; and (2) evaluating ways that a CAN BON could enhance these initiatives through improved integration, collaboration or syntheses.


The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Parks Canada (PC) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are working together to strengthen collaborative efforts among the academic community, government agencies, non-government organizations, Indigenous rights holders and other relevant stakeholders regarding biodiversity observation and monitoring in Canada.

Biodiversity monitoring is the process of observing biodiversity and tracking how it changes through time. Monitoring provides the data for predicting trends in biodiversity, evaluating the integrity of ecosystems, their responses to disturbances, and the success of actions taken to conserve or recover biodiversity. Biodiversity research can support monitoring by addressing key questions and testing hypotheses about how and why biodiversity is changing across locations. Such research provides essential context for interpreting monitoring results, guiding future monitoring, and supporting local, regional, national and international efforts to conserve and restore biodiversity. Sustainable biodiversity monitoring initiatives must be user-driven, directly serving policy and management needs. Sustainable initiatives also recognize that generating knowledge about the land and waters is a goal shared with Indigenous peoples with recognized rights, titles, treaties and land claim agreements and, as such, research should co-develop knowledge with Indigenous peoples.

NSERC, ECCC, DFO, PC and CSA are convening a workshop to discuss a potential Canadian Biodiversity Observation Network (CAN BON) that could transform Canada’s capacity to survey, manage and conserve its biodiversity, natural resources and ecosystem services to support our transition to a sustainable economy. Existing biodiversity monitoring programs in Canada are delivered by many different players and occur in many different forms. These range from large-scale informal citizen science projects to statistically designed monitoring of managed species such as migratory birds or mammals, to inventories of rare species, to intensive site-specific monitoring, to use of satellite imagery for mapping and monitoring ecosystems. Linking these efforts could lead to synergies and efficiencies in analysis and reporting. Key to this will be improving interoperability of different data types and adopting common and open protocols for monitoring and inference.  This will facilitate identification and targeting of gaps in coverage, and ultimately greatly strengthen efforts to conserve biodiversity in Canada.

CAN BON would be part of GEO BON, the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network. GEO BON is a global network of 1500 researchers and more than 500 partner organizations. The mission of GEO BON is to improve the acquisition, coordination and delivery of biodiversity observations and related services to users and decision makers (e.g., Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity). The aim of GEO BON is to establish a global network of biodiversity observation networks that contributes to effective management policies for biodiversity and ecosystem services.


The main objectives of this workshop will be to

  • obtain initial information on the state of biodiversity monitoring in Canada and the resources currently available to support monitoring
  • identify ways that a CAN BON could support local, regional, national and international efforts to conserve and restore biodiversity, including meeting Canada’s international commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity
  • initiate an inclusive approach to the design and implementation of a CAN BON drawing on perspectives from Indigenous peoples, scientists, government, private and public sectors—for Indigenous peoples, the expectation is to pursue a co-development approach to CAN BON that would allow equitable and meaningful participation of Indigenous peoples and a weaving of traditional knowledge and Western science

Anticipated outcomes of the workshop

  • Identification of available resources and the existing monitoring capacity and gaps in Canada
  • A vision for CAN BON that articulates how it could enhance existing monitoring activities and what decisions it could support
  • Identification of opportunities for sharing and integration of observations

Submitting an expression of interest

This call for expressions of interest is intended for Canadian groups, institutes, networks, or teams (including federal, provincial and territorial government groups) who are currently undertaking significant biodiversity monitoring activities and related research. Relevant activities include but are not restricted to

  • conducting systematic biodiversity observations to monitor the status and trends of biodiversity in Canada (this includes genetic, population, species, community, ecosystem diversity)
  • using or integrating Indigenous knowledge for the assessment of biodiversity changes
  • developing expertise in new technologies for biodiversity observations, including, but not restricted to observations from the ground, air or space
  • using machine learning techniques related to visual and audio recognition technology to identify species
  • integrating knowledge and data types to achieve synthesis and understanding from large databases
  • developing expertise in statistical methods and models for making inference about biodiversity change, especially through the integration of multiple data types to estimate and forecast biodiversity change at large scales

The expression of interest (EOI) will be used to

  • obtain initial information on relevant activities occurring in Canada that could be linked to a CAN BON network
  • create an initial inventory of relevant potential collaborators engaged in monitoring activities in Canada
  • identify participants for a workshop to discuss the framing, requirements and objectives of a potential CAN BON network

Interested parties are invited to submit an expression of interest (EOI) to NSERC by 8 p.m. (ET) on May 31, 2021. To submit an EOI please fill out the CAN BON EOI form online and submit the completed form to the NSERC Secure site.

The EOI will request the following information:

  • The participant’s name, affiliation (including name of institute, network, biodiversity monitoring project, agency, or department), phone number and email address
  • A list of up to ten keywords related to the participant/group’s current activities and areas of expertise
  • A short description (up to 1,800 characters) describing your ideas for how a CAN BON could enhance existing biodiversity monitoring in Canada—questions to consider include: (1) what are the priority issues that CAN BON could address, and (2) what are the core elements required for such a network to succeed
  • If applicable, a short description (up to 1,800 characters) describing how your organization has worked with Indigenous groups (e.g., types of work carried out by Indigenous groups, engagement efforts, integration of traditional knowledge, observation of and adherence to ethics guidelines such as OCAP)
  • A short description (up to 1, 800 characters) describing how you or your organization’s activities relate to biodiversity observations and monitoring in Canada, and how these could contribute to a CAN BON—please consider both resources (e.g., data, databases, program infrastructure, and data collection or data management technologies) as well as expertise (e.g., monitoring design, networking approaches, data integration, statistical analyses, and decision support systems), and also describe the scope and scale of your programs
  • Consent to share information submitted in your expression of interest (name, affiliation, email address, area of expertise/keywords, short descriptions) with a working group including people from outside NSERC that will be organizing the workshop and other groups that have submitted an EOI
  • Mandatory self-identification information form—self-identification information is not part of your EOI and will not be shared with other EOI submissions

The list of interested individuals (including name, affiliation, email address, keywords and descriptions) will be shared through a secure site. This will be crucial in facilitating connections and enhancing collaboration for the workshop as well as in later stages of the potential CAN BON.   

Information provided through the EOI will be synthesized and shared prior to the workshop to initiate discussion. However, to ensure a manageable discussion, the number of participants may be limited to a subset of EOI submissions. Workshop participants will be selected to represent a broad range of perspectives, while maximizing inclusivity and diversity. All parties, including those not attending the workshop, will be kept informed of the outputs from the workshop. Attendance at the workshop may require engagement of attendees in preparation of additional materials in advance of the workshop.

Preliminary timeline



May 4, 2021

Call for expressions of interest

May 31, 2021

Expression of interest deadline

June 2021

Invitations to workshop

July 27–29, 2021

Workshop (online)

Please note that these dates are subject to change.


If you have questions about the expression of interest for the workshop, please contact NSERC at

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