Aimee Mitchell & Chris Currie – “Species and ecosystems at risk”

Aimee Mitchell & Chris Currie – “Species and ecosystems at risk”
by Andrew Bryant, 17 Mar 2022.

In our first “in person” meeting since last November, Aimee Mitchell and Chris Currie came to speak to us about local endangered species and ecosystems.

The good news is that it was nice to see familiar faces (although most of us were still wearing masks).  The bad news is that hosting our meeting on Saint Patrick’s Day meant that there was a live music concert going on upstairs – which made listening conditions terrible.  Our new wireless headset microphone worked, but sadly the internet connection dropped out.  Most viewers visiting via Zoom quickly gave up in frustration.

For the 20-30 persons who attended in person, we learned that Chris and Aimee have been very busy indeed!  From Red-legged Frogs to Western Screech owls to Little Brown Bats, all of these species have fascinating life-history traits.  I’d forgotten that these bats, for example, have only one pup each year…but can live to be 30 years!

It was a good talk under trying circumstances – and we have some planning and technical challenges to solve!




Mark Sloan – “What can stable isotopes tell us about the decline of Marbled Murrelets?”

Mark Sloan – “What can stable isotopes tell us about the decline of Marbled Murrelets?”
by Andrew Bryant, 25 Jan 2018.

Mark Sloan now works as  a “First Nations Relations Advisor” for the BC Government, but once upon a time he spent his days (and nights) capturing Marbled Murrelets at sea – for science!

These delightful robin-sized seabirds are noteworthy for a bunch or reasons.  Most of their population is found in B.C. (although they range from Californa to Alaska), where they’re considered “threatened” or “endangered”.  Most unusually, these seabirds nest in trees – specifically in big, tall trees typically associated with coastal old-growth forests.

Here in Powell River, we typically see murrelets in winter plumage, and rarely see them in their far more drab, brown breeding plumage.  Indeed, for decades their breeding habits remained unknown – the first nest was only discovered in 1974 – by a maintenance worker!

Mark’s was definitely a science talk, with hypotheses, statistical tests, graphs and definitions (what is “stable isotope analysisanyway?)
In a nutshell, what Mark’s team was trying to learn was whether breeding success of murrelets could be attributed to “how high on the food chain they were feeding”.  Their full paper is available here, but be forwarned…it’s hefty reading.

What I enjoy most about such talks is that science is indeed very much like a detective story.
Sometimes the data fit one’s hypothesis, the conclusions are straightforward, and all the loose ends get neatly tied up…

…and sometimes, as in this case, they don’t!



Pamela Zevit – “Diversity by Design”

Pamela Zevit – “Diversity by Design”
by Andrew Bryant, 18 Jan 2018.

Pamela Zevit works for the South Coast Conservation Program (SCCP).  Together with her colleage Tamsin Baker, Pamela came to speak to us about one of their latest initiatives – diversity by design.

In a phrase, “diversity by design” refers to habitat restoration – and just like ecosystems, things quickly become complicated.

For example, a species can be listed as endangered under the BC Wildlife Act, or the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA).  There are other “threat-levels” (extirpated, vulnerable, threatened) and designations (e.g., our provincial Red and Blue lists).  Add to that the diversity of species, habitat types, land ownership types and “stakeholders” (stewardship groups, environmental and parks department employees, municipal planners, private landowners and even consultants and developers), and it becomes mind-bending.

Pamela expertly guided us through this maze to outline the following Keys to Successful Habitat Restoration Projects (Guiding Principles):

•  Put protection over restoration
•  Take a long-term view
•  Design for diversity
•  Adopt a socio-ecological approach
•  Apply the best available knowledge
•  Set clear objectives
•  Apply adaptive management
•  Document your results

Pamela and Tamsin also provided a well-stocked display table – all of which is available online – and much of it new to me.
I had no idea there was a Snail Key for the South Coast, for example
(that sure would have come in handy last year on Mitlenatch!)
…and there are many more