Find out what MABRRI students have been up to as they learn and conduct their research in and around the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region. As part of working at the research institute, students are asked to share and document their experiences through photos and blog writing - everything from events attended to places explored.

Student Blog Posts

Garry Oak Ecosystem Mapping Field Day

By: Roxanne Croxall

On Tuesday June 5th, MABRRI’s Assistant Research and Community Engagement Coordinator, Larissa Thelin, and I, Roxanne Croxall, a MABRRI Research Assistant, visited the first of many Garry Oak Ecosystem (GOE) field sites identified by our predictive mapping. This first field visit on Tuesday took place at Notch Hill in Nanoose Bay. With the help of experts, Dr. Caroline Jossefson (VIU Biology), and naturalist Kent Anders, the MABRRI team was able to begin ground-truthing our remotely sensed predictive mapping. We took with us in the field our predictive maps of Notch Hill with some highlighted field sites and began by first identifying Garry oaks and other indicative GOE flora species. Then once a GOE was identified, we began delineating, with a Garmin GPS, the extent of the individual ecosystems by walking around its perimeter. Caroline and Kent were extremely knowledgeable and able to help us identify numerous flora species at this field site, including many native and invasive species. Information such as the degree of introduced species invasion and surrounding land use were recorded and will later help in identifying ecosystem vulnerability. Information specific to the ecosystem, including but not limited to: site openness, apparent soil depth, dominant tree species, and proximity to the ocean, were also recorded in order to better predict the type of GOE present (e.g. meadow, coastal bluff, woodland, etc.). Throughout the course of the summer, we will try to visit as many of our predictively mapped field sites with the hopes of ground-truthing them all. This field work will help generate a more refined map of GOE distribution and allow us to gain a better understanding of individual GOE vulnerability within the MABR for future conservation purposes.

  • Garry Oak

    An old Garry Oak

    An old Garry Oak

  • Mapping a GOE

    Mapping a GOE (photo by Caroline Joseffson)

    Mapping a GOE (photo by Caroline Joseffson)

  • Examining a GOE

    Roxanne examining a GOE

    Roxanne examining a GOE

Garry Oak Ecosystem Mapping project at VIU CREATE | April 12th

By: Rachelle Shearing

On the 12th of April, Roxanne Croxall and I got to present at the 2018 CREATE Conference at Vancouver Island University. This event provides students with an opportunity to showcase their research. We got to present and engage with the VIU community about the Garry Oak Ecosystem (GOE) mapping project, a collaboration between Dr. Hannah Wilson (VIU Geography) and MABRRI.

This project aligns with the province’s current conservation goals and provides a unique opportunity to generate a better understanding of the vulnerability of GOE’s. The goals include mapping the location and extent of all the GOE’s within the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region, and determining which GOE locations within the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region are vulnerable.

The poster we presented highlighted the beginning stages of the project. While Roxanne tackled the literature review and poster design, I got to start the mapping. This was a great opportunity for me to utilize skills gained in a Remote Sensing class I completed this term. Remote Sensing is the technique of using remotely sensed data (in this case, data acquired by satellite) and using it to learn more about the landscape. I then processed this data in a program called PCI Geomatica, which has a variety of neat applications. This project used the programs ‘supervised classification’ feature’. This involved me telling the computer what areas were certain land cover types (water, urban, Garry Oak Ecosystems, etc.), the computer assessing them, and then distributing each land cover over the entire area.

The Remote Sensing method is really useful for this project, as it allows areas that appear similar to known GOE’s on a satellite photo to be identified; however, classification is a trial and error process, and it took multiple tries to get a workable map. I’m really happy with how the map turned out in the end, even though I could work on it forever! I really enjoy using the software, especially in such a unique and relevant application.

The next part of the project will be going out to the physical locations as identified during the mapping process. Field work will include assigning the Garry Oak Ecosystem type, and looking at surrounding land covers to determine variability.

Forage Fish Spawning Habitat Monitoring | December 6th

By: Brian Timmer

Over the past year, Project Coordinator, Haley Tomlin and the MABBRI team have been working on putting together a forage fish monitoring program. As a biologist in training, I got pretty excited when I found out this project was in the works. When it was announced that Phillip Dionne from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was coming up to teach us the methods they have been using in Puget Sound for decades, I jumped at the opportunity to take part in the training. The day started in the classroom, where Phil gave us the low-down on local forage fish, so that we could all start on the same page. Along with much of the MABRRI gang, was Pam Thuringer, a biologist from Victoria who has been integral to our team, and our friend Rachel Wang, from the World Wildlife Foundation.

For those who may not be aware, forage fish are a group of non-related fishes that occupy an important niche in the marine food-chain. For this project, we are particularly interested in looking at beaches along East Vancouver Island, to assess whether Pacific sand lance and surf smelt are depositing their eggs on our shores, and if so, what we can do to protect them.

 After a thrilling morning of fish chat (my favorite kind of chat), we all took off to the beach to practice sampling methods. We picked an area just north of Pipers Lagoon, found a spot that was just right along the tide line, unrolled our tape measure, and got to sampling. We brought our samples back to the VIU campus to process them by the vortex method, which is just as cool as it sounds. Using a gold panning device, a pump, and some buckets and sieves, we were able to separate the sample materials by density, which means any organics, like eggs, will be filtered out of the samples for further inspection.

Finally, we took our samples back to the lab to look for forage fish eggs under the microscope. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any eggs in our particular samples, but luckily, Phil was prepared with some eggs for us to look at. We practiced our species identification and even learned to tell apart different stages of embryonic development within the eggs.

Since then, we have been out a few more times sharpening our methodology and scouting out locations for sampling. In the new year we will be hitting the ground running with collection and analysis of our samples, and if our preliminary results are any indication, this will be a highly successful project.

Canada C3 Visit | October 21st

By: Kayla Harris

Early this morning adventurous passengers of Canada C3's 143-day voyage crossed the stormy waters of Nanoose Bay to be greated by Snaw-Naw-As First Nation and the Mount Arrowmsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI) team. After a heartfelt welcome from Councillor Lawrence Mitchell and words of thanks given on behalf of Canada C3 at Snaw-Naw-As First Nation's health centre, passengers were divided into two groups to learn of the Snaw-Naw-As Garden of Spiritual Healing or to participate in a wetland mapping project demostration and geochaching activity at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. The weather was stormy but spirits were high as the groups merged together again afterward for an informative afternoon led by Chief Michael Recalma at the Big Qualicum Fish Hatchery.

Much like today's weather, Canada's past relationships between aboriginal and non-aborigional communities has been stormy and today shone light in the right direction towards truthful story telling and reconciliation. Canada C3's long voyage from coast to coast to coast brought individuals from all walks of life across Canada to share a day in this beautiful place we call home. Stormy or not, it truly is an amazing place.

Wetlandkeepers Course | July 14th

Written by: Maria Kawahara 

The BC Wildlife Federation partnered with Greenways Land Trust in Campbell River, BC to host a Wetlands Keeper course free of charge and open to the public. Wetlands are important ecosystems that are disappearing in BC and urgently needs community protection. In 2016, MABRRI started a wetland mapping project in partnership with the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) and Vancouver Island University (VIU). This project is helping build an inventory of where wetlands are, and promotes research regarding connectivity between wetlands and other water systems. On July 14th, MABRRI research assistants Curtis Rispin, Lauren Shaw and myself, attended the 2.5 day workshop taught by Michele Jones from Mimulus Biological Consultants. The workshop consisted of both field work and in class presentations that taught the class a variety of stewardship skills including how to identify and map wetlands, bird and plant species, and soil sampling.


The MABRRI team arrived friday evening and joined the rest of the class for the introduction to wetlands and classification presentation. Michele provided a fantastic overview of the initial wetland assessment and baseline survey that the class would eventually practice in the field. Michele taught everyone how to use surveying field instruments (e.g compass) and brought in books and plants into the classroom to help identify vegetative and bird species.


In the afternoon of Saturday and Sunday, the class split into groups of 3 or 4 to conduct their own baseline survey in a real wetland in Campbell River. Wetlands are an incredibly fun place to do research! The class marched through the wetlands in waders and gum boots through shrubs higher than 6 feet and into water hip deep. The course was completed on Sunday and the MABRRI team received their Wetlandkeeper certificate! This was an excellent course that gives participants the opportunity to connect with community groups who are actively protecting this ecosystem. I am so happy to have the chance partake in the workshop and am looking forward to using the stewardship skills we learned with Michele in the MABRRI project.

Wetlandkeepers Course | July 14th

Written by: Lauren Shaw

During the weekend of July 14-16 MABRRI student researchers, Maria Kawahara, Curtis Rispin, and Lauren Shaw participated in a Wetland Keepers Course facilitated by Michele Jones and the British Columbia Wildlife Federation (BCWF).

The course took place at North Island College in Campbell River and was designed to teach participants wetland mapping, plant and animal identification, soil sampling, and other wetland classification and stewardship skills.

On day one participants learned about all the different types of wetlands in British Columbia, and the plants and soils that can be used to identify them. On days two and three field work became a major component of the course with participants learning how to properly map and begin transecting a wetland in order to gain knowledge on the various zones that can be found in a wetland. Finally, participants were able to put their knowledge from the classroom to the test and learnt how to identify animals and plant species that can be found in a wetland as well as how you can get involved in protecting wetlands in your community.

Maria, Curtis, and I can all agree that the course offered exceptional practical experience and ensured a fun weekend, even if we were outside of the MABR!

MABRRI continues to be a partner with the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) on a five year project to map wetlands in the region in order to learn where they are, how they are classified, and what connection they have to groundwater recharge. The knowledge gained from this course will allow for further identification of wetlands in the RDN and the necessary resources to protect them from degradation. 

Bull Kelp Sampling | June 13th

Wrriten by: Curtis Rispin

  The perks of working with MABRRI were on full display on Friday June 9th when myself, Ryan and Maria launched The Silver Bullet (Ryan’s boat) from Schooner Cove in Nanoose. We set out to locate and sample bull kelp in the Salish Sea, which has been disappearing along the coast of south east Vancouver Island.  Our first target was around the east and north side of Gabriola Island where I snorkeled and searched the cool waters for any signs of bull kelp.  However, while we found some drifting in the tide line, no live bull kelp was found after over an hour of searching. Next, we drove around the western side of Gabriola, admiring the beautiful homes and the weathered sandstone cliffs while keeping our eyes peeled for signs of bull kelp on our way to Dodd Narrows. The narrows, between Mudge Island and Vancouver Island, is quite daunting, with huge amounts of water being squeezed through the two land masses as the tides change. The water appears to be river like, with whirlpools and rapids appearing from seemingly nowhere, ready to take a boat under. Luckily, our captain Ryan knew exactly what he was doing and dropped off myself and Maria for a quick snorkel and search along the shores preceding the narrows. This time we were in luck, hitting a jackpot of bull kelp that we were able to sample safely away from the narrows.  The diversity surrounding the bull kelp was impressive, with schools of juvenile salmon and perch swimming with the current and hiding out amongst the kelp. We saw dozens of starfish and sea stars, mussels, barnacles, crabs, sea anemones, and a variety of seaweeds scattered on the rocks where the water rushed past like a river as it was pulled through the narrows.

  Ryan picked us up after we had collected all of our needed samples and we headed back to Nanoose satisfied with a great day snorkeling and searching for bull kelp in the Salish Sea. However, the day wasn’t complete without a quick stop for some salmon fishing around the Winchelsea Islands. While we didn’t catch any fish this time, I was still thankful for getting out on the water with some of the MABRRI team and realizing how lucky we are to get to enjoy our jobs as much as we do.

For more information on the bull kelp sampling and monitoring project, check out our projects page

Linley Valley Trails Assesment | June 12th

Written by: Lauren Shaw

Linley Valley Cottle Lake Park is a 145 acre wilderness park located in the heart of Nanaimo with access points throughout the city. Filled with a network of trails and untouched scenery the park offers a lush escape from the city with well-maintained trails and immaculate views of the Salish Sea from higher points.

             In 2014, the City of Nanaimo purchased additional plots of land to expand the borders of Linley Valley Cottle Lake Park significantly. The increasing pressure of development surrounding the park was halted as the city committed to preserving the land in its natural state.

             So, what is MABRRI’s role in all of this? On June 12th, a team of 8 went out on a remarkably sunny day and began surveying the trails of the newly acquired park land. These trail surveys will be used to create a map of the current network in place in the park as well as recommendations to the city for general maintenance of the park or recommendations for change such as signage.

             MABRRI also worked at the City of Nanaimo’s BioBlitz event for the park on May 31st, which was an on-going bio-physical assessment of the land with high-school students from the Nanaimo area and a public planning process to help define a long term vision for the park, future trail, and green way connections.

             A consultation event ‘World Café’ style will be held with community members for their opinions on what they would like to see in the park too, so stay tuned to when the City of Nanaimo and MABRRI will be hosting that event! 

The Snaw-Naw-As Garden of Spiritual Healing | May 27th 2017

Written by: Larissa Thelin

MABRRI is currently working with Snaw-Naw-As First Nation to develop the Snaw-Naw-As Garden of Spiritual Healing over the course of two years. The main goal of the garden is to help preserve traditional knowledge and language pertaining to local native plant species. The garden will also help promote food security, raise awareness of physical and mental health benefits associated with gardening, and foster a sense of community by being a place where members can teach, learn, and explore gardening together. The garden will house a traditional smokehouse and cooking pit as well as a community gathering area, where education and outreach events can take place.

Last week the MABRRI team officially broke ground! The team has been working tirelessly this past week to build and stain numerous raised garden beds, clear and level the site, and lay the gravel for the garden’s pathway. Next, we will put the garden beds in place, so that Snaw-Naw-As members can begin planting fruits, vegetables, and local native plants right away, as well as lay bark mulch throughout the rest of the site, and begin plans for constructing a tool shed. On Friday May 26 and Saturday May 27 the team hosted a Tool Drive in hopes of acquiring donated supplies such as gardening tools, wood, and plants for the construction of the garden. The event was a success!

MABRRI would like to thank the following individuals and businesses for their help with this project:

  • TD Friends of the Environment, Home Depot Canada Foundation, TimberWest, and the Island Health Community Wellness Program for donating funds.
  • Cloverdale Paint for donating stain, Aquila Cedar Products Ltd. for donating cedar, and The Milner Group for donating soil.
  • Cody Nielson (Owner of Rite on Time Excavation & Trucking Ltd.) for volunteering to level our site and help move gravel into place for the garden’s pathway.
  • Tourism Nanaimo, Harbour Living, the Salish Sea Sentinal, VIU Events, and Island Radio for advertising the Tool Drive event.
  • All the individuals that donated rakes, shovels, sprinklers, plants, and other supplies during the Tool Drive.

Keep a look out for more updates on our progress!

Salish Sea Monitoring | May 3 2017

Written By: Larissa Thelin

On Wednesday May 3, MABRRI research assistants Ryan Fredrickson, Kidston Short, and Larissa Thelin spent the day on the Salish Sea with Captain Tom Fredrickson to do water sampling for the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project. Coordinated by Canadian-based Pacific Salmon Foundation and American-based Long Live the Kings, the project aims to determine the primary factors affecting the survival of juvenile salmon and steelhead in the Salish Sea. The researchers at MABRRI, along with 60 other organizations in British Columbia and Washington State, help collect important data that will allow us to better understand salmon in saltwater as well as better manage our salmon species in the future.

We initially aimed to set out at 6:30 am but the winds were too strong so we had to delay. Finally, at 8:30 am, with the Silver Bullet equipped with our Niskin bottle and multi-parameter sonde, we set out on our 65 mile trip. We left from Schooner Cove in Nanoose Bay and travelled around Lasqueti Island and back, stopping at 7 sites throughout to take our samples. With the Niskin bottle we sampled nutrients and phytoplankton at multiple depths; with the digital multi-parameter sonde, we sampled a variety of water attributes such as water temperature, salinity, and pH. This information will help the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project understand if the water is currently suitable for salmon.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t ideal and the waves were quite choppy (I personally spent the entire day seasick, lending only minimal help to my talented team). But, Kidston and I learnt a lot about how to conduct water sampling from Ryan and Tom who have been involved with this project for three years.  Despite the seasickness, I look forward to heading out there again and contributing to this inspiring research that will help ensure the continued conservation of our salmon species in the future.

For more information about the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, visit this link:

Adventures to Amazing Places | May 2nd 2017

Written By: Curtis Rispin

On May 2, 2017, Ryan, Carson, Haley, Larissa, Lauren, Kidston and I adventured into the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region to check out some of the Amazing Places. Our first stop was at MacMillan Provincial Park (Cathedral Grove) where we wandered through the ancient grove of moss and lichen draped Douglas-fir, Western red-cedar, Western hemlock, and a variety of other species such as Yew, bigleaf maple, and Western flowering dogwood.

This time of year is great to visit the coastal forests of the biosphere, with spring flowers, including Western Trillium and false-lily-of-the-valley, coming back to life with the return of the sun and warmer temperatures. On this particular morning at MacMillan Provincial Park, we were lucky to be greeted with the sunshine and accompanied by the songs of Pacific Wrens, Varied Thrush’s, Steller’s Jays, American Robin’s, Common Ravens, Brown Creepers, chirps of Red Squirrels, and the drumming of a Downy Woodpecker inspecting the rotting trees on our leisurely stroll through the well-worn trails of this magnificent provincial park.

A visit to Cathedral Grove isn’t complete without stopping to check out the “Big Tree”, a 76m tall Douglas-fir that’s estimated to be about 850 years old.  Similarly to the millions of tourists before us, we stopped and admired the enormous tree before moving to the north side of the highway where the trails continue. This side brought us to a lookout over Cameron Lake, another one of the 10 Amazing Places designated in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region.

Cameron Lake is a beautiful mountain lake, fed by the cool glacial waters of the Cameron River. The lake is great for fishing, canoeing, windsurfing, boating, picnicking, and, when the temperatures warm up, swimming in the crystal clear waters.

Access to Cameron Lake can be found at the south end of the lake where there’s a day use area, including a public beach, picnic tables, and a parking lot. For a more private spot, check out the Beaufort Area a short distance down the highway. If you’re feeling adventurous, hike along the Arrowsmith CPR Regional Trail or check out the views from the train trestle nestled along the slopes of the mountainside, accessed from the gravel pullout before reaching Cameron Lake.  

Adventure Tips:

  • Early mornings are a great time to wander through the trails of Cathedral Grove, with the birds serenading you and the crowds at a minimum; Cameron Lake is also calmer during the morning and offers great photos of mountain reflections before the afternoon winds pick up.

  • If you don’t own a boat or canoe, fishing at the mouth of the Cameron River offers the possibility of landing rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout. If you have a canoe or boat, the small bay alongside Cathedral Grove (north end of the lake) offers calm waters and serene, quiet fishing or paddling amongst the old growth forests.

  • Stargazing at Cameron Lake is great if you’re looking to get away from the city lights. Check out the Perseids Meteor Shower in August with a chance of seeing up to 60 meteors per hour.

  • Keep your eyes peeled for “Cammie” the Cameron Lake              creature that lurks the depths of the lake!

2nd Annual MABR BioBlitz | April 22, 2017

Written By: Haley Tomlin

A BioBlitz is a method used to collect as much information as possible, in a short amount of time, about the biodiversity and species richness of flora and fauna species in a given area. The BioBlitz that occurred on April 22, 2017 in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region (MABR) involved local experts, participants, and volunteers undertaking two sessions, a morning and afternoon, to explore the BioBlitz location and identify as many species of flora and fauna as they could. The second annual MABR BioBlitz was a little different from last year – there were two locations, one of which involved a marine survey! There was a BioBlitz for new blitzers, with the help of experts, at Milner Gardens & Woodland in Qualicum Beach and a BioBlitz for experienced blitzers at Oak Leaf Drive Park in Nanoose Bay. Both BioBlitz locations had great success this year!

I got to take part as the bird expert’s helper for the day at Milner Gardens & Woodlands! Although I was there to help people identify birds, I found that the majority of our participants were already extremely knowledgeable and did not need my help! Since I was not leading as much as I thought I would be I really got to enjoy birding and trying to find as many species as we could; in the morning session alone, we identified 49 different species of birds! We spent the first half of each session down by the waterfront looking at marine birds and then spent the rest of our time in the forest finding the song birds. Volunteers that were in the orientation area called in a barred owl; unfortunately, the birding group was not in right place at the right time and missed seeing it! Later in the afternoon we did try and find it again, but we did not have any luck! All in all, the day was a great success and we all had a lot of fun!

The Milner Gardens & Woodland BioBlitz participants found 171 different flora species, including 10 tree species, 17 shrub species, 35 herb species, 6 fern species, 3 sedge species, 1 grass species, 40 moss species, 11 liverwort species, 24 lichen species, 22 fungi species, 1 slime mold species and 1 oddball species. Amongst all of the flora species, there was 1 endangered species found, small-flowered lipocarpha. Additionally, the Bioblitz participants identified 4 different invasive flora species, including English holly, Himalayan blackberry, ox-eye daisy and yellow flag iris. Aside from all of the flora, 62 fauna species were identified, including 3 birds of prey species, 4 species of shore birds, 20 waterfowl species, 33 species of forest birds, 1 banana slug and 1 red-backed salamander. Of the 62 species of fauna, there were 4 on the species at risk list, 1 considered threatened, the marbled murrelet, and the other 3 were of special concern, including band-tailed pigeon, horned grebe and western grebe.

The Oak Leaf Drive Park BioBlitz, was a much smaller location, but had two elements, terrestrial and marine. In the terrestrial survey, participants identified 3 tree species, 4 shrub species, 37 herb species, 1 fern species, 1 sedge species, 2 species of rushes, 5 grass species, 3 moss species, 3 liverwort species, 2 lichen species and 3 species of fungi. Of the 64 flora species found, the participants identified two invasive species, Canada thistle and hairy cat’s ear. Additionally, there were 16 species of fauna found, including 1 species of shore birds, 2 waterfowl species, 12 species of forest birds and a banana slug. The marine survey at Oak Leaf Drive Park found a huge diversity of species, including 5 species of kelp, 3 sponge species, 3 species of tube worms, 4 tunicate species, 11 cnidarian species, 7 gastropoda species, 3 bi-valve species, 1 species of barnacle, limpets and chitons, 7 species of crustaceans, 17 echinoderm species, 9 fish species, 1 cephalopod species and 1 mammal species. Of the 74 species, 2 are listed as Species at Risk; one species, the northern abalone is listed as endangered and the other, the quillback rockfish, is listed as threatened.

All the data collected by participants, experts and volunteers has added to the initial baseline data from last year’s BioBlitz in Milner Gardens & Woodlands and created baseline data for Oak Leaf Drive Park. Having a BioBlitz each year will be beneficial to monitor any changes in the presence of red and blue listed species, invasive species and the general biodiversity in these regions. Monitoring the presence or absence of species in the MABR is becoming more important with the intensifying effects of climate change!

Parks on the Street | March 8th 2017

Written by: Sarah Holden

On Saturday, March 4th the MABRRI team along with VIU students and faculty facilitated a community engagement event, "Parks on the Street." From 10am - 3 pm fourteen students worked the streets in Parksville, collecting data in the form of a questionnaire that will be used to inform further research for the Parks Master Plan and Survey Project. During this event students stationed across the City asked passersby three questions:

  1. What aspects of Parksville’s City Parks do you appreciate?
  2. What do you believe is currently missing from Parksville's City Parks?"
  3. What changes would you like to see occur in Parksville’s City Parks?

 Residents and visitors to the City were happy to engage with the team, making the exercise extremely successful. Preliminary information collected from this event was presented to Mayor and Council on Monday, March 6th. 

Masters of Community Planning student, Diana Jerop, said that she is “excited to be part of the VIU team working collaboratively with the City of Parksville and the Community to update the Master plan. The Planning on Street day was a success! I am happy that the community members were willing to speak to us about how they feel about their Parks. We look forward to getting more input from the community at the upcoming World Cafe event. 

We are all excited to carry the momentum forward into the World Cafe scheduled for March 25th. 

Bull kelp Collection in the Salish Sea | January 30 2017

Written By: Ryan Frederickson

On Monday morning a few of the MABRRI researchers (Graham, Kayla, Ryan) loaded up our inflatable boat (Big Red), a kayak, our inflatable life jackets, three dry suits for snorkeling, our flippers and masks and the all of the necessary safety gear into the F-150 VIU work truck. We then made a quick stop for coffee and some breaky and headed for the 6:30am ferry over to Gabriola Island. Once we made it over to Gabriola, we found our way to Orlebar Point and Barry Point with the help of our tour guide (Kayla) who grew up on Gabriola Island. We planned on launching our raft and kayak at Barry Point so we could recce the coastline in order to find the kelp beds that the Help the Kelp Foundation had mapped out in 2014. However, the wind was blowing a steady 20 MPH out of the north and gusting 25-30 MPH, which made it impossible for us to launch any boats safely.

So we made the decision to go with “plan b” and headed around to the Southwest side of the island where the water was slightly more sheltered from the blustery, northerly winter outflow. Once there we found a wonderful park (Drumbeg Park) at the South end of the island where we could overlook, and scout out the shoreline to see if there was any kelp left over from 2016, that was still visible on the sea surface. But, we found none. So we made our way to El Verano Dr where we found a small, well used boat launch in false narrows which was fairly sheltered from the wind.

Once we got the boat in the water, we wriggled into our dry suits (Which I’m sure would have been entertaining to watch) and piled in the boat. Equipped with GPS and sonar chart in hand we navigated southwards, with our small 6hp Yamaha outboard getting a little extra propulsion by the strong current created by the Ebbing tide. We scanned the frigid, shallow waters of False Narrows south to Josef Point and Drumbeg Park, and were unsuccessful in finding any kelp to collect samples of. However, we did find a good amount of Eelgrass which was a welcome sight. We also met some Gabriola locals who had informed us that there was kelp present in False Narrows during the summer of 2016, which was good news to hear. All in all it was a great trip and we’ll be going back again in the spring to collect samples of the 2017 kelp.

Adventure Tips:

  • If you ever find yourself getting adventurous, I highly recommend a trip over to Gabriola Island to see Drumbeg Park, which offers spectacular views of a few of the Gulf Islands.
  • If you have a kayak and are looking for a good launch and some spectacular paddling with great scenery and lots of sea life, including Stellar Sea lions, Seals, and many sea going water fowl. Check out the launch at EL Verano Dr.
  • If you are just looking to get out and do some sun tanning, I highly recommend checking out Twin beaches which is only a few minutes from the ferry terminal on Gabriola Island, and was one of our tour guides favorite hangout spots growing up.



Introducing MABRRI's 2016 Summer Research Team

MABRRI has hired 6 summer Research Assistants that will be working alongside Research Coordinator Graham Sakaki and Assistant Coordinator Sarah Lumley from April - August on various projects in the MABR this summer. These friendly faces are Nelson Lovestrom, Ashley Van Acken, Mike Anderson, Kayla Harris,  Amanda Jefferies, and Ryan Frederickson.

Stay tuned to the adventure blog for updates on student field work and explorations in the biosphere region, and be sure to check out our projects page and our team page to learn more about our students and projects.

GLORIA Project - Alpine Monitoring Day 3 | Jun 30 2016

By Ashley Van Acken

On June 30th Nelson, Mike, Kayla and I met bright and early for our last day on the peaks of Mt. Arrowsmith. In the morning we met Kristina and Hans at the base of the logging road to launch the new temperature loggers . These new loggers would replace old temperature gauges and be buried within each main plot.  We reached site one at Shari's summit and quickly got to work locating the old temperature loggers within each plot. These were then removed and replaced with the newly launched gauges. Once this task was completed, the crew set off to summit Kristina's Crag which was the location of site two.   Students were then required to complete full vegetation surveys of each main plot.  The subalpine and alpine plant communities were identified by our botanist  and we evaluated each species based on a strict criteria set up by GLORIA studies.  Hans stated that many species had disappeared within certain areas of the site but there were also many new species on Kristina's Crag. Once we had completed these sites we were able to dismount our plots and prepare for our descent.  Unfortunately the team did not have enough time to complete the last two peaks Amber's Alpine and Peters Peak. The team will return at the end of July for an overnight expedition to complete GLORIA surveys for these Alpine ecosystems.

 Adventure Tips:

 Be sure to bring lots of sunscreen, it's tough to escape the beaming sun in these alpine environments.

  • Mount Arrowsmith has many different routes that take hikers to the top, so check them out and find out which is right for you.
  • The slopes of Mount Arrowsmith are popular for winter sports - Ski touring, snow shoeing and ice climbing
  • Try to hike with a buddy, its more entertaining and it is fairly easy to get off route.

GLORIA Project - Alpine Monitoring Days 1 & 2 | Jun 28-29 2016

By Mike Anderson

On June 28th and 29th, the MABRRI team participated in the GLORIA project  (Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine environments), a study being undertaken to establish baseline information on alpine plant biodiversity and temperature trends in high elevation environments. Along with Kristina Swerhun, the projects coordinator and Hans an expert botanist, myself, Kayla, Graham, Ashley, and Nelson visited the slopes of Mount Arrowsmith to assist in collecting data on the unique plants and ecosystems found there. The GLORIA project aims to increase understanding of how subalpine and alpine plant communities respond and adapt to climate change.

On June 28th, the MABRRI team helped re-establish the research plots that were initially installed on Mount Arrowsmith 10 years prior to our visit. Our first stop was the Shari’s Summit site located at an elevation of 1,450 metres that offered a spectacular view of the Alberni and Cameron River Valley. After locating the plots at Shari’s Summit, the team travelled to the Kristina’s Crag site located at an elevation of 1,514 meters where we also re-located the previously established research plots. On June 29th, the team returned to the Shari’s Summit site and surveyed the vegetation plots recording information on the species present, species diversity, and other ecological information. The Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI) will be taking over the monitoring of the Mount Arrowsmith portion of the project and will be sampling the vegetation plots again in 2021. The MABRRI team all agreed that the experience was very rewarding and increased our personal ability to identify high elevation plant species.

Adventure Tips:

  • Several species of wildflowers can be found on the upper slopes of Mount Arrowsmith. The best time to view blooming wildflowers is in the Spring between May and July. Remember to tread lightly in these sensitive alpine ecosystems,

  • An abundance of wildlife can be found on the slopes of Mount Arrowsmith - hummingbirds, blue grouse, and bald eagles can all be viewed in the summer months

  • Several mountain peaks can be viewed from the peak of Mount Arrowsmith. Mount Cokely can be viewed to the North while Mount Moriarty lies to the South. Across the Alberni Valley in the distance is Nahmint Mountain and 5040 Peak.

Cathedral Grove | May 26 2016

By Amanda Jefferies

Today Nelson Lovestrom and myself ventured out to Cathedral Grove, which is located within MacMillan Provincial Park. Cathedral Grove is a well known old growth forest situated alongside Cameron Lake with majestic Douglas-fir and Western Red Cedar trees, some over 800 years old. Nelson and I explored both sections of Cathedral grove (both sides of the highway). I noticed on the upper section (furthest away from the lake) there were a larger amount of old growth Douglas-fir trees than there were Cedars, with an understory of Western Hemlock and Sword Fern. This to me signifies a more zonal site with less moisture. On the lower section (bordering the lake) there was a significant amount of Cedars mixed with Douglas-fir and Hemlock and this to me represents a more wet site as Cedars require more moisture than Douglas-firs. 

A strong feature located within Cathedral Grove is the amount of information laid out along the trails that allows locals and tourists to become educated on the type of ecosystem they are walking through. Signs include species information, historical information and general information regarding old growth forests. What we found to be really interesting about this park was the amount of tourists that spent time admiring the massive 800+ year old trees and the information they were able to take away from a simple “walk in the park”.

Adventure Tips:

  • Do not forget your camera!!

  • The trails are clearly marked so try to avoid trespassing as this park is protected to exhibit what an old growth Douglas-fir ecosystem looks like.

  • If you are an avid angler, Cameron Lake holds some real nice brown trouts so don’t forget your rod! The best way to access this lake is to head towards Cathedral Grove and just after you cross the bridge pull off to the side just along the river, which feeds into the lake. There is an access trail that allows you to reach the river and/or lake.

Lake Monitoring Recce Day | May 25 2016

By Mike Anderson

Over the course of the summer of 2016, the MABRRI team will be conducting a Lake Monitoring program of a couple lakes in the MABR and Regional District of Nanaimo. In order to become familiar with the monitoring equipment, the MABRRI team headed to Westwood Lake in Nanaimo. With the use of an inflatable boat and kayaks, each member of the summer student research team was able to use the SONDE monitor to measure lake health aspects including temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. Westwood Lake is a relatively shallow lake that is surrounded by a regional park. Urban development also has an impact on the lake which makes it an interesting lake to explore in terms of its current health. We chose to sample the middle of the lake as it is the deepest portion of the lake and would be less affected by runoff and other disturbances to the water column found closer to shore. The weather was hot and sunny and the MABRRI crew enjoyed getting out of the office for a change and exploring our own backyard. Kayaking around the lake made the whole MABRRI team appreciate the nature that is in the Nanaimo area. Throughout the course of the summer, MABRRI hopes to gain a better understanding of the current state of lakes in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region (MABR) and increase our team's knowledge of lake sampling and monitoring.

Adventure Tips:

  • Westwood Lake is an excellent lake for kayaking or stand-up-paddle boarding. A parking lot is located at the end of Westwood Road where there’s a boat launch.

  • Trout fishing can be productive in Westwood Lake. The best times are in the Spring and Fall and there is a wheelchair accessible dock located to the north of the main parking lot

  • The Westwood Lake area has a multitude of mountain bike trails ranging from flat trails designed for beginners to downhill trails for the advanced rider. Trails can be accessed from the main parking lot or the parking lot on the north side of the lake


  • LakesRecce1

    Ryan teaching the team how to use the SONDE to measure disolved Oxygen, temperature, and several other indicators of lake health.

    Ryan teaching the team how to use the SONDE to measure disolved Oxygen, temperature, and several other indicators of lake health.

  • LakesRecce2

    The team making their way across Westwood Lake to find the deepest point to conduct their trial analysis.

    The team making their way across Westwood Lake to find the deepest point to conduct their trial analysis.

  • LakesRecce3

    Nelson recording the measurements collected from the SONDE.

    Nelson recording the measurements collected from the SONDE.

Wetland Practice Field Day | May 19 2016

By Ryan Frederickson

Today the MABRRI research team loaded all of their gear in the VIU truck and headed north to Parksville B.C, in search of the Ermineskin wetland nature park. Ermineskin wetland is the first wetland that we have decided to recce in preparation for our wetland mapping project, which is a project initiated by MABRRI in collaboration with the Regional District of Nanaimo’s (RDN) Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Program (DWWP). The focus of the wetland mapping project is to gain a better understanding of how wetlands interact with groundwater and relate to recharge/discharge of deep water aquifers, which are vital for the health of the many unique ecosystems in the region and supply drinking water to the residents of the RDN.

Once the team made it to Ermineskin wetland, we geared up and headed down the well-groomed walking trail in search of the wetland. Along the trail we noticed many beautiful plant and tree species such as, bigleaf maple, Nootka Rose bushes and Stinging Nettle. We also encountered numerous people out walking their dogs down the winding trails. One fellow in particular, made mention of how much the area gets inundated with water during the fall rainy season. However, we noted that there was very little standing water, due to the lack of precipitation and hot dry days we have been encountering this spring.

After our team had meandered through this beautiful park, we decided to head south, down to Rathtrevor Beach, which was the location of our next wetland. Once we reached our destination the team geared up again and headed down the trail which was lined with large Douglas-Fir roots that the massive old growth trees have anchored themselves to the earth’s crust with. Upon arrival at the wetland we conducted a couple practice transects, using compasses to find our fore bearing and back bearing, a surveyor chain for measuring distance, and a half meter by half meter quadrat used to distinguish how many organic species are in a given sample area. These techniques allow us to map the wetland and classify the various stages of vegetation present.


  • Stinging Nettles can be harvested and boiled to make a very nutritious detoxifying tea for consumption. Consult your local regulations and wild edible handbook before harvesting any plants.

  • Ermineskin Regional Nature Park has a great network of trails that can be accessed by anyone and their pets.

  • Wetland are very sensitive ecosystems, so it’s a good idea to stick to the main trails to minimize impacts to the natural vegetation.

  • WetlandRecce

    Kayla, student lead on the project briefs the team on the day's activities

    Kayla, student lead on the project briefs the team on the day's activities

  • WetlandRecce2

    The team identifies vegetation types within their quadrat

    The team identifies vegetation types within their quadrat

Parksville Spring Mini Event

By: Bronwyn Wydeman

On June 9th the MABRRI team loaded up and headed to Foster Park in Parksville to get ready for the Spring Mini – the third consultation event for the Parksville Parks, Trails and Open Spaces Master Plan project. The Spring Mini was planned with the hopes of bringing community members to Foster Park to get their opinions on what they want to see for the parks, trails and open spaces in Parksville, as well as hold a community event where Parksville residents can come out and enjoy the sun.

The event included a picnic, an open house, and activities such as an egg race, tchoukball, a scavenger hunt, a photo booth, basketball, colouring, and face painting. Watching people of all ages race around the park with eggs on spoons was priceless. Families, friends, and neighbours, whether they showed up for the event specifically or came across it by accident, seemed to have a blast! Some big smiles were seen on the faces of kids that got their faces painted as colourful animals or got to dress up in historical clothing for the photo booth. The open house also drew members of the community in with posters describing the history of Foster Park, posters displaying the timeline for the overall Master Plan project, and a dot-voting system so people got a chance to vote for their favourite park themes. Overall, community members had a chance to relax, enjoy the beautiful park, eat some delicious hotdogs, and voice their opinions on Parksville’s parks, trails and open spaces. It was so great to meet and talk with the people that will be influenced by the work we are doing.

In the end, the Parks, Trails and Open Spaces Master Plan is meant to enrich the community and give the community members all the benefits of living in a beautiful city with great and accessible parks and trails. The event was a big success for all who participated, both community members and MABRRI team members alike. A big thank you to Friends of Foster Park for their volunteers and equipment, and to Deb from the City of Parksville for helping plan the event and get the word out.

  • Egg race

    The MABRRI team competing in the egg race

    The MABRRI team competing in the egg race

  • Face paint

    Graham practicing his art skills

    Graham practicing his art skills

  • Egg race

    The MABRRI team after competing in the egg race

    The MABRRI team after competing in the egg race

MABRRI 2018 Summer Orientation | May 7th - 8th

By: Courtney Vaugeois

On May 7th and 8th the summer Research Assistants came together for the first time for MABRRI orientation. The first day began with introductions and reviewing expectations then ended with chasing waterfalls. The Project Coordinators took us to two of MABR’s Amazing Places: Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park and Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. We had the opportunity to see why these parks are considered amazing places, which was immediately apparent through their natural beauty. At Little Qualicum Falls we were provided with a picnic lunch which was delicious. Then we were expected to run the trails of Englishman River Falls with a full belly to engage in a treasure hunt. The treasure hunt was fun and well planned out. The clues allowed us to review and update our knowledge on MABRRI and the MABR. We were rewarded with wonderful prizes of free t-shirts and candy for the first place teams, which was probably the highlight of the day.

The first half of day two we dealt with some housekeeping tasks. We had our open book exam that tested our knowledge on MABRRI and MABR, which also gave us time to learn how to navigate the websites. We were also given the opportunity to put ourselves on MABRRI website by writing our student bios. The second half of the day the coordinators presented their projects to us. Through this process we were able to gain a full understanding of all MABRRI is capable of. Graham also really tested our knowledge with a Biogeoclimatic zone identification game. I felt like I was in a forestry class with having to identify trees and plants. Being a Social Science student I found this game to be quite challenging, but it was fun to learn and helpful to have a wide range of knowledge within our teammates to help us succeed.

Overall, the two days were great for team bonding and introducing us to the wonders of MABRRI. Between squishing into vehicles to travel to the Amazing Places and getting stumped on riddles on the treasure hunt, I feel as though we were really able to bond as a team and expand our knowledge over the two orientation days.

Ucluelet Public Engagement Weekend | March 8th - 10th

By: Lauren Shaw

From March 8-10th, as part of the public engagement process for the Ucluelet Official Community Plan (OCP) Revisions, the MABRRI team, in partnership with the District of Ucluelet and VIU’s Master of Community Planning program held a comprehensive weekend of events including two open houses, a community design charrette, and three youth consultation sessions. The purpose of all these events was to update the 2011 OCP to be in line with current community thought and give the community insight on the OCP process.

The weekend started on Thursday with pristine weather as the usually wet west coast of Vancouver Island was fortunate to have sunny skies while welcoming the migrating grey whales back into the area from their long swim from Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, just in time for the Pacific Rim Whale Festival.

The first event held was an open house at the Ucluelet Community Centre in conjunction with the District’s Emergency Preparedness and Response event bringing in a large crowd of 86 attendees. Students and District staff were stationed around the room and able to answer any questions residents had about the OCP process in real time.

The following day, we were able to spend some time with a group not frequently engaged in the public consultation process: the youth. Grades 8, 9, and 10 from Ucluelet Secondary School each came to the Ucluelet Community Centre for an hour long session of learning what planning is and using large maps of the District and trace paper to show us what they want in their community. Popular ideas were aquatic centres, a Tim Hortons (or similar food chain), renovations to the BMX Park, and indoor facilities for when the weather is less ideal. The students seemed excited about the prospects of the community in the future, and MCP Director, Pam Shaw, may have scouted out some potential planners for the next decade.

After the youth consultation wrapped up students headed back outside for “OCP on the Streets” where they divided up into two groups stationed at Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce and across from the municipal offices. Each group had a map of the area and trace paper to encourage passerby’s to draw and comment on what they wanted to see in the community in the future, or in some cases, what they wanted removed. Additionally the group located along Peninsula Road had a sign encouraging drivers to “honk for better sidewalks” which generated attention to the event and received over 100 honks.

The final event was an Open House reporting on all findings and feedback from the weekend. Another incredible sunny day proved to keep people outside rather than at the Ucluelet Community Centre, but those who did attend offered great feedback and stayed for long period of time taking in the large amounts of information.

In total the Ucluelet public engagement weekend was a great success reaching approximately 200 people to participate in the OCP revisions, and the MABRRI/MCP team thoroughly enjoyed their weekend away in sunny Ucluelet!

Elders Lunch with Snaw-Naw-As First Nation | November 16th

By: Courtney Vaugeois

On November 16, a couple of student researchers had the opportunity to attend an Elder’s Lunch with the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation. We are working with MABRRI to develop workshops for sharing knowledge on community gardening. As the community garden is a project for the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation we found it beneficial to meet with the Elders to collaborate ideas and knowledge about how best to develop our workshops. We were able to hear about what they would like to see in the community garden, therefore how we can shape our workshops around what would be most beneficial for the community.


Attending an Elder’s Lunch was a new experience for us, but it was an enlightening one. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to experience a bit of the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation culture. There was so much respect and kindness within the room, that we all felt welcome.


 After attending the lunch, I left with a more personal connection to my project. Now I am excited to finish my workshop and share it with the community. 

Wetland Mapping | June 9th

Written By: Carson Anderson

Today, June 9, 2017, Ashley, Kayla, Lauren, and I (Carson) set out to Milner Gardens to do our best impression of swamp monsters as we completed some wetland mapping. Starting at 8am we loaded our gear in the MABRRI truck and started northbound on the Island highway. After about a 40 minute drive with some excellent scenery along the way we arrived at our destination, the picturesque Milner Gardens. Pulling into the parking lot we were greeted by a very calm group of deer lounging about in flat spot of grass near the truck. After introducing ourselves to our new deer friends we began our work.

We started by setting up reference lines running parallel to the wetland. After that, we used those lines to set transect lines into the swamp area. My job was to map the swamp’s perimeter using a GPS while the others started identifying the features inside the transect zones we had created.  The main data we collected was based on canopy cover identification, plant identification, water quality identification, and soil type identification. Before long, our time pretending to be swamp monsters was sadly over (until next time). We packed up our equipment, bid farewell to our deer friends still hanging out with the truck and drove back to the office, arriving at about 11:30am. Even though it was only for a few hours, getting to be a swamp monster for work is pretty cool and I look forward to doing it again.

Gazebo Talks | June 8th

Written by: Carson Anderson

From 2pm to 7pm on June 8, 2017, as part of the consultation process for the ongoing parks inventory report and Community Park masterplan report, the MABRRI team in partnership with The City of Parksville, held an open house at the gazebo located in Parksville’s beautiful Community Park. Because the open house was at the gazebo we nicknamed the event “Gazebo Talks”. The purpose of this event was to update the community on what has been found through the consultation process so far, ask participants to share the opinions they have about what we should be doing, and give the community insight into the future plans of the consultation process. The day started as a wet and windy Thursday afternoon which tapered off into a gorgeous partly sunny evening. Despite the weather conditions when we arrived the people of Parksville were consistent through the entire day. To their credit, they proved they’re not sugar-cubes and will not melt away when they get a little wet.

In total, approximately 135 people came and participated in the Gazeebo Talks open house with many more passersby stopping, to have a quick chat about what was occurring before returning to their enjoyment of the elegant shoreline and the tranquility of the Community Park.  For those passersby that entered our open house they got to meet any of the 12 cheerful students that attended the event, and we got to meet them as well. Students were split up and given responsibility for 1 of 6 stations:

  1. greeting station
  2. door person station
  3. what do citizens want in the park feedback station
  4. where are you from/colouring station
  5. jeopardy station
  6. and consultation feedback station

Each station promoted a flow of people through Gazebo Talks. Visitors were greeted on the boardwalk by our greeters and encouraged to participate in the open house.  As visitors entered the open house they were recorded by our door people to provide us with an accurate count of participants. Once in the open house they were encouraged to provide feedback about what they want in the park, talk about where they are from and their motivations for coming to the park, colouring for children, play Parksville jeopardy, and/or look over our previous consultation summaries.

 After weeks of planning, and a day of hosting an open house; 7pm rolled around marking the end of an enjoyable and interesting undertaking, there are some very cool people in Parksville with great ideas who are an absolute treat to converse with. After getting to spend a few hours amongst the people of Parksville in their beautiful park students left in happy and satisfied with our accomplishment. So happy in fact, a little radio karaoke broke out as we journeyed back south to our office in Nanaimo.

Plant Phenology | May 24th

Written by: Kidston Short

This year I have been lucky enough to collect data for the plant phenology project at Milner Gardens and Woodland in Qualicum Beach. Phenology is the study of the timing of seasonally reoccurring biological events like bud break, flower blooming, pollen release, and leaf fall. The timing of these events is strongly linked to variables like temperature and precipitation, making it a strong indicator of climate change. Phenology also plays a crucial role in relationships between species. If mutualistic species respond differently to climate change, their phonology will be out of synch. For example, the spring emergence of bees has been found to have advanced by roughly 10 days in the last 130 years, most of which has taken place since 1970. If this continues, it may be detrimental to local vegetation that doesn’t adapt in the same way because bees are primary pollinators.

To understand how climate change is affecting native plants at Milner we are tracking the phenology of 28 specimens of 11 different species. We observe these plants at least once a week. Our team is made up of myself, my co- worker Larissa, Heather Klassen (a professional agrologist with the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations), and a group of expert volunteers from Milner and beyond. We always have a fantastic time discussing the intricacies of phenology, cracking jokes, and chatting about our week’s adventures while we work.

Milner is such a beautiful place to be able to do research! We always make sure to take a walk through the fragrant and colourful rhododendron garden and keep our eyes up in the tall trees where many bald eagles have built nests. My favourite attraction at the gardens are the magnificent 500+ year old Douglas Fir trees that can grow to over 70 m tall! Although the ocean view is a close second.

This is a long term, ongoing project that will eventually create a database we can use to analyze shifting phenophases in relation to the climate as recorded by our weather station at Milner. We’ve been comparing observations made in person with observations made based on time lapse photographs. Soon, we’ll be putting field cameras on specimens at the top of Mt. Arrowsmith to study the differences in climate change adaption along elevation. I’ve learned so much about phenology and forests from our observation crew in the last year and I’m very glad we get to keep working together in this beautiful location.



                Make sure to stop by the Camellia Room at Milner for some tasty afternoon tea and scones!

                Spring is a fascinating time to get outside and learn about phenology! Next time you’re on a walk or a hike take a close look at any needles, leaves, cones, and flowers. If you focus on a few species you’ll probably notice some pretty cool stuff.

                In addition to guided tours, Milner often has special events like Art Walks and Light Ups.

                If you’d like to start your own phenology project for research or fun, check out Natures Notebook and you can contribute to a citizen science database from your own backyard!

Amazing Places Adventure | May 2nd 2017

Written By: Larissa Thelin

On Tuesday, May 2 the newest MABRRI research assistants went on a tour of the MABR to get acquainted with where we will be working all summer. During this day trip we went to Little Qualicum Falls, a provincial park designated as a UNESCO Amazing Place. For many of us, this was our first time at the falls. The tall mossy cliffs and gorgeous waterfall made us understand why Little Qualicum Falls was chosen as one of MABR’s 10 Amazing Places. If you’re thinking about a quick hike, this location has lots of parking, plenty of picnic areas, and well groomed trails; although, there are some stairs and steep sections so it may not be accessible to everyone. The dangerous sections are clearly signed and fenced off so make sure to practice caution in these areas. Keep a look out for the MABR Amazing Places sign at one of the lookouts at the upper falls – there are plenty of interesting facts about the area! Overall, Little Qualicum Falls is an absolutely beautiful park.

We also ventured to the Parksville Community Park, another MABR Amazing Place, where we spent lunch to soak in the beautiful views. We cannot say enough about this park – there’s so much to do! With the boardwalk along the water, the tennis courts, the large children’s play area, and more, everyone can find something to do here. Take a break from your adventure and try out the Farm to Table food truck, with its pizza freshly cooked in a wood oven.  Just a reminder that it gets quite breezy near the water, so it’s best to bundle up at this time of year.

Our trip throughout the MABR was inspiring and eye-opening. We all look forward to spending our summer contributing to research in this beautiful region.

To learn more about the MABR’s Amazing Places, visit the MABR website here:

  • Little Q Falls

    Little Qualicum Falls

    Little Qualicum Falls

  • Team photo

    Our new MABRRI Research Assistants: Curtis, Larissa, Kidston, Lauren, Hayley, and Carson

    Our new MABRRI Research Assistants: Curtis, Larissa, Kidston, Lauren, Hayley, and Carson

  • MABRRI Team on the Bridge

    MABRRI Researchers exploring Amazing Places in the Biosphere.

    MABRRI Researchers exploring Amazing Places in the Biosphere.

  • Team at Cathedral Grove

    The team at Cathedral Grove.

    The team at Cathedral Grove.

World Cafe | March 25th 2017

Written By: Haley Tomlin

On Saturday March 25th, Students from Vancouver Island University (VIU), in association with Staff from the City of Parksville, hosted a World Café for the Community Parks Master Plan & Survey Project. From 10am – 3pm, students worked with members of the community to draw ideas about the future of the City’s Parks and Trails. Altogether, seventeen students from Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI), Masters of Community Planning (MCP), and a range of bachelors programs volunteered to facilitate the World Café.

The event was a positive community engagement exercise, a great learning experience, and will contribute significantly to inform the development of a successful plan.

Going forward, we will be releasing a Residents Survey about the parks network, with a particular focus on the Community Park, and hosting a second World Cafe in the Community Park.

Lake Monitoring | October 16th 2016

Written By: Ryan Frederickson

Today, October 16th, 2016 was officially the last day of our lake monitoring project that has been underway over the last twelve weeks. I personally feel very fortunate to have been able to be a part of this project over the summer, which has been funded by the Vancouver Island University Research and Awards committee. 

Today was a very rainy day on Cameron Lake and Spider Lake. However, luckily the wind took a break from blowing this morning and let us get out on the water. Our first lake monitoring day was on July 18th, 2016, since than we have been monitoring Cameron Lake and Spider Lake once per week for twelve consecutive weeks.  We have watched the seasonal behavior in both lakes as water levels decreased through the summer.  However, it was a very satisfying sight to see today, that the water level in Cameron Lake has risen approximately five feet from the series of rain storms we experienced on the eastern side of Vanouver Island. Spider Lake on the other hand, has barely risen at all. I suspect this is due to the lack of rivers flowing into or out of the lake. I’m sure with winter on our doorstep and much more precipitation to come, Spider Lake will have increased water levels. Over the duration of our lake monitoring project we have noticed a number of changes that have occurred in the lakes. Including changes in the following attributes; water clarity, water temperature, overall water levels, and the lakes going from being stratified in the summer, to now being mixed homogenously from surface to the bottom of the lakes. We have witnessed Osprey fishing at Cameron Lake, and plenty of recreational fisherman catching bass at Spider Lake.

In preparation for the lake monitoring project, the student’s and team at the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI) took a course to become certified lake monitors. The course overviewed what environmental parameters to measure when assessing the overall health of a lake system. We were very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside and to collaborate with organizations such as, the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES), Friends of French Creek Society, Ministry of Environment and the Regional District of Nanaimo’s (RDN) Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Program.

Many thanks to geography professor Matthew Bowes for being successful in his application for funding to create the lake monitoring project. From MABRRI we would also  like to say a big thanks to our technical adivsory comittee (TAC) including, Pete Law, and Sandy Robinson and everyone else who contributed to the lake monitoring project.

Elder College | September 17th - October 7th 2016

Written By: Kayla Harris

On Friday September 30th MABRRI student research assistants Kayla Harris and Ryan Frederickson presented to a full class of ElderCollege students in Parksville, teaching them all about the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute and some of the projects that we have been closely involved with. While there were many projects to choose from we chose to highlight a handful of projects with significant field components and share our experiences with the class. The projects Ryan and I presented on were Wetland Mapping in the RDN, Lake Monitoring, Eel Grass Mapping, and the annual MABR BioBlitz.

Elder College students showed that they were actively engaged and interested and had a lot of great questions about the research.  Speaking from personal experience with developing and conducting the research for these projects it was very rewarding receiving positive reinforcement and support from the ElderCollege students, many of which live in the region and have a vested interest in the research that we are conducting in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region.

Instant feedback was given on the UNESCO MABR Community Agriculture Program that is being developed by MABRRI students to create a three-phase community garden in Parksville. The funding for this project has been applied for to the AVIVA Community Fund where a portion of the application process is a community voted competition. If our project reaches the top 15 in Canada we are eligible for funding.

To show your support and vote for us please visit www. to find out more about the project and register to vote. The project title to search is “UNESCO MABR Community Agriculture Program” and the location to enter is “Nanaimo”. Voting occurs from October 11th-28th, 2016.



Parksville StreamKeepers Course | September 9-11 2016

Written by: Ashley Van Acken

During the weekend of September 9th-11th MABRRI student researchers, Ashley Van Acken, Kayla Harris and Ryan Frederickson, participated in a StreamKeepers Course facilitated by Michele Jones and the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society.  The course was designed to evaluate the health of fish bearing streams to ensure spawning salmon had an adequate ecosystem to lay their fry. During our course we learned about the various types of insect species that live in our streams. These insects live a short portion of their life in the streams and act as a main food source for salmon fry. Upon learning about the variety of insects in the water, students learned how to evaluate the overall health of the stream.  On field days students collected a variety of insect samples, counted them and identified the stability of food sources for salmon populations.  Students further evaluated the flow, turbidity, temperature, and pH, of the stream and examined any areas where the stream was obstructed by woody debris. The overall experience was great; we learned how to evaluate the health and stability of fish bearing streams and ended up becoming certified stream keepers.


  • Be aware of any pollution sources or obstructions in your local streams. 
  • Always evaluate streams in groups of two or more to ensure you are stream keeping safely.
  • Try to collect instect samples before pupa leave the streams in their adult form. If you evaluate after the pupa leave the stream evaluations may be innaccurate.

Be sure to have chest waders, water levels can vary significantly over the length of the stream and staying dry makes things much more enjoyable!

Eelgrass Mapping Practice Field Day | May 18 2016

Written By: Nelson Lovestrom

Today  we, the MABRRI research assistants, headed out to Englishman and Little Qualicum River estuaries. These estuaries are the areas being surveyed this summer by MABRRI for the presence of eelgrass. To start the day we loaded up the VIU Truck and set off for the Englishman River Estuary.

Upon arrival, those of us with chest waders put them on and we set off to walk estuary in search of eelgrass. Heading up the trails along the border of the estuary, we went to see if we could see any from an elevated position. We then headed into the estuary proper to search the channels. Hiking all the way out past the mouth of the river, we did not find any eelgrass. We decided that the tide was not low enough to see any eelgrass in the beach area on this day so we then headed off to Little Qualicum Estuary.

We arrived at Little Qualicum Estuary, hopeful to find some eelgrass. In this location we only examined the beach. Our actual fieldwork in this estuary will take place in the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Wildlife Management Area with special permissions and supervision. We managed to locate some sparse Zostera Japonica or Japanese Eelgrass, but it was not a very significant amount. Even wading out as far as possible, no more was located this time.

A bit disappointed, we packed up and headed back to VIU to take stock of what we had found, hopeful that our full survey and scuba investigation will yield more of eelgrass, an important indicator of ecosystem health.


  • Be careful walking in estuaries. Avoid the central channels as the ground there can be unstable, leading to quicksand-like properties. Whenever possible keep to the outside edges and trails if there are any to disturb the area as little as possible.

  • Be conscious of existing Conservation Areas and the regulations associated with them before going to explore. Often these are areas with great wildlife viewing, but may only be available to the public at certain times and may not allow dogs depending on factors such as important nesting times.

  • Diverse wildlife lives in the intertidal zone, if you can find a tidal pool, you can observe many different and colourful species in a short time.

BCLSS LakeKeepers Course | April 30 - May 1 2016

By Amanda Jefferies
The MABRRI team (Graham, Sarah, Ryan, Nelson, Mike, Kayla, and Amanda) recently participated in a BCLSS LakeKeepers Course, which was hosted by MABRRI here on campus. This 2-day course consisted of a variety of topics that covered lake ecology, limnology 101, how to organize a stewardship group, watershed assessment as well as lake monitoring techniques. The instructor, Rick Nordin, was a very knowledgeable LakeKeeper who was able to teach the class the ins and outs of how to take responsibility and get involved with research and restoration of our lakes.
On the first day of the course the MABRRI team as well as other participants learned how to solve problems with lakes and contamination, water quality and limnology. Limnology consisted of typical water fundamentals, specifically, density, temperature, physical characteristics, stratification, mixing patterns, and productivity. Having a basic understanding of water fundamentals (limnology) would give citizen-scientists or the general public a step up in their ability to conduct surveys on lakes and allow them to take responsibility and get involved. A really interesting fact that I took away the first day was that unproductive lakes are very clear, contain no aquatic plants and are oxygen depleted, whereas, productive lakes are not clear, contain more fish, aquatic plants and algae.
The second day of the course the MABRRI team and the participants met the instructor at Long Lake where he taught us the foundations of lake sampling. Specific topics we learned were how to correctly create field notes, rinsing techniques, quality assurance, when to sample, and sample types. Attributes that we were interested in included the amount of dissolved oxygen contained within the lake, temperature, pH, salinity, conductivity, turbidity, and depth. To obtain this information we used different types of equipment such as a secchi disc that helps obtain depth, a van dorn to obtain samples of water below the thermocline (ex-phytoplankton), and a plankton net, which is a conical device made of fine nylon mesh that is pulled through the water to catch zooplankton. This field day was very important because it allowed the MABRRI team to get a grasp on field techniques for monitoring lakes, which will be used to conduct our research for our Lake Monitoring in the Regional District of Nanaimo project.
Adventure Tips:
  • More information on the LakeKeepers workshop is located on the BC Lake Stewardship society webpage along with contact information, projects and event information.
  • While conducting research within and around lakes, keep an eye out for the Bullfrog, which is an invasive species in BC. These frogs are very large, can be green or brown and have golden eyes. It is important to keep an eye out for these Bullfrogs as they are displacing native frogs from their habitats. How can you help? Contact B.C. Frogwatch
  • LakeKeepers2

    The whole class getting ready to do some sampling at Long Lake

    The whole class getting ready to do some sampling at Long Lake

  • LakeKeepers3

    Testing out the sampling equipment

    Testing out the sampling equipment

  • LakeKeepers4

    Rick Nordin from BCLSS demonstrating lake sampling techniques

    Rick Nordin from BCLSS demonstrating lake sampling techniques

Parksville WetlandKeepers Course | April 22-24 2016

By Mike Anderson

The MABRRI team (Mike, Amanda, Kayla, Nelson and Graham) recently participated in a three-day wetland stewardship course hosted by the BC Wildlife Federation. Topics covered in the course included wetland classification, mapping, monitoring, and plant/wildlife survey techniques.

On the first day of the course the MABRRI team learned about  the various kinds of wetlands found in British Columbia and the plants and soils that can be used to identify them. Field work was a major component of the course and the team was motivated to apply their new skills in a field-based setting. On the second-day of the course the objective was to learn how to properly map and stratify a wetland. The team headed to Rathtrevor Provincial Park to map a small marsh/swamp. Mapping techniques included the use of transects to map the various zones of wetland vegetation. The objective for the last day of the course was to advance the team's knowledge of plant species found in wetlands. A variety of species were found including various sedges and aquatic vegetation.

The whole MABRRI team concluded that learning about wetland plant species was a rewarding experience. The last day of the course also included an introduction to performing a bird survey which was also done at Rathtrevor Provincial Park. For many of the MABRRI team, it was the first bird survey that they performed and it was concluded by all that it was an interesting experience. The Wetland Keepers course provided the MABRRI team with a solid understanding of the fundamentals of wetland identification, mapping, and monitoring. Over the summer of 2016, the MABRRI team will be undertaking a wetland identification/mapping project in the MABR and is looking forward to applying their new skills to advance our knowledge of wetlands in the region!

Adventure Tips:

  • The BC Wildife Frederation hosts Wetland Keepers courses across BC. For more information visit

  • Rathtrevor Provincial Park is an excellent site for year-round bird watching - a variety of bird species can be found here from robins to ravens

  • To see an excellent example of a marsh/shallow wetland visit Hamilton Marsh. Hamilton Marsh is located off of Highway 4 on Hilliers Road. A small parking lot and trail is located on the right side of Hilliers Road.

Graham, Amanda, Nelson, Kayla, and Mike testing out their field skills on the WetlandKeepers Course.

RDN Water Day (Nanaimo) | March 20 2016

A group of dedicated MABRRI students set up and manned a MABR display as part of the RDN's first Water Day event in Nanaimo. This was a fun family-friendly event in which several organizations came together to share information and experiences about one of our most precious resources - water. Some of the highlights for our students were seeing the other displays, taking home Douglas Fir seedlings to plant (courtesy of our table neighbour Island Timberlands/Timberwest), and running the Glacier Station for the Amazing Journey of a Water Droplet kid's activity.

We are looking forward to event number 2 in Qualicum Beach on April 3rd!

  • RDN Water Day

    Sarah & Kayla manning the MABR display

    Sarah & Kayla manning the MABR display

  • RDN Water Day

    Kayla & Mike, current MABRRI Work Op students

    Kayla & Mike, current MABRRI Work Op students

  • RDN Water Day

    Ryan & Mike talking to community members about the MABR and research being done at MABRRI

    Ryan & Mike talking to community members about the MABR and research being done at MABRRI

  • RDN Water Day

    Ola checking out VIU Aquaculture's fish-building station

    Ola checking out VIU Aquaculture's fish-building station

My Transit Journey to Qualicum Beach | March 17 2016

By Olayinka Fadayiro, MABR Marketing & Development Assistant

Thursday 17th March 2016 was a beautiful sunny 10 degrees day and I decided to work outdoors rather than staying indoors as an intern. I embarked on a trip to Qualicum beach and its environments. The interesting thing is that I used my semester bus pass without having to pay extra charges on the trip.  On the way I had the pleasure of also dropping by Parksville as the bus passes through there and it sounded like double the fun! I didn’t plan going to Parksville but I was surprised and I seized the opportunity to have a little look around.

I have been staying on the Vancouver Island since September 2014 and I have not explored the beautiful places around me based on limitation of moving around. This has been the excuse of many people, especially international students. I had the pleasure of visiting a beautiful place in the biosphere using the BC Transit public bus and I must say it was a smooth trip and a good experience as well.

On my way walking to Qualicum beach from the bus station I saw a beautiful golf resort. I had the opportunity to look at the resort, which was a beautiful sight of people enjoying the sunny weather. I also noticed that the entire neighbourhood was quiet and beautiful. The beach was a lovely sight, the sky was amazingly blue, and a few people were walking around. I had a chat with a couple walking around the beach who live nearby, and they told me the beach is livelier during the summer. People go there with food and drinks to hangout and enjoy the atmosphere. I will recommend it as a place to definitely visit during the summer and to put it on your list of places to explore in the biosphere.

Going to Qualicum beach was easier than anticipated; there were only 2 buses. A few days before the trip I got a bus schedule and I checked for the bus timings. I got on bus 2 from Prideaux to Woodgrove and then on bus 91 Intercity to Qualicum.

Here are some few tips on how to explore the biosphere using the public transport and have fun while doing it.

  • The most important and first thing to do is to plan where you want to go
  • Check the weather and pick the best day of the week so that you can have fun doing outdoor activities
  • Check the bus schedule, check out times that work for you and also check for the returning bus time that way you can time your activities. (Check the BC transit website; or download the bus schedule application on your phone). Also note that buses are more frequent during school terms than other times, the schedule have different colors to denote the changes. Talk to the bus driver if you are not sure they will be able to help you get where you are going.
  • Pack few things in your bag: I suggest taking a novel to read on the bus, a packed lunch or check if there are any restaurant around you can get food, a well charged phone for pictures, and proper clothes for the weather.
  • Invite your friends, to make it a fun memorable journey and activities!

Meet Ola, our Marketing Intern

By Olayinka Fadayiro, MABR Marketing & Development Assistant

My Name is Olayinka Fadayiro (call me “Ola”). I’m an MBA student at Vancouver Island University (VIU) and doing my internship with the MABR as the new Marketing and Development Assistant. I’ll be working full time with the MABR from January to April 2016, assisting the MABR’s Communications Coordinator with marketing, organizational development, and event planning.

I grew up in Nigeria near the capital city of Lagos and moved to Nanaimo in 2014 to attend VIU. The first thing that struck me when I moved to Vancouver Island was its beauty and quietness—being surrounded by water, trees, islands, and people who are always willing to help. My love of the region propelled me to narrow my internship search to areas around Nanaimo, where I currently live. 

I was excited when I got the interview with the MABR. At the time, I had little idea as to what the MABR and MABRRI do, but after the interview I was motivated to understand what UNESCO biosphere reserves are all about. I learned a lot over the holiday and started my internship on January the 11th. 

It’s been a great first week. I’m thrilled to be a part of the team and I look forward to helping the MABR with its mandate of building relationships across sectors and disciplines, communicating what so many great organizations are doing in this region with regards to conservation, and raising awareness of how UNESCO biosphere reserves can serve as living labs for sustainability. I said to myself, “this is a great opportunity that doesn’t come often.” I feel at home working here and I’m eager to be a part of many projects and to discover more of the land and waters in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region! 

2015 Student Blogs

Mapping Parksville's Wetlands | October 27 2015

By Christopher M. Stephens, Guest Contributor

MSc. Environment & Management, CLGA, Christopher M. Stephens Consulting, Master of Community Planning Student at VIU

Wetlands are among our most valuable natural assets within the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region, and some of the rarest and most at risk. Through a joint effort by the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society, GW Solutions and Christopher M. Stephens Consulting forming part of the Lower Englishman River Watershed Study, local wetlands are being mapped out and unique ecosystems are being documented and described both inside and outside Parksville’s protected areas.

In turn, this information will support efforts to educate members of the community through involvement, increase local knowledge and create a report that contains valuable information about our wetlands and how to go about managing or protecting them. Findings can be shared in the community and with stakeholders and local government, for what we know can then be protected.

An unknown wetland is far more likely to be lost, but a documented wetland can be better protected and enjoyed by the community.  

The City of Parksville is a destination for tourism with natural features ranging from world class beaches to rivers, forests, and hidden yet ecologically valuable and fascinating wetland ecosystems. Located within the endangered Coastal Douglas-fir Biogeoclimatic zone, Parksville’s wetlands contribute to the quantity and quality of local water and wildlife habitat.

As the project consultant tasked with mapping and assessing wetlands in Parksville through fieldwork, volunteer engagement and a report, it has been an adventure to explore wetlands with volunteers and gain valuable data about some of our most important ecosystems. 

Over 12 volunteers from the Parksville and Nanaimo have come out on weekends, expressing their appreciation of the opportunity to be involved in community centered, scientific wetlands research.

Nicole Ure, a second year geography student from Vancouver Island University identified wetland conservation as an important subject and pursued the opportunity to become involved in the Lower Englishman River Watershed Wetlands Study after I made a presentation on wetland ecology at VIU. “I volunteered because wetland conservation is important and I wanted to learn more by getting involved in a local wetlands study,” she explains, having spent three mornings in the field gaining experience in wetland boundary identification, conservation and mapping techniques.

Shelley Goertzen of Parksville discovered “just how diverse vegetation may be in transition areas between wetland and upland areas and how important these areas are for wetland protection.”

Environmental consultant and MVIHES staff member Barb Riordan noted the effect of regional climate on wetland types, noting the differences between wetland hydrology in Northern BC versus southern BC.

Volunteer Travis Arnold identified the project and associated volunteer opportunities a valuable experience for biologists. “I gained valuable experience in habitat survey methods and wetland ecology research. It is good for a biologist to gain this real world experience. The differentiation between habitat types and the boundaries of a wetland as indicated by vegetation, soil and species occurrence is not something you can as easily understand from a textbook.”

For more information, please email Christopher Stephens at or visit the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society at 

Please see the Parksville Wetlands Initiative page at

Working at the Qualicum Beach Museum

By Daniel Cockcroft, MABRRI Student Researcher

If you’re surprised that Qualicum Beach has a museum, you’re not alone. Tucked away on 587 Beach Road, the museum is one of the area’s hidden treasures. Rich in cultural history and packed with exciting exhibits, the museum is located beside the original powerhouse that supplied electricity to the entirety of the town. In the words of the Qualicum Beach Historical and Museum Society, their mission is “to acquire, preserve and present the social and natural history of the Qualicum Beach area in a manner in which the whole community will be interested, supportive, and proud.”

A large part of my job here at the museum is to use technology to help preserve the history and culture of the area. This includes digitizing the large collection of historically significant photos and various other digital projects. As a cultural resource, much of the museum’s collection reflects the changing nature of our precious biosphere, from Giuseppe Roat’s Natural History Museum exhibit to the stunning photographs of how the area looked before Western settlement. In my time here, I’ve also had the pleasure of conducting paleontology tours for school groups, worked on a few new exhibits, and learned about the history of our area with some wonderful co-workers.

If you’d like to come on an adventure to the museum, you won’t be disappointed! There's a history of communications exhibit, a large paleontology collection, and a great deal of social history, including two short documentaries outlining the history of the area.

Adventure tips:

  • The Qualicum Beach Museum is open from 10 to 4 on Tuesdays and Thursdays on the winter schedule, and there is a suggested donation of $5 per person.
  • Be sure to check out Thunder the Cave bear and Rosie the Walrus!
  • Children will love the ever-popular dinosaur items, as well as the scavenger hunt!
  • Donations to the museum are always welcome and appreciated. For general information, please visit

Community Course: The Biosphere Region in Your Backyard | September 30 2015

By Mike Anderson, MABRRI Student Researcher

On September 26th at Milner Gardens & Woodland, staff from MABRRI (Pam, Graham, Monica, Mike, and Ryan) hosted the Biosphere Region in Your Backyard community course. The course was designed to be an introductory lesson of the history, physical/human geography and environmental issues in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region (MABR). Research projects including the State of the Environment Report (SOER) and the Mount Arrowsmith Snow Pillow were highlighted that have relevance and interest to communities contained within the MABR.

It was a full house at Milner Gardens with 27 people in attendance (sold out!). A special feature of the course were the interactive activities that were designed to engage participants with the geography of the MABR and to gather feedback on the desired future of the region. One activity included in the course was the “Map Game” which challenged participants to guess the location of as many cities, parks, lakes, mountains, and ecosystems as they could within the MABR. Several groups did extremely well and knew almost all of the locations - just shows how passionate local people are about the region in which they live. Another interesting activity in the course was the World Café discussion that engaged participants about the future of the MABR and what they personally thought about the research MABRRI has been a part of. Discussions from the World Café activity proved valuable as it provided insight on what the public would like to see happen in the MABR in the future--everything from resource management to research projects.

Course participants were enthusiastic to hear about the research being done at MABRRI and keenly voiced their passion for the region. The Biosphere Region in Your Backyard course hopefully raised awareness of the participants of the MABR and how to live better in this truly amazing region!

Adventure tips:

  • Milner Gardens & Woodland is a 70 hectare property located alongside the waterfront in Qualicum Beach and is considered by Canadian Geographic to be one of the Canada’s ten best public gardens. Visit Milner's website for more information on the history of the property and admission rates.

  • There are a number of community courses offered at Milner related to gardening and landscaping. See the fall brochure here.

  • Milner Gardens is always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to help out with horticulture and gardening projects. Please see their website for volunteer positions and an application form.

Meet Haley, One of MABRRI's Student Researchers

By Haley Robinson, MABRRI Student Researcher

Hi! My name is Haley Robinson and I'm doing an independent research project about the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region.

A bit about me: I grew up near Toronto, Ontario, and I moved to Nanaimo in 2013 to attend VIU.  When I first moved to Vancouver Island, I spent a lot of time visiting different parks and beaches, and the knowledge that I gained from the interpretive signage at these sites helped me develop sense of place and a connection to my new environment. I am now in my fourth year of the natural resource management geography program at VIU and expect to graduate this spring.

About my project: I’m working on an eight month senior independent research project through VIU’s Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI) on interpretive signage and sense of place. I visit sites within the MABR where people have the opportunity to connect with nature, and at these sites, I evaluate existing interpretive signage. People develop familiarity and sense of place with their environment through direct interactions, and effective interpretive signage can deepen this connection. I’m looking for well-designed, up-to-date signage that effectively communicates important or interesting information about the landscape. MABRRI will be able to use my findings to improve and create signage within the region to reconnect people with the environment.

The title of my project is "Sense of Place within the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region: An Evaluation of Outdoor Interpretive Signage." Looking forward to sharing the results when I'm done!

Intro to the 2015 MABRRI Summer Team

By Graham Sakaki, MABRRI Research Coordinator

The Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI) worked with four fantastic Vancouver Island University (VIU) student researchers over the summer. MABRRI's headquarters are located in Building 305 in Room 442 at the VIU Nanaimo Campus. 

We have many research projects currently under way and many more on the horizon. If you wish to learn more please see the “Projects” tab under “Research Institute” on the website. Please be sure to keep checking this page for updates on our various adventures and field work in the biosphere region.

From left to right: Mike Anderson (researcher), Sarah Lumley (researcher), Graham Sakaki (research coordinator), David Witty (MABR director), Ryan Frederickson (researcher), Monica Shore (communications coordinator), Pam Shaw (MABRRI research director)

A Salish Sea Adventure | June 24 2015

By Mike Anderson, MABRRI Student Researcher

At 6 AM on Wednesday morning the MABRRI team (myself, Graham and Ryan) met at Schooner Cove marina for a boat tour of the Salish Sea. The main goal for the day was to collect data for the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project and to explore the many interesting islands and passages of the region. After launching the Silver Bullet and meeting up with Tom, Ryan’s dad, we took off for our first sampling site for the day located in the middle of the Salish Sea.

Seven sites were sampled in various locations around the Salish Sea. A variety of equipment was used for sampling including a Niskin Bottle for collecting nutrient samples at depth, a CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) device, and a Secchi Disc used for obtaining water clarity. A Scotty manual downrigger was also used to lower the equipment into the depths. The CTD device was lowered twice at each sampling location to a depth of 450 feet, while the Niskin Bottle was used at three of the seven sites. Nutrient levels were also collected at the surface. Data from the CTD device was downloaded to a tablet for analysis at a later date.

Once we completed work at the first site we travelled to Thormanby Island on the Sunshine Coast, where the second sampling site was located. As the boat slowed down while we neared the site, Graham spotted a pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins playing in the waves. We entered calm Bull Passage between Lasqueti and Jedediah Island. Wild sheep are known to roam the rocky shores of these islands but on this day we didn't see any. Ryan was very disappointed! A couple of commercial prawn boats plied the serene waters. On the other side of Bull Passage, the seas calmed down making for a comfortable cruise across the strait to Sisters Islets where another sampling site was located. The Silver Bullet smoothly dropped the waves on route to French Creek and back towards our starting point at Schooner Cove.

Our Salish Sea adventure also included a fishing stop where we managed to catch two nice halibut and a couple of rockfish! Although a long day on the water it felt awesome to contribute to the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project and expand our own knowledge of the geography of this special region.

Adventure tips:

  • There is a passenger ferry that travels to False Bay on Lasqueti Island from French Creek marina. A schedule is available from their website

  • If your looking to catch a salmon try using an army truck hootchie at 130 feet. Chinook and Coho salmon are found in the area from March to September

  • Prime time for whale watching is March to April when herring spawn on local beaches

North Island Wildlife Recovery Center | June 19 2015

By Mike Anderson, MABRRI Student Researcher

Throughout our adventures in the MABR we’ve had few wildlife sightings; with that in mind, Sarah, Ryan, and I visited the North Island Wildlife Recovery Center in Errington. The center is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of wildlife on Vancouver Island and increasing public awareness of wildlife issues through education. A large part of the center's operations is focused on the rehabilitation of injured or displaced wildlife--mostly raptors and black bears. Self-guided and guided tours are available to the public.

We started our tour with a visit with Knut the black bear who was born in captivity at the center in 1996. Knut looked at us curiously as he wandered back and forth in his enclosure. The next stop on the tour was the raptor enclosure. A variety of birds were present such as Sandor (bald eagle), Trickster (raven), King Alfred (golden eagle), Igor (turkey vulture) and Elsa (snowy owl). The atmosphere was exciting (and noisy!) as the raptors flew around their enclosures. Trickster, the raven, keenly looked at us with a mischievous grin while Emily, the Saker falcon, happily played with a stick.

After viewing the raptors, we casually roamed the garden area of the centre. Sarah spotted a red-wing blackbird casually flying around the bird feeder (finally a photo!). I excitedly snapped a few photos of honey bees with our new telephoto lens. The last stop of the tour was viewing Helen and Paddington, two orphaned black bear cubs. Helen and Paddington are being rehabilitated as they were both separated from their mother in the wild. They are only able to be viewed via a live webcam, to ensure they have as little human contact as possible. The twins looked like they were having fun together rolling a ball around and climbing on logs. We concluded our tour with a stop at the centre’s gift shop where we browsed through books on the region and clothing. All in all it was a great day spent in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region!

Adventure tips:

  • The NIWRC is open from 9 AM to 5 PM seven days a week. Admission rates are $8 for adults (13 and over) and $5 for kids (3 to 12 years). Children under 3 get in for free.

  • A number of animals can be adopted including bear cubs and raptors. The cost is $25. (You don't get to take the black bear home... Your money supports the food and living costs of the animal you've decided to "adopt.")

  • Be sure to check out Sandor the bald eagle; he is a very curious bird!

  • Cash and non-cash donations can be made to the centre. Help support the welfare of wildlife on Vancouver Island! For more information on donations and the centre in general please visit

Walking the Wild Side in the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve | June 12-14 2015

By Sarah Lumley, MABRRI Student Researcher

On the weekend, Taylor (a recent graduate from VIU Geography) and I backpacked the Wild Side trail in the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve. We wanted to share some of the amazing places we got to see on the west coast and to encourage others to check out our friendly neighbouring biosphere!

Our trip started early Friday morning with a drive to Tofino. From there we got a ride on a charter boat to Ahousaht on Flores Island, where the trail begins. We checked in at the office and then were on our way to Cow Bay beach. It was an absolutely stunning 12km trek across windswept sandy beaches and through rich old growth forest. The trail was well maintained and didn’t have any large changes in elevation. With our 40 lbs packs, the trip in took us about 4 hours. We camped in the trees that night and spent the next day exploring the bay.

There we saw whales feeding close to shore, two bald eagles picking at an old carcass on the beach, and lots of wolf footprints in the sand. We went wading in the ocean (which was a bit brisk, however tropical it looked), and scrambled up some of the rocky islands to get a better view of the area. It was a beautiful day. Too soon, it was time to go home. We ended up further inland on the way back because of the tides. The extra section was well worth it though, as it went through some of the oldest trees I have ever seen. We were completely exhausted when we made it back, but that was outweighed by the sense of accomplishment we felt having made the journey all on our own feet! I would highly recommend the trail to anyone looking to explore this amazing part of the Clayoquot Biosphere Reserve!

Adventure tips:

  • Give yourself some extra time to get to Tofino, as there is currently construction going on that delayed us a bit.

  • Stop and take pictures! The walk in itself was just as beautiful as the destination.

  • Be sure to check the tides before you plan your route, as there are some parts of the trail that you can take low tide short cuts.

  • This is a relatively easy trail and well marked. It was Taylor’s first backpacking trip, and made for a great introductory experience.

Top Bridge Regional Trail | June 9 2015

By Sarah Lumley, MABRRI Student Researcher

On Tuesday, Mike, Graham, and I explored the Top Bridge Regional Trail. We started a the Grieg Road access and made our way down to the Englishman River to check out the area where VIU geography students usually complete the hydrology component of their Geog467 field course. Here we met a lady and her two dogs who were thoroughly enjoying the water. As we were leaving, she pointed out an impromptu art installation that we should check out just around the corner. This was a log on top of which someone (or multiple someones) had purposefully stacked rocks. There were a couple of other decorations, including a crayfish shell, a few signs or notes, and some brightly painted rocks. It was a pretty cool example of people interacting with nature.

After checking out the log, we made our way towards the main trail. This meanders alongside the Englishman River, all the way to Top Bridge. On our walk, we saw Tiger Lillies, Foxglove, and even a baby rabbit (so cute!). We also walked down to the river on a side trail and got to see little salmon fry hanging out on the sides of the channel, as well as two gentlemen further down that were gold panning. The bedrock itself was neat to see, especially where it had been broken off by tree roots. We stopped for lunch on the rocks underneath Top Bridge, and seriously contemplated going for a swim, but none of us had the forethought to bring a towel. We then made our way back and called it another great day in the biosphere region!

Adventure tips:

  • Part of this trail is located on private property, and so it is requested that you stick to the trails here

  • Look for little coloured one eyed monster rocks! There were some hiding in stumps along the trail.

  • This was a relatively easy trail, with only a few muddy spots that you can easily go around. There are some steep sections, and you should be especially careful on your way down to the rocks under the bridge as there was some loose gravel that almost took out a few of us.

Photos of Top Bridge

Mount Arrowsmith by Helicopter | June 5 2015

By Graham Sakaki, MABRRI Research Coordinator

On Friday morning Mike and I joined Greg (Ministry of Environments), Bill (Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations), Morgan (Island Timberlands), and Wendy (Regional District of Nanaimo) on a reconnaissance trip up Mount Arrowsmith to determine a location for a weather station. The weather station will likely be installed just shy of 1500 meters elevation on Mount Arrowsmith, above Arrowsmith Lake in August of 2015.

The trip up was amazing, we flew Sunwest Helicopters Ltd. out of the Qualicum Beach Airport. We couldnt have asked for better weather, or a smoother flight for the few first timers on board. The flight was about 10 minutes each way with some time circling the ridges on the way in looking for a suitable location to explore and to land. 

The mosquitoes were out in full force, so we tried to keep on the move most of the time. The wildflowers were just starting to bloom, we saw Nootka lupin, pink mountain heather, and crowberry. 

We had an excellent time on the trip, and the company was incredible. We cannot wait to get started on the installation of the new weather station and snow pillow to monitor snowpack and climate on Mount Arrowsmith!

Adventure tips:

  • Sunwest Helicopter Ltd. Owner/Operator Brian Sallows was a great guide and pilot. He can be reached at 250-752-0707 or at

  • If you're hiking up Mount Arrowsmith or going for a helicopter Adventure bring your bug spray, long sleeved shirt and pants!!

  • Dont forget your camera (the views are breath-taking)

Notch Hill | May 29 2015

By Sarah Lumley, MABRRI Student Researcher

Friday afternoon, Monica, Graham, and I headed off to Nanoose to check out Notch Hill. This area contains the rare Garry Oak meadow and arbutus forest ecosystem. We climbed the hill to the lookout and had a picnic lunch in a small patch of shade under one of the oak trees. From our spot on the bluffs, we could see the whole biosphere from the top of Mt Arrowsmith to where the river meets ocean in the estuary. 

While we were up there, we saw (or rather heard) a Bald Eagle perched in a tall Douglas Fir tree, several Robins, Foxglove, and several other wildflowers in bloom. The hike was relatively easy, with only a bit of scrambling over the rocks at the top and some steep uphill sections. The forest walk on our way back was refreshing after the toastiness of the heat on the cliffs. This is a place that all of us could see spending more time in, just to soak up the views and listen to the beautiful birdsong for an afternoon. It was a day well spent!

Adventure tips:

  • No need to pack a full lunch for this trip, as the hike is fairly short

  • Take a picture of the map at the beginning of the trail and know your route, as there are many cross-trails

  • Definitely bring a camera for the remarkable views!

  • Use the restroom prior to driving out, as there aren’t any along the trail or at the trailhead

  • See if you can find all of the carved owls perched in the trees along the trail!

Spider Lake | May 22 2015

By Sarah Lumley, MABRRI Student Researcher, Summer 2015

On Friday morning, Graham, Mike, Ryan and I set out for Spider Lake, on the Northwest side of the biosphere region. There we did our first exploration by paddle.

The weather was perfect, with only a couple high clouds in the bright blue sky. It heated up around lunch time enough for a quick dip. The water was surprisingly warm for May!

As we made our way around the lake, we bumped into a noisy gaggle of Canada Geese, several swallows, and a soggy bald eagle sitting on his perch in a tall douglas fir. The blue dasher dragonflies were also out in mass, enjoying the sun.

We met and talked to several others out on the water fishing from small boats. Most of them were having about as much luck as we were (which was not much at all). Our guys put out their lines for awhile, but Graham (the birthday boy) was the only one that managed to catch a 10” rainbow trout. We did see a very large bass near the boat launch though. He was probably laughing at us all.

Overall, it was a great day with great company, out in part of this amazing place that we are so fortunate to call home.

Adventure tips:

  • There’s a great little park set up with picnic benches and an outhouse by the small dirt boat launch. 

  • The lake is fairly small, so by May, the water is already great for swimming and hanging out at the beach.

  • According to the fishermen that we met, the lake was stocked with fish in February.

Haapsalu, Estonia | May 18-22 2015

By Monica Shore, MABR Community Catalyst

Estonia?! What were Pam Shaw and I doing there? Well, it turns out that every two years, UNESCO's European and North American biosphere reserves get together as part of what's called the EuroMAB network. Different countries organize the conference-style event (in 2013, Frontenac Arch BR in Canada was the host) and members of nearly 300 biosphere reserves are invited to meet one another, share best practices, learn from each other's successes and challenges and guide the contined development of UNESCO's Man and Biosphere Programme.

Pam and I attended EuroMAB on behalf of the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region and also as members of the EuroMAB Indigenous Working Group (IWG). The IWG also includes Tammy Dorward, Cathy Thicke and Rebecca Hurwitz from Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, as well as Eli Enns and Larry McDermott, Indigenous knowledge holders in BC and Ontario. At the EuroMAB conference, Pam, Tammy, Cathy and I hosted a five-hour workshop on how to better honour cultural heritage and Indigenous knowledge within the framework of UNESCO biosphere reserves. We hosted a collaborative workshop with individual presentations and were also joined by Ms. Helgi Pollo from the West Estonian Archipelago Biosphere Reserve, who spoke to the meaning of “Indigenous knowledge” in the Estonian context. 

Besides learning and sharing at the conference itself, Pam and I explored the West Estonian Archipelago Biosphere Reserve's island of Hiiumaa where we visited a traditional wool factory, a stone museum with a beautiful thatched roof, a historic lighthouse, and many other stunning sites. A most memorable moment for me was participating in traditional Estonian folk dances to the sound of joyful accordion music and in the arms of a charming Estonian gentlemen with a beautiful felted top-hat.

Rhododendron Lake | May 16 2015

By Sarah Lumley, MABRRI Student Researcher

On Saturday, Ryan, Mike, Graham, & I headed to “Rhodo” Lake to check out the flowering shrubs for which the lake is named after. Unfortunately, as we realized when we arrived, the higher elevation of the lake meant that the Rhododendrons here were not quite in bloom like the ones we have seen around town. One or two more days though, and it looks like they’d all burst.

Our disappointment was short-lived though, as the lake, even without the flowers, was a beautiful spot. We met a couple down by the water trying their luck with fishing. It must have been feeding time, as the fish were practically leaping out of the water. Those two went home with several trout and large smiles on their faces. The guys also put their lines in at the far end of the lake and were fairly successful, although we decided to let all of ours go. It was clear that the lake was definitely stocked recently. While we were having lunch, another two recreators floated by in their kayaks and briefly said hello.

While at the lake, I spotted what I think may have been a Western Tanager. He was very bright yellow and red little bird. There were also a few woodpeckers, many blue dragonflies, and a brown frog that I couldn’t identify. It was a great day to being surrounded by nature in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region.

 Adventure tips:

  • The fish really liked the combination of “GULP” trout corn and roe

  • If you want to see Rhododendrons in bloom, come a few weeks after most of them are flowering at sea level

  • There was a nice little signed trail set up with descriptions of native species around the lake

Mt. Cokely, Loon Lake, & Cameron Lake | May 8 2015

By Ryan Frederickson, MABRRI Student Researcher

On Friday morning the MABRRI team (Mike, Sarah, Graham, and myself) gathered our cameras, notebooks, Back Road Atlas and lunches then headed for our designated rendezvous point: a sizeable gravel lot up in Qualicum Beach on the side of Memorial Avenue. Once we met up and piled our gear into one vehicle, we proceeded to head west on the Alberni Highway which winds along the Cameron Valley, past Cameron Lake and through Cathedral Grove which is one of the last standing mighty old growth forests left in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region.

Once we made it over the Alberni Summit, we turned onto a neatly groomed gravel road  that connects to the Arrowsmith mainline. From there we made our way up to the once popular Mount Cokely Ski Lodge Site. Along the way, we scouted out a few of the well-known hiking trails including the Judges Route and the Saddle Route that head up to the peaks of Mount Cokely and Mount Arrowsmith. We passed numerous other recreationists like ourselves, destined for the old ski lodge site on Mount Cokely where you can catch breathtaking views of the Alberni Valley, the Golden Hinde in Strathcona Park, Tribune Bay on Hornby island and across the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait) over to the Coast mountains of the Mainland.

After lunch we headed down the mountain and made a quick stop at Loon Lake to check it off our list of sites to see. From there we headed to Cameron lake, where we did not have much luck at fishing. However, Sarah came prepared as always and made us all some tea with her handy dandy pocket rocket. Great fun was had by all today!

 Adventure tips:

  • The Mount Cokely area is a great place to go for an evening drive in late may through June, to catch a glimpse of a black bear or two.

  • A couple of great fishing lakes in the Mount Cokely and Mount Arrowsmith Region are Henri Lake and Labour Day Lake. Try Fly casting a Black Ant pattern in May-June and you should have some success.

  • Roosevelt Elk are plentiful in the area as well. Your best time to see one would be September-October which is the start of their mating season. Even if you don’t get to see one it is likely if you listen closely you may hear some Bulls bugling in the distance.

  • Mount Arrowsmith

    Mike, Sarah and Graham by Mount Arrowsmith

    Mike, Sarah and Graham by Mount Arrowsmith

  • View of Port Alberni

    Looking west toward Port Alberni

    Looking west toward Port Alberni

  • Salish Sea

    Looking east across Salish Sea to Coast Mountains on mainland

    Looking east across Salish Sea to Coast Mountains on mainland

  • Mount Cokely

    Sarah, Mike and Ryan by Mount Cokely

    Sarah, Mike and Ryan by Mount Cokely

  • Loon Lake

    Loon Lake

    Loon Lake

  • Cameron Lake

    Cameron Lake

    Cameron Lake

Rathtrevor Beach, Hamilton Marsh, & Little Qualicum Falls | May 1 2015

By Mike Anderson, MABRRI Student Researcher, Summer 2015

On Friday morning Graham, Sarah, Robbie and I journeyed to the Parksville-Qualicum area to experience some of the popular natural attractions of the region. Our first stop was Rathtrevor Beach where we spotted a variety of wildlife including brant geese, bald eagles, and shore crab. The spectacular weather offered a breathtaking view of Mount Arrowsmith located west of the park.

Our next destination was Hamilton Marsh, located in the community of Coombs. We travelled along the well maintained trail to the edge of the marsh. Sarah spotted an array of wildlife along the trail including a banana slug slowly slithering on the edge of the forest. Birds were also plentiful at the marsh with Canadian geese and red-winged blackbirds.

The last stop of the day was Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park where we hiked around the many trails in the park. We travelled to the top of the falls and made our way to the base while taking in the beauty of the forest along the way. Western red cedar, Douglas-fir, and western hemlock lined the trail. Oak fern and maidenhair fern clung to the cool face of the falls. The falls themselves were spectacular, with fine mist being sprayed in all directions. We concluded the day with a leisurely drive through the biosphere back to Nanaimo. After visiting these natural areas we felt more in touch with the ecosystems, wildlife, and recreational opportunities of the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region.

Adventure tips:

  • Rathtrevor Beach is an excellent site for birding especially in the spring when black brant return to the region. Bring a camera to document this magnificent natural phenomenon.

  • To get to Hamilton Marsh take the Island Highway until Exit 60 (Port Alberni turn-off). Turn right on to Hilliers Road. There is a small parking lot on the left hand side of the road. The well maintained trail heads to the marsh from here.

  • Bring binoculars to view the red-winged blackbirds found in Hamilton Marsh

Salish Sea Marine Survival Project | April 29 2015

By Ryan Frederickson, MABRRI Student Researcher

On Wednesday morning, my wife and I left our home, which is located in the MABR next to the Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park. We made our way to Deep Bay marina approximately 15 minutes north of Qualicum Beach, where we launched our boat and met a team of biologists, researchers, and a small TV crew filming on behalf of the popular television show Daily Planet, which airs on the Discovery Channel.

The project was created to monitor the Chinook, Coho and Steelhead stocks within the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia) to help develop a better understanding as to why the stocks have been in decline despite all of the hatchery enhancement projects on the local rivers feeding into the strait. Due to the efforts of the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF), 40,000 juvenile salmon were coded, wire-tagged, and released into the Big Qualicum River. Our goal was to help catch 5 seals and attach satellite tracking devices on their backs and monitors on their heads that would record every time the seals feed on one of the tagged juvenile salmon in order to gain an understanding of how salmon predation from seals impacts juvenile salmon population.

The teams divided into groups and boarded 4 different vessels. Research scientists and biologists were among the members on board 3 of the vessels while my boat housed the filming crew. We headed to Norris Rocks where the first 2 seals were captured and equipped with high tech monitoring devices. During the process, one of the team members was bitten on his hand, however the wound was minimal. We then headed to the mouth of the Big Qualicum River where the team deployed a large gill net and managed to catch another 3 seals to be equipped with these cutting edge monitoring devices.

The seals didn't seem to mind their new attire as they ventured back out to sea to hunt. This was a “first of its kind” monitoring program and an incredible adventure to be a part of that took place in the marine portion of the MABR. No seals were harmed that day and the teams were extremely pleased with the job done. Future analysis will be done using the data received from the monitoring devices installed, and hopefully we will learn more about the pressures to salmon stocks caused by predation.  

Adventure tips:

  • If you're out in the boat and looking to view some wildlife, head over to Tribune Bay. If you're lucky you may see the Elephant seals that comes to Hornby Island every year to molt in the summer.

  • If you're getting the winter blues, visit Qualicum Beach from mid February to April and you should see large clumps of sea lions, swarms of sea birds and bald eagles frenzy feeding on herring and having a good ol’ time!

  • For more info on the “Salish Sea Marine Survival Project”, or to donate to the “Pacific Salmon Foundation” click here.