MABRRI's research and community engagement coordinators, project coordinators, VIU students, and faculty associates work with community partners to create and conduct research projects that advance our understanding of people and nature--and the interaction between these--within and outside the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region. These are the past projects that MABRRI has worked on both outside and inside the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region. 

Past Projects

Bull Kelp Sample Collection and Marine Monitoring in the Salish Sea

The aim of this project is to contribute to the work that the Pacific Salmon Foundation has been conducting through the development of their Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, as well as the work that the Nile Creek Enhancement Society has currently underway regarding enhancement of bull kelp within the Salish Sea in relation to climate change. The targeted goals of this project are as follows: [1] through meeting with tenured marine biologists and program coordinators that work for the Pacific Salmon Foundation, Nile Creek Enhancement Society, and Project Watershed; determine what locations are of particular interest to the organizations which are currently lacking data collection; [2] conduct a literature review on factors limiting the successful development of bull kelp; [3] the collection of bull kelp sori (seeds) to be sent in for further analysis, and to find heartier strains of bull kelp that may be more resistant to warming water temperatures; and [4] Collect water samples from each site to capture a water profile of the following attributes: temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, pH, and conductivity to help determine whether the site could support new bull kelp production.

Parksville Community Park Master Plan & Survey Project

On Monday, December 4th the City of Parksville’s Mayor and Council adopted the Community Park Master Plan, marking the conclusion of this project for the MABRRI team. Work for this Plan started with a formal contract signing with Mayor Marc Lefebvre in January 2017 and has been a key project for the Institute since then.

Residents of Parksville consider the Community Park to be the “jewel” of their City. As such, the project team has felt a strong responsibility to develop a community engagement strategy that would inform a Master Plan to be used to support the Community’s vision for the Park and ensure that residents can enjoy the Park for years to come. Consultation events gave students and staff the opportunity to engage with almost 1500 people at a series of events, including: Parks on the Street day, where students canvassed community members to generate ideas to inform the direction for subsequent consultation; World Cafe, an event where students facilitated 20 minute discussions on the themes identified at Parks on the Street day; the Resident's Survey, which provided each resident in the City with an opportunity to share their vision for the Community Park on an electronic or paper survey; Gazebo Talks, which served to update park goers about the project to date and to introduce the “Guiding Principles” for the Master Plan; the Tourist Survey, which gave visitors the opportunity to share their ideas for the Park; Picnic Table Talks, where key stakeholders in the Park gave their input for how the Park could be developed to support their specific needs; and a final Open House, where residents were invited to comment on the draft Master Plan in order to identify changes to improve the document.

Students from many different programs had the opportunity to work on the project and gain first hand experience in parks planning, research, consultation, engagement, survey writing, and report writing. The final document that we produced will guide the development of Parksville’s Community Park for the next 20 years. We are grateful to have been a part of the process and look forward to our next projects with the City!

Carrying Capacity of the MABR

The Carrying Capacity project conducted by student researchers at the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute evaluated current land uses and human impacts within the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region (MABR). Based on current knowledge and literature it was possible to evaluate the various zoning classifications accross the region, protected areas, species at risk and potential limitations for growing populations in the region. Through analysis it was determiend that only 50 percent of land within the MABR is optimal for agricultural use. These limited agricultural sites are also ideal for local development; unfortuantely further build-out phases on agricultural lands will be needed to ensure the regions sustainability as populations continue to grow. Through an ecological and literature analysis it was determined that the MABR contains approximately 40 protected parks and portions of land, providing habitat for over 67 provincially recorded red and blue listed species at risk. these protected regions act to ensure the region reserves itsthe region preserves its natural biodiversity while encompassing sustainable development. Research also determined that the major limiting factor for future development would be based on water resources, as demand continues to increase, greater stress will be experienced by fresh water systems. 

Eelgrass Mapping in the Mid-Island Estuaries

Estuaries are a critical intersection between terrestrial and marine ecosystems, both providing vital corridor and nursery sites for a wide variety of bird, fish, and wildlife species as well as functioning as long term carbon storage. In the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region (MABR) both the native eelgrass, Zostera marina, and the introduced Japanese eelgrass, Zostera japonica, form a major component of these estuarine and foreshore habitats. The growth and distribution of the eelgrass in these areas serves as key indicator of overall estuarine ecosystem health. Updated mapping and monitoring of eelgrass distribution over time contributes to a greater understanding of how estuarine and marine ecosystems are changing in response to numerous environmental pressures, from human activities to climate change. This increased understanding in turn can be harnessed to create conservation and management strategies that seek to improve estuarine environments.

The Englishman and Little Qualicum River estuaries are the largest estuaries in the MABR and, as a result, function as some of the most important sites for birds, fish, and wildlife in the region. Over the summer of 2016, the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI), funded by the Vancouver Island University Research Awards Committee, mapped the current eelgrass distribution in the Englishman and Little Qualicum River estuaries. Results of this survey were compared to previous surveys conducted of the area and with the 2015 Survey of the Nanaimo River Estuary. The overall goal of the project was to expand and update existing eelgrass mapping and to start to investigate possible changes and trends occurring in these estuaries.

MABR Pollinator Program

Pollinators include a unique aray of insect, bird, and mammal speciesand are very important to the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region (MABR). Some species include: moths, beetles, birds, and numerous species of bees. Pollinators are vital to the survival and health of our ecosystems that we depend heavily upon as humans. Many pollinator species, such as bees are experiencing increased stress due to negative changes in agricultural practices and increased use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. With steadily increasing urban populations and human caused pollutants pollinator communities are declining in many parts of the world due to habitat fragmentation and decreases in natural landscapes. 

MABRRI student researchers modelled pollinator hotels (shown in the image below) after a group of students at Quest University in Squamish BC in a attempt to help local pollinators by creating nesting materials of wood. 


Linley Valley Park Plan, Trail Assessment, and Public Engagement Strategy

The Linley Valley Park Planning Project aims to have VIU students, from a variety of disciplines, work closely with the City of Nanaimo Parks staff from May 2017 through September 2017 to complete two projects that will inform the creation of a Park Plan. The two projects will run simultaneously through the five months of the project starting in May. First, students will work with the City's Parks and Open Space Planner to design and implement a public engagement process. The intent of this portion of the project is to collect input on existing uses and to identify opportunities to improve recreational use, access and wayfinding while respecting the environmentally sensitive areas of the ark. Students will research and design engagement strategies, facilitate community engagement events and work with other stakeholder groups to host events through tout the project. 

The second part of the e project will involve students completing a Linley Valley trails assessment. A current trail use assessment will be conducted by installing trail "beam break" counters, which record the number of people using the existing trails. Students will work with the Trails Supervisor and Park Planner to identify the locations for the counters and will be a part of downloading and interpreting the results. This data will be assessed to determine the current use of the existing trail network and make recommendations for creating a complete park trail network.

Five Acre Farm Project

 The City of Nanaimo has identified property in its recent “Harewood Neighborhood Plan (2013) that is to be kept as “open space” in the Harewood community. ACP’s WEST program has a vested interest in this land through its partnership with Nanaimo Food Share, an organization that is seeking land to continue it’s not for project community food sustainability program. WEST works closely with Nanaimo Food Share and will be employing two students who will be responsible for examining one of the last five-acre parcels of land in Harewood, Nanaimo for the purpose of doing research to determine potential use for Nanaimo Food Share’s Community Food Security Project. Upon examining and researching the land, the two students will present recommendations for land use that is consistent with Nanaimo’s Food Share Principles of sustainability. Based on the research students will create an Environmental Planning Report that identifies agricultural, ecological and heritage values.  Additionally, the report will be used to determine the potential community uses of the property as part of the Nanaimo Foodshare Community Food Security Project.

Mount Arrowsmith Weather Station

One of the MABR's main objectives is to provide support for monitoring and research in hopes of enhancing information sharing at local, national, and international levels. The MABR, along with the Regional District of Nanaimo, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Ministry of Environment, and Island Timberlands, have all collaborated on a project to install a weather station on Mount Arrowmsith. The station will be able to monitor snow pack, wind speed, precipitation, temperature, humidity, solar radiation, and other valuable information related to both weather and climate. The information is recorded in real-time and relayed via satellite to a large network of similar weather stations across British Columbia.

The headwaters of the Englishman River and Arrowsmith Lake are important sources of fresh water to the region. The ability to monitor snow pack will help determine the quantity of stored water and predict flows for the Englishman, Little Qualicum, and Big Qualicum Rivers. Long-term climate data may also assist with climate modelling for climate change and could potentially help with the Global Obervation Initiative in Alpine Environments (GLORIA) project that the MABR has been working on over the last 8 years. There is a significant gap in weather and climate data in mountainous areas on Vancouver Island (away from the coastline), and this initiative will help to reduce this data gap. 

Cowichan Valley Lamprey UAV Mapping Project

Currently available DEM, Bathymetry, and LIDAR datasets do not adequately cover the shoreline area of Lake Cowichan. Due to this and a lack of equipment necessary to obtain such information, the following methodology was conceived. An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was flown at the sites, Cottonwood creek, Meade Creek, and Robertson Creek, at such a height as to capture the majority of each site using the UAV’s onboard camera (aimed straight down). In cases where the UAV could not be flown high enough to capture the whole site, a series of images were taken and stitched together in post-processing. The resultant images were then georeferenced in ArcGIS using a series of GPS points captured by a commercial grade GPS unit. These points were both natural and artificial features (stumps, large rocks, campfire rings, wood stakes). After the initial georeferencing, subsequent aerial images were referenced to the previous images.

After all imagery was georeferenced, a shoreline was hand digitized for each site. The shorelines were given dates based on when the photo they were digitized from was taken. A buffer analysis was then performed on the most recent shoreline; August 8th, 2016 at time of writing. This buffer analysis used a 7 meter buffer distance and flat end parameters. These parameters were chosen so that the buffer overlaid all shorelines and so the edge of the buffer was perpendicular to the shoreline. Additionally, August 8, 2016 shorelines were chosen as they were the least geometrically complex of the shorelines captured as well as the shortest. The buffers at each site were then split using the shorelines from each date. The resulting polygons were then grouped based on period of time to show shore area change. June 20 to July 1, 2016 and July 1 to August 8, 2016. The polygons were also grouped based on whether they represented a gain or a loss in shore area.

The polygons show the shore area change for a given time period at each site over a given length of shoreline. The buffer procedure was foregone in the case of Robertson Creek as the differences between shorelines were too great. In this case, a polygon was hand drawn around the regions to be calculated. Robertson Creek also varied as it had pools of water behind sand bars. In this case, the pools were left out of the Shore Area Change calculation as lampreys may be living in the pools.

As Robertson Creek has a much more complex shoreline, shoreline measurements and area change are averaged. In the case of Robertson Creek, “South” area, most of the area change pertains to the arguably inland pool. On August 8th, 2016 in became apparent that this pool became somewhat cut off. For that reason in the August 27th, 2016 calculation, the south portion has been left out.