Other Regional Initiatives

MABRRI's research coordinator, 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--On Vancouver Island. Listed below are some of the projects that MABRRI is currently working on. If you are curious about projects that are currently happening within the MABR check out our Current Projects in the MABR page.

Canadian Mountain Network & the UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the United Nations established the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the 2030 Agenda to call all nations to action to increase efforts towards social, economic, and cultural prosperity while simultaneously caring for and protecting the earth. Mountain systems are of critical global importance – they make up a quarter of the world’s land surface, over a quarter of the world’s human population lives within or near mountain regions, and almost all of the world’s major rivers originate in mountains. While several of the SDGs speak to mountains, achieving global sustainable development requires increased awareness and understanding of the importance and vulnerability of mountain systems.  

The Canadian Mountain Network (CMN) aims to engage in collaborative, interdisciplinary research to address issues and relationships between mountain environments, economies, and society. The CMN has also committed to advancing the SDGs in mountain research. MABRRI has been funded by the CMN to conduct the Canadian Mountain Network and UN Sustainable Development Goals project. To demonstrate the importance of collaborative mountain research in meeting the SDGs, this project aims to highlight and report on linkages from the work currently being undertaken by the Network of Centres of Excellence agreement between the CMN and Network members in order to determine how CMN researchers are contributing to and advancing the Global Agenda.

Diana Krall Plaza Redevelopment Plan

Diana Krall Plaza is situated at a key location in the heart of downtown Nanaimo. It has significant potential as one of Nanaimo’s premier public sites. However, it suffers from a lack of appropriate connectedness to other key parts of the downtown and remains isolated and unused. The Diana Krall Plaza Redevelopment Plan was initiated in order to identify priorities and design concepts that will reinvigorate the Plaza. 
 
In collaboration with the City of Nanaimo, VIU, and the Master of Community Planning Program, this project will engage students in research and community events, in order to collect information and feedback with regards to improving Diana Krall Plaza. This will occur during three local events, including a drop-in Diana Krall Plaza event, Community Idea Forum, and a design charrette. All of the collected information from the events, as well as new design concepts brought forth from the team will be compiled and included in the plan. The project is set to wrap up in November 2020.

City of Campbell River Environmental Bench Marking

Development along our coasts and water sources can pose risk to fish and wildlife species and habitat. As such, federal, provincial, and municipal governments have developed regional timing windows, which are periods of time during the year where development may be carried out with the lowest risk. Terms and conditions for these timing windows vary based on regional differences in fish and wildlife species, habitat, and geography.

The City of Campbell River has asked MABRRI to conduct background research to determine work windows that pose the least risk to the natural environment, and to develop easy to understand graphics and materials to hand to the public.

Additionally, the City of Campbell River has many groups of dedicated stream-keepers and citizen scientists working within Nunns, Simms, Kingfisher, and Willow Creeks. MABRRI will work with these groups to develop urban stream report cards. These report cards will be used to standardize the data collected and collection methods and to help to determine urban stream health.

Bull Kelp Monitoring & Enhancement Plot Project

This pilot project involves the installation of one bull kelp seeded line planted at two different locations, one of which is within the MABR. The general purpose of the project is to attempt to re-establish bull kelp populations in the lower regions of the Strait of Georgia. Unfortunately, over the past few decades there has been a significant loss of bull kelp in this region. Bull kelp, when dense, forms forests that are rich in diversity, providing food and security. Since biodiversity within and surrounding bull kelp forests has been so well documented, MABRRI will also be conducting underwater surveys where species richness will be documented. This will aid MABRRI in determining how quickly this type of ecosystem can be re-established and to what capacity.

For the 2019 growing season, we have been seeing quick growth of individuals, although there is evidence that the kelp are experiencing some heat stressors with epizoan encrustations occurring on the individuals and the ends of the fronds beginning to become tattered. The MABRRI team is hopeful that we will see the bulk of the individual bull kelp produce sori (spores) by the end of the season, as there has been some sori production already occurring earlier in the season.

MABRRI would like to thank the following individuals and organizations that have helped them along the way, including Environment and Climate Change Canada, Project Watershed, Sundown Diving, Hornby Island Diving, Green Sea Kelp Co., and our volunteer divers. Their advice and services have enabled this project to be a success!

MABRRI Bull Kelp Monitoring & Enhancement Video

Bull Kelp Monitoring & Enhancement Plot Project
Bull Kelp Monitoring & Enhancement Plot Project 2

Research Assistants Chrissy Schellenberg and Brian Timmer

Bull Kelp Monitoring & Enhancement Plot Project 3

Preserving language and knowledge pertaining to native plants traditionally used by Snuneymuxw First Nations

MABRRI student researchers are working with Geraldine Manson and elders from the Snuneymuxw first nation to identify, research and map native species, sites, and soils occurring on the Nanaimo, Vancouver Island University Campus in order to determine suitable locations to plant native plants traditionally used by Snuneymuxw First Nations for medicinal purposes. Once sites have been determined we will plant species among the campus, and have signage and mapping associated with each species in an effort to help preserve the traditional medicinal values, language, and knowledge pertaining to each species. Once the initial portion of this research is completed, we can then develop programs and courses that can be offered at Vancouver Island University at the Aboriginal Gathering Place, and have Snuneymuxw traditional knowledge holders teach others about the important values, uses, and cultural significance related to native plants.

Preserving language and knowledge pertaining to native plants traditionally used by Snuneymuxw First Nations

Timing Windows

The Timing Windows project aims to educate the public and protect species throughout the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN). Western painted turtles (Chysemys picta bellii) are a native turtle species that have populations across Canada. With increasing development and presence of introduced predators, the population has suffered and is listed as threatened through the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The Western screech owl, kennicottii subspecies (Megascops kennicotti kennicotti), is a small native owl residing on the Pacific coast of British Columbia. As a
non-migratory bird, this population faces threats from habitat loss year round on the coast.

Our goal is to protect and enhance turtle nesting sites to minimize disturbance and predation on hatchlings, as well as construct owl nest boxes to increase habitat availability. We plan to install signage at restoration sites to inform and educate the public on the species itself, their known threats, and the work being done to minimize the threats. Our researchers will also be installing similar signage throughout the RDN, focusing on each municipality and the species that are locally and ecologically important to the region and local Indigenous communities. We hope that raising awareness to these additional species will reduce the risk of them becoming a conservation concern in the future. Lastly, a document will be generated outlining work windows of least risk. This document will be provided to the local municipalities to be used as a tool for planning policy and development activities at times of least risk throughout the year, thereby protecting already threatened species and preventing others from becoming a conservation concern.

K’ómoks First Nation: Community Pulse 2020

MABRRI will be working with K’ómoks First Nation to develop a Community Pulse document, which provides a snapshot of the community, outlining demographic, economic, social, and environmental indicators. The document will showcase the current strengths and challenges that the community is facing. By outlining these aspects of the community, it is anticipated that K’ómoks First Nation will have a greater understanding of where resources should be allocated to most benefit their member’s needs effectively and efficiently. Between March and September 2020, the MABRRI team will develop the Community Pulse document, as well as a handover package with a template for the document that K’ómoks First Nation can update each year. Ultimately, the document will be shared with the K’ómoks First Nation members and surrounding communities, identifying the current state of the community, the work they are doing, and what they would like to work toward in the future.

Forage Fish Spawning Habitat Monitoring

The project began in October 2017 when Phillip Dionne, a Nearshore and Forage Fish Scientist from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife came to Nanaimo to train MABRRI employees how to sample for forage fish embryos, specifically Pacific sand lance and surf smelt. Phillip taught the MABRRI team the newest forage fish sampling methodology, referred to as the “vortex method”. This method is more efficient, more effective, and more community-friendly than previously used sampling methods that have been used in the past. Following the training session will Phillip, MABRRI worked with Pam Thuringer, retired marine biologist and WWF Canada volunteer, to modify the sampling protocol to suit our study. Only minor adjustments were made and they were done so to allow us to focus our efforts on where and when the forage fish are spawning rather than determining their densities.

Beginning in January 2018, two students from the Advanced Diploma in GIS Applications were hired to assist with the development of predicative mapping for forage fish spawning habitat. Over 30 maps were generated, depicting the areas of coastline that were identified as suitable forage fish habitat using the model developed by Coastal and Ocean Resources Incorporated. The maps covered the area that spanned from approximately Bowser south to Sooke, the Canadian Gulf Islands, and a small portion of the mainland, including Burrard Inlet. These maps, alongside MABRRI’s on-the-ground approach, are used to identify potential forage fish spawning habitat up and down the coast.

In mid-2018, MABRRI began training local community stewardship groups. Each group is provided with the equipment and training needed to conduct sampling for forage fish embryos in their region. Although sampling first began in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region, MABRRI’s efforts to identify suitable forage fish spawning habitat has expanded, including sites as far south as Cowichan Bay and north to Bowser, as well as on Gabriola and Thetis Islands. It is anticipated that with further funding and project growth the boundaries will continue to expand north, as well as include more Gulf Islands. In each of these regions that the project expands to, MABRRI is hopeful that community stewardship groups are keen to take on some of the sampling. By including community stewardship groups, we are able to sample a greater amount of the coastline in any given sampling window then would be possible with just the MABRRI team.

If you or your stewardship group are interested in contributing to this continuously growing project, please contact Haley Tomlin, MABRRI’s Assistant Research & Community Engagement Coordinator, at Haley.Tomlin@viu.ca for more details.

Westwood Farm Project

MABRRI has once again partnered with VIU’s Workplace Essential Skills and Training (WEST) Program and Nanaimo Foodshare Society on another project. This year, our research assistants are working on an environmental inventory and assessment of a 48 acre farm. The farm resides within the East Wellington area of Nanaimo that is home to a myriad of flora and fauna year round. With minimal disturbance, the farm and its surroundings are a haven for many species during critical periods of their lives such as breeding, mating, and migration season. A portion of the land is being utilized for agricultural purposes by Nanaimo Foodshare for their Good Food Box program, providing healthy, locally grown products to the Nanaimo community at a cost effective price.

The goal of our project is to identify the species that use the farmland, and the surrounding ecosystems that influence the farm, including Cathers Lake. Cathers Lake is a manmade lake which feeds into the Millstone River by way of Sabiston Creek on the Westwood Farm property. Initially used as an irrigation system for the farm decades ago, the lake is now surrounded by a neighbourhood who all enjoy what the lake has to offer. Here, you can find the threatened and native Western Painted Turtle. We intend to wrap up our research with a report outlining the importance of these ecosystems and the recommended steps to ensure the protection and enhancement to benefit both the wildlife and the community utilizing said areas.

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