Past Projects

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.

Canadian Mountain Network and 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 was funded by the CMN in 2020 to conduct the Canadian Mountain Network and UN Sustainable Development Goals project. To demonstrate the importance of collaborative mountain research in meeting the SDGs, the project aimed 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.

VIU and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Throughout 2018 and 2019, the MABRRI team investigated how Vancouver Island University is meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Established in 2015, the "Global Goals" outline steps that nations can take towards social, economic, and cultural prosperity while simultaneously caring for and protecting the earth. The cooperation of many different sectors, including academic institutions, is necessary in order to achieve these 17 ambitious goals by the year 2030. Universities can play a major role in assisting nations in meeting these goals. Through an extensive literature review, over 80 meetings with VIU faculty and staff, and three community engagement events, the MABRRI team researched not only how VIU is meeting the SDGs, but what VIU can do moving forward to continue to meet them in the future.

The results of the work done can be found in an extensive report and a highlight report

We wish to thank VIU's Office of the President for the funding to complete this project throughout 2018 - 2020. 

City of Campbell River Tree Protection Bylaw (TPB)

MABRRI worked with the City of Campbell River to draft a Tree Protection Bylaw. The focus of the project was to analyze a variety of tree protection approaches in other communities, and provide the City with well-researched options and background research, leading to the creation of a draft bylaw.

In 2015, the City developed an Urban Forest Management Plan, which communicates how trees contribute to a high quality of life, and establishes a target of 40% canopy cover in Campbell River’s urban areas. Within this document, the City also set an objective to develop a bylaw for the protection and replacement of trees. 

The MABRRI planning team worked with the City over the course of summer 2019 to draft a bylaw to help conserve trees within the city.

District of Lantzville Zoning Bylaw Illustrations

In the spring of 2019, when the District of Lantzville was in the process of updating their Zoning Bylaw, the District approached VIU to assist in developing illustrations for their Zoning Bylaw. Illustrations are used to help convey to readers many of the important concepts within the bylaw. MABRRI staff worked alongside staff at the District for the duration of the project to create approximately 30 illustrations.

District of Ucluelet Official Community Plan

MABRRI and the District of Ucluelet partnered to revise the municipalities Official Community Plan (OCP). The OCP update process streamlined and improved upon the Vision and Guiding Principles set out in the 2011 OCP, by bringing them in line with best practices in planning and current community thought. The process for the revised OCP included public consultation of issues related to the current OCP. Four events and an online survey were conducted between September and December of 2016. These were conducted by both staff of the District of Ucluelet and students from Vancouver Island University’s Master of Community Planning program. The purpose of the first three events and the online survey was to understand the public’s perspective on the current OCP and on Ucluelet itself. A final event presented these findings to the public. 

Lake Monitoring in the Little Qualicum Water Region

Lake Monitoring in the Little Qualicum Water Region began in 2016 as a trial-monitoring program funded by Vancouver Island University’s Research Awards Committee. The main goal of the project was to train VIU students on monitoring lake health following the BC Lake Stewardship Society’s standards (BCLSS).  Student researchers began data collection in Cameron Lake and Spider Lake during the first year of the project and continued to monitor these lakes for three years (through 2018). Research Assistants measured and recorded water clarity, surface temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and turbidity. All data collected will contribute to the BC Lake Stewardship Society’s (BCLSS) lake monitoring program to help gauge the current health of our the lakes.

The final lake reports were produced by the BCLSS:

Garry Oak Ecosystem Mapping Project

In partnership with Dr. Hannah Wilson from VIU’s Geography Department, MABRRI completed the Garry Oak Ecosystem Mapping Project throughout 2018. This study aimed to use remote sensing techniques and geographic information systems to map the location and extent of vulnerable Garry oak ecosystems within the MABR on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. Due to limited resources, we were unable to purchase finer resolution imagery to use for the remote sensing aspect of this study and instead used freely-sourced Landsat 8 satellite imagery. This resulted in a coarse representation of the extent of these vulnerable ecosystems within the biosphere region. Although spatial scale restrictions imposed mapping inaccuracies, we did establish a methodology that can be used in the future when finer imagery becomes available. An extensive report was developed outlining this methodology, as well as the characteristics that define Garry oak ecosystems, their importance and vulnerability, and current conservation practices and resources on Vancouver Island. Given recent advances in methodological development, with further funding we hope to continue this research project to produce a more precise map in the future.

We wish to thank Vancouver Island University for the funding provided by the Research Awards Committee to complete this study. We would also like to thank VIU Biology professor, Dr. Caroline Josefsson, for her assistance in identifying and delineating Garry Oak Ecosystems for our predictive mapping and for her plant identification assistance in the field, as well as Kent Anders for his assistance in the field work and ground-truthing component of this project.

West Coast Multiplex Survey

The communities along the Central West Coast of Vancouver Island have been exploring the possibility of constructing and operating a multiuse recreational facility in partnership with the West Coast Multiplex Society. The multiplex has been supported by a memorandum of understanding signed by the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD), Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, Ahousaht First Nation, Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government, Hesquiaht First Nation, Toquaht First Nation, the District of Tofino, and the District of Ucluelet. MABRRI was contracted by the ACRD to help develop and facilitate a way to gauge the interests of the community in regards to the multiplex. MABRRI, in collaboration with Dr. Sylvie Lafreniere (Department of Sociology, VIU), developed a survey that was sent to residents of the region to determine their support for the multiplex. Throughout November of 2017, MABRRI student researchers helped to compile and analyze the results from the survey. A final report, outlining the results from the survey, is currently in development.

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. Bull Kelp Sample Collection and Marine Monitoring in the Salish Sea

Parksville Community Park Master Plan and Survey Project

On Monday, December 4 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! Parksville Community Park Master Plan & Survey Project

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.

Carrying Capacity of the MABR

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.

Eelgrass Mapping in the Mid-Island Estuaries

MABR Pollinator Program

Pollinators include a unique array of insect, bird, and mammal species and 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 model ed 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.

MABR Pollinator Program

Westwood Farm Project

MABRRI partnered with VIU’s Workplace Essential Skills and Training (WEST) Program and Nanaimo Foodshare Society to complete an environmental inventory and assessment on 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 was 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. MABRRI wrapped up the project by producing 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.

Malahat First Nation Project

VIU and Malahat First Nation completed a five-year agreement that involved a range of projects. Year one provided an opportunity for scoping out priority issues and developing mapping projects with extensive flexibility in managing the arc of projects. Each project will be fully and individually scoped, then separately agreed to, by both parties. 

Gold River Parks and Trails Master Plan

MABRRI partnered with the Village of Gold River to create a Parks and Trails Master Plan that will help guide the Village’s parks and trails development over the next 10 years. The project consisted of three major parts: 1) conducting a parks and trails inventory, 2) community comment collection and, 3) a community BBQ and open house. Completing a parks and trails inventory highlighted the current amenities in Gold River and their condition. Through community comment collection MABRRI was able to determine how the amenities are being utilized and the community’s vision for their parks and trails. Lastly, the BBQ and open house provided an outlet for the community to continue providing input and discuss their vision in a park setting. Following these three stages of the project, a Master Plan was developed and presented to the Village of Gold River.

Cameron Lake Bathymetric Mapping

MABRRI partnered with Dr. Max Bothwell, an Emeritus Research Scientist at the Pacific Biological Station who works for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, on a recent mapping project. MABRRI generated an updated bathymetric map of Cameron Lake; prior to this map, the most recent was produced in 1951. The bathymetric map was created following the Ministry of Environment’s Bathymetric Standards for Lake Inventories, which required the student research assistants to conduct transects back and forth across the lake, recording the depth along the transects. All of the data collected will be brought back to the GIS specialists at MABRRI to input and analyze in order to produce the final map that showcases the lake’s profile.

All of the mapping that was produced was provided to Dr. Max Bothwell and his team, allowing them to confirm which sites they would choose to collect core samples from. The samples were collected in July 2018 and will provide archival data regarding the past climate of the region, as well as historical changes in land cover. Dr. Bothwell is focusing on Cameron Lake because it is the largest surface water body in the Little Qualicum watershed, as well as in the MABR.

Cameron Lake Bathymetry Aerial Imagery Map

Five Acre Farm Stream Mapping Project

MABRRI conducted a project in collaboration with Nanaimo Foodshare Society and VIU's Workplace Essential Skills and Training (WEST) program. These organizations worked together to gather information regarding one of Nanaimo's last remaining historical five acre farm parcels. MABRRI's primary goal was to collect historical and current data on the wetland and water sources that drain in and out of it; the stream that passes through the property, which at the time was lacking a name, has been heavily impacted by human development. A large portion of the stream, that ultimately flows into the Chase River, has been buried, which has resulted in the loss of important aquatic habitat. MABRRI's student research assistants mapped all publicly accessible properties that the stream passes through, as well as reached out to private land owners in order to gain access to map the stream where it meanders through their properties. Mapping this stream provided the team with a better understanding of how impacted it was by human development, as well as identify areas that would benefit from daylighting and stream remediation efforts.

Shelly Creek Education and Outreach

Over time, due to development of the surrounding area, the Shelly Creek watershed’s health has degraded. The development and installation of increasingly more impermeable surfaces has resulted in a greater amount of surface runoff flowing directly into Shelly Creek. The greater volume of water surges into the creek has caused significant erosion, which has led to sediment build up in some of the lower sections of the creek, negatively impacting the quality of salmon spawning habitat. Additionally, the changes in surrounding land use have resulted in less water being retained in higher sections later in the year, which is impacting the resident cutthroat trout population. In the summer of 2017, the Mid-Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES) had a Water Infrastructure Engineer conduct a water balance and sediment reduction plan for the Shelly Creek watershed. In this report, the engineer identified the major issues that were causing the erosion and the decline in the extent of water in the summer. Further, the engineer determined and explained six mitigation strategies that could be implemented to improve the health of the watershed.

In September 2017 Peter Law, from MVIHES, approached MABRRI with a potential project that would complement their current restoration efforts in the Shelly Creek watershed. He asked MABRRI to come up with a community engagement strategy that would effectively communicate the issues and mitigation strategies to the communities that neighbour the Shelly Creek watershed, Parksville and Errington. Ultimately, MVIHES would like to disseminate this information to increase interest in their restoration efforts and build capacity to restore more of the watershed to a healthier state, with a specific focus on the lower reaches where Pacific salmon are known to spawn. In addition to developing a community engagement strategy for MVIHES to approach knowledge dissemination in these areas, we also created hand-out materials that will aid MVIHES in the initial stages of gaining interest from the communities.

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.

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

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.

Five Acre Farm Project 2

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 Arrowmsmith. 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 Observation 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.

Mount Arrowsmith Weather Station

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 h, 2016 in became apparent that this pool became somewhat cut off. For that reason in the August 27, 2016 calculation, the south portion has been left out.

Cowichan Valley Lamprey UAV Mapping Project