Finding communities in salmon conservation

Facilitating collaboration in conservation and science is no small fry.

A salmon splashes in a shallow stream, surrounding by the vibrant colours of autumn.

Photo by Kristen Walters.

As I crouch on the riverbank taking measurements of the salmon carcass, the ever-telling sensation of being watched creeps up my neck. I look up to see a mother black bear and her two cubs across the river, staring right at me. Our eyes meet, and time slows. In this moment of connected eyes and mutual understanding, I reflect on the decisions in my life that brought me to this moment. The second passes, and I slowly stand, acknowledging her presence and authority in this space. I move away from the coho carcasses and observe the bears scavenging the natural bounty. I smile, thinking about how my pursuit of salmon research and conservation has led me to this river, where shared moments with bears occur almost daily.

I first became involved in salmon research during my Masters degree, where I examined bald eagle distribution patterns and foraging behaviour in salmon watersheds. Through my research, I saw first hand how the boundaries between marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems become blurred by the movement of salmon upriver. Dozens of animals forage on their carcasses, ranging from apex predators to invertebrates, scattering their energy-rich carcasses throughout the forest. Exploring this complex intersection of organisms and ecosystems through research over several years solidified my passion for salmon and set the course of my career in conservation. 

Eager to be involved in the greater conservation community, I began following several organizations that were focused on salmon conservation on the coast. Raincoast’s mission to use rigorous, peer-reviewed science to inform their advocacy immediately piqued my interest. I started volunteering and began writing science communication articles and provided a helping hand with research in the Fraser estuary field work, part of  our Lower Fraser Salmon Conservation Program. The completion of my Masters degree this past spring coincided with a job opening at Raincoast. I was honoured to officially join the team as the Lower Fraser Salmon Conservation Program Coordinator. 

One of Raincoast’s flagship projects, the Lower Fraser Salmon Conservation Program aims to see healthy populations of wild salmon return to the Lower Fraser river. Our work focuses on research and habitat restoration in the estuary, while simultaneously building a vision for salmon habitat conservation throughout the whole Lower Fraser. My role in this program is to facilitate collaboration between stakeholders in the Lower Fraser to develop this long-term vision. We will be releasing more on this shortly.

Kristen Walters working with a net in the stream bed.

Kristen Walters

Kristen Walters is the Lower Fraser River Salmon Conservation Program Coordinator. She has an M.Sc. from Simon Fraser University. She’s here for the rain, salmon, eagles, and the Lower Fraser.