Meet Chavon Robertshaw, Raincoast’s Conservation Science Technician

Chavon recently joined the Raincoast team, contributing to our efforts in the Lower Fraser Salmon Conservation and Wolf Conservation Programs.

Chavon Robertshaw has joined our Lower Fraser Salmon Conservation and Wolf Conservation Programs as a Conservation Science Technician. Utilizing the education and hands-on training she gained through a diploma program at BCIT, she will be contributing to research efforts and data collection such as surveying Pacific salmon, collecting genetic samples for both salmon and wolf research, and analyzing wildlife camera trap data. 

We posed some questions to Chavon so you can get to know her better. 

Can you please share more about your background and how you got into this field?

Absolutely! I recently graduated with a Technical Diploma from the British Columbia Institute of Technology, and I’ve always had a deep interest in environmental conservation. These interests began when I was in highschool, where after I started volunteering at non-profit organizations such as the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC and a local salmon hatchery. Previously I worked in an unrelated field for several years but didn’t feel a true connection to what I was doing. This urged me to go back to school and enroll in the Fish, Wildlife and Recreation program at BCIT. Through the program I gained a wealth of hands-on training–from conducting population estimates on juvenile coho salmon to carrying out a year-long research project using camera traps for the comparison of species richness across varying habitat types. These experiences provided me with the fundamental skills that have contributed to my success in my current role. I graduated this past April and have been happily working with Raincoast ever since. 

What truly drives me in this field is knowing that my work is supporting the protection of sensitive species and their ecosystems, and I’m eager to continue making a positive impact and contributing to our collective efforts in environmental conservation.

What drew you to working with Raincoast?

I was drawn to working with Raincoast for several reasons. First and foremost, I was impressed by the organization’s reputation for science-based advocacy work. Years ago I came across Raincoast through social media and began following and admiring different efforts such as purchasing tenures to end trophy hunting along the BC coast and speaking out against government sanctioned wolf culls. Raincoast’s dedication to animal welfare and ongoing collaborative work with First Nations also resonated with my own career goals and values. When I saw the opportunity for a position within the Lower Mainland I couldn’t have applied any faster. 

Chavon holding a fish viewfinder while wearing a high vis vest.
Chavon standing next to a wildlife camera installed on a tree.

What is the most exciting animal you’ve come across on the cameras and why?

For me, the wolves stand out as the most thrilling animals I’ve come across on the cameras. Wolves are not only majestic and charismatic but also highly intelligent and elusive creatures. 

Among the wolves, you’ll find variations in their reactions to the camera. Some are more self-assured and comfortable, while others can be rather timid and hesitant when encountering this unfamiliar device in their surroundings. As we witness the wolves traveling together, it becomes clear that the more self-assured wolf takes the lead, while the rest follow behind in a display of what appears to be trust and unity. These encounters not only showcase the raw beauty of nature but also deepen my appreciation for the complex world of these apex predators and the ecosystems they inhabit. 

What’s an aspect of fieldwork that you think gets overlooked?

An aspect of fieldwork that is sometimes underestimated is the need for meticulous data management. While the excitement of fieldwork often revolves around data collection and hands-on activities, the careful organization, storage, and documentation of data are equally critical. Effective data management is essential for ensuring that the valuable information collected during fieldwork can be properly analyzed, shared, and leveraged for research and conservation efforts. Neglecting this aspect can potentially hinder the long-term impact of the work we do in the field. For instance, the exhilaration of browsing through wolf images is undeniable. However, streamlining the process of how we will encode the wolf images for individual identification is both tedious and crucial for the success of our project.

Wolf or salmon? 

This is a tough question! I don’t think I can choose one necessarily because they are both magnificent in their own ways. I love salmon because they play a vital role in ecosystems, both as a food source and through the nutrients that their decomposing bodies bring to river systems and forests. Wolves on the other hand are admirable apex predators and are fascinating in terms of their behavior and the important role they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems through trophic cascades. The overall conservation of both species is of great interest to me.

Number one tip to aspiring young biologists?

The number one tip I would offer to aspiring young biologists is to stay curious. The field of biology is vast and constantly evolving, and your curiosity will be your greatest asset. Embrace the joy of asking questions, stay open to new ideas, and be adaptable as you embark on your exciting journey in the world of biology.

Support our mobile lab, Tracker!

Our new mobile lab will enable the Healthy Waters Program to deliver capacity, learning, and training to watershed-based communities. We need your support to convert the vehicle and equip it with lab instrumentation. This will allow us to deliver insight into pollutants of concern in local watersheds, and contribute to solution-oriented practices that protect and restore fish habitat.

Sam Scott and Peter Ross standing in front of the future mobile lab, which is a grey sprinter van.