Conservation and resilience in the Gulf Islands in the age of climate change and biodiversity loss: A webinar series

A lunch-and-learn webinar series tackling relevant  topics being explored by governments at all levels to address the twin biodiversity and climate crises, with a specific focus on the Coastal Douglas-fir habitats characteristic of the Gulf Islands.

Webinar series

Join us for an hour-long expert panel discussion followed by a 30 minute question period to learn more about complex environmental issues and the options for better environmental policy and protection in the Gulf and Howe Sound islands. Speakers include representatives from BC-based organizations like Project Watershed and West Coast Environmental Law; scientific experts from academic institutions including Stanford and Simon Fraser University; and government branches including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

More recent webinars

Find our Project TEACH webinar series.

1. Freshwater availability: Options for maintaining a healthy water supply into the future 

Live: November 3, 2021 at 12 – 1:30pm Pacific.

According to a 2020 study that assessed freshwater vulnerabilities in western Canada, under a high emissions scenario, annual summer precipitation is projected to decrease by up to 32%  by 2100 in the Vancouver Island coastal region. Over the past several years, increasingly severe summer drought on the Gulf Islands has put freshwater availability at the forefront of many islanders’ minds and recently discussions have turned towards potential solutions to this problem, including desalination plants. Though desalination technology has been increasingly adopted and adapted to secure reliable freshwater supply in water-scarce regions around the world since the 1950s, most scientific studies demonstrate that the high energy demands and hypersaline outflows resulting from desalination processes make this technology highly impactful on marine and terrestrial environments.

To address these concerns and others around freshwater availability, the webinar will begin with a presentation by Dr. Diana Allen, hydrogeologist and professor at Simon Fraser University who will provide a high-level overview of water availability and how it is expected to change over time using Gabriola Island as a case study. Next, Bridget Gile, a civil and environmental engineering PhD student at Stanford University will present a 2020 California-based case study examining strategies available for maintaining freshwater supply in seasonally dry regions increasingly struggling with human-pressure exacerbated by climate change. John Millson of Salt Spring Island Water Preservation Society will then present options for local action that attendees can try on their own properties.

Featured Guests

Dr. Diana M. Allen, Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University

Diana Allen is Professor of Hydrogeology in the Department of Earth Sciences at Simon Fraser University. Her research focuses on studying the processes that take place as natural groundwater systems respond to stressors like climate change, developing strategies to assess risks to water security, and ultimately, informing decision-makers and policies.

Bridget Carolyn Gile, Stanford PhD Candidate

Bridget Gile is a civil and environmental engineering PhD student and Knight-Hennessy Scholar at Stanford University. She graduated from Villanova University in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Bridget aspires to create more sustainable and resilient water systems by linking research, policy, and practice through a “one water” management approach. In her graduate work, she studies the role that alternative water supply strategies, including water reuse, stormwater capture, and desalination, can play in shaping a sustainable, drought-resistant water supply portfolio. She finds that water powerfully illustrates the interconnectedness of social and environmental outcomes.

John Millson, Salt Spring Water Preservation Society

John Millson has graduate and post-graduate degrees in geosciences and has spent over 30 years working in resource exploitation industries.  From undergraduate options, to world experiences, he has developed a keen awareness of water resources, their management, and associated challenges.  He is currently a board member of the Salt Spring Island Water Preservation Society (WPS) and the Project Manager for the WPS, “Salt Spring Island FreshWater Catalogue” – a project about improving  understanding of our island’s freshwater – a delicate water balance.

2. Marine & shoreline protection: Impact of docks and overwater structures on Salish Sea habitats

Live: November 10, 2021 at 12 – 1:30pm Pacific.

In late August, an order from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development prohibited any new applications for private docks in the Southern Gulf Islands and the southeast shoreline of  Vancouver Island for the next two years. Scientific studies show that overwater structures, like docks, can have significant effects on estuarine and nearshore marine habitats for juvenile salmon and other marine life in the Pacific Northwest. On island ecosystems, there are many challenges associated with maintaining human access without causing ecological disruption. This webinar will explore those challenges and the policy options available for mitigating environmental impacts. 

Attendees will first hear from Dr. Stuart Munch, Fisheries Biologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who will speak to the impacts of piers and shoreline hardening in Puget Sound. We will then move into a more localized discussion led by Jennifer Sutherst, Senior Staff Biologist at Project Watershed, and Nikki Wright, Executive Director of Sea Change Marine Conservation Society.

Featured guests

Dr. Stuart Munch, Fisheries Biologist, NOAA
Stuart Munsch is an ecosystem scientist that works for the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center. His job is to use data to tell ecological stories that allow people to make informed decisions. He works on nearshore ecology and fisheries issues along the US west coast. Stu earned his BS from Gonzaga University and PhD from the University of Washington. 

Jennifer Sutherst, Senior Staff Biologist, Project Watershed
Jennifer Sutherst is a biologist and environmental scientist that has worked as an environmental professional and stewardship leader most of her career; and has extensive experience working in freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems. Ranging from projects as diverse as research on climate change for Simon Fraser University to Traditional Ecological Knowledge surveys of marine mammals for the ‘Namgis First Nation. She has won awards for her work with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and for the production of the Lost Streams of Victoria informational map. She has worked extensively with multidisciplinary teams of volunteers, First Nations, government agencies, and nonprofits to achieve habitat protection and stewardship objectives.  

Nikki Wright, SeaChange Marine Conservation Society
Nikki Wright has served as the Executive Director of SeaChange Marine Conservation Society since 1998. SeaChange is a non-profit charitable society working with community partners on marine education, conservation and restoration in the Salish Sea and BC. In 2000, 1800 eelgrass (Zostera marina) shoots were transplanted in Tod Inlet, a small inlet of Saanich Inlet north of Victoria BC. From that success was born the Seagrass Conservation Working Group in 2001 and over 40 restored eelgrass habitats within the Salish Sea. SeaChange surveyed eelgrass within the Islands Trust Area between 2012 -2014. Ms. Wright has also published two articles on Eelgrass as Teacher and First Nations Science.

3. Coastal Douglas-fir forest conservation: Ecoforestry & fire management

Live: November 17, 2021 at 12 – 1:30pm Pacific.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) describes forests as a “stabilising force for the climate” and identifies “increasing and maintaining forests…” as an “essential solution to climate change”.  In addition to climate mitigation services, intact forests provide habitat for plant, animal, bird, and amphibian species; stabilize soils; filter stormwater; filter particulate matter from the air; and myriad other services in addition to their intrinsic value. According to the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, British Columbia’s coastal forests, like those found on the Gulf Islands, are among some of the greatest carbon storehouses on the planet. However, these forests are at risk due to overdevelopment, industrial logging approaches, and forest fire.

Join our group of expert panelists to learn about the value of maintaining contiguous forests; strategies for more sustainably managing forests on private land; and how to prepare for forest fire without sacrificing ecological integrity. The session will be opened with a brief presentation from Dr. Ruth Waldick of Transition Salt Spring, we will then hear from Dr. Karen Price about the state of Coastal Douglas-fir forests in British Columbia. Next, Erik Piikkila will speak about  the history of Coastal Douglas-fir forests and the role fire has played on these forested landscapes.  Erik Leslie will then speak about his experience as an ecoforester, unpacking what it means to sustainably manage forests. Finally, Amy Cardinal-Christianson will talk about good fire, and how settlers can make more space for Indigenous communities to employ these restorative stewardship approaches on the landscape.

Featured guests

Dr. Ruth Waldick, Director at Transition Salt Spring and Adjunct Research Professor in Geography and Environmental Studies, Carleton University

Ruth has a master’s degree in Ecology and a PhD in Evolution and Population Genetics. She loved complexity even as a child; her first questions being about frogs – how did they transition from water to land? What happens when we change their ecosystem? How do we make sure we keep them healthy? She continues to be driven by similar questions about change, and how we can anticipate and reduce damage to natural systems. Her work with undergraduate and graduate students focuses on how best to apply science to support policy and land use management. In 2003, this focused heavily on looking into how Climate Change would influence socio-ecological systems. Most recently, she helped incorporate climate adaptation considerations into the Salt Spring Island Climate Action Plan (2.0). Ruth is committed to reconciliation and protecting natural systems, and is grateful to live and learn in the unceded territories of the Hul’qumi’num and SENĆOŦEN speaking peoples, including the Quw’utsun and Tsawout First Nations.

Erik Piikkila, Forest & Watershed Ecologist at Yellowpoint Ecological Society

Erik is a Forest, Watershed, and Fire Ecologist with Ecological Forest Management experience in BC, Finland, the US Pacific Northwest, and California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Redwoods.  He was trained by the world renowned forest ecologist Jerry Franklin.  Recently he has offered eco tours of Wildwood Ecoforest to students, citizens, politicians, and forest professionals.  He is involved with several Cowichan Valley watershed groups and offers Nature Based Solutions/Natural Assets expertise to Canadian elected officials in the  Climate Caucus, and the Coastal Douglas-fir Conservation Partnership.  He has practical BC Ministry of Forests’ Forest Management experience where he advised 10 Major Forest Companies with 30 different operations, BC Timber Sales and Woodlot Licenses to implement the ecologically focused BC Forest Practices Code.  He also collects and summarizes 180 years of historic landscape change data including forest harvesting, post harvesting fires, mega fires, salvage logging, tree growth, combined with drought and climate change data.

Erik Leslie, RPF,  Forest Manager for the Harrop-Procter Community Co-operative

Erik is a forestry consultant and the Forest Manager for the Harrop-Procter Community Co-operative. He has over 20 years of experience working for the forest industry, First Nations, community organizations, and regional and provincial governments on projects from Haida Gwaii to Labrador. He has extensive experience in forestry planning and operations, community consultation, wildfire risk reduction, small business management, and forest certification. In 2018 Erik was the first recipient of the Association of BC Forest Professionals’ Forest Innovation Award for his work developing and implementing collaborative ecosystem-based practices in the wildland-urban interface.

Erik has developed and is currently implementing an applied climate change adaptation pilot project in the Harrop-Procter community forest. The project is designed to demonstrate how managers can integrate climate science and risk assessment into practical forestry decision-making in the Columbia Basin.

Dr. Karen Price

Karen works at the interface of science and management with her partner, Dave Daust. She developed a passion for ecology early, collecting skulls and lichens at age 5, and wandering for hours in forests as a teen. She realized a childhood dream of studying behavioural ecology in grad school and followed another dream afterwards, moving to a little cabin, where she tried to minimize her ecological footprint. Karen’s recent work has focused on assessing risk to ecological values posed by cumulative effects of resource management and climate change, and how to integrate ecological resilience into resource decisions. She has worked on land-use policy and old growth for 25 years, aiming to bring science and transparency to decisions. Her frustrations with lack of transparency led her, with Dave and their colleague Dr. Rachel Holt to analyze the province’s forests and release a report showing the condition of our old growth. She has subsequently served on the province’s Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel.

Amy Cardinal Christianson, Fire Research Scientist, Canadian Forest Service

Amy  is a Métis woman from Treaty 8 territory, currently living in Treaty 6, and a Fire Research Scientist with the Canadian Forest Service—Natural Resources Canada. Amy is the co-author of the book “First Nations Wildfire Evacuations: A Guide for Communities and External Agencies”, lead on the book “Blazing the Trail: Celebrating Indigenous Fire Stewardship”, and also co-hosts the Good Fire podcast which looks at Indigenous fire use around the world.

4. Ecological carrying capacity of island ecosystems

Live: November 24, 2021 at 12 – 1:30pm Pacific.

Research over the past several decades has shown that coastal regions which exist in a “delicate balance at the land-sea interface” are exceptionally vulnerable to climate change impacts. Because coastal regions are also generally some of the most biodiverse on the planet, this climatic vulnerability is irrevocably linked to biodiversity loss. In British Columbia these twin climate and biodiversity crises are exacerbated by high population densities in coastal areas.  For centuries, various tools and methods have been developed to quantify the  impacts of human (and non-human) activities on the environment. Carrying capacity is one such concept; adapted from its industrial origins to improve understanding of how many members of a population can be reasonably sustained by their local habitat. However, according to some experts carrying capacity is most accurate when applied to species with predictable, routine behaviour. Thus, when assessing the impacts of human populations on the environment, ecological footprint is often used as an alternative to carrying capacity.

This webinar, co-facilitated by Raincoast’s own Shauna Doll and Persia Kahn,  will provide insights from Dr. Tara Martin, Dr. William Rees, and representatives from the Galiano Conservancy Association into concepts like cumulative effects, carrying capacity,biocapacity, and ecological footprints to  improve understanding of these tools and demonstrate how they might best be  translated into sustainable living, land-use planning, and decision-making.

Featured guests

Persia Khan, Research Associate

Persia is a Research Associate with the Applied Conservation Science Lab at University of Victoria and Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Her relationship with the ACS Lab began during her undergraduate degree at UVic assisting with the bear stable isotope project. She recently completed her BSc in Geography (Hons.) and Environmental Studies under the co-supervision of Dr. Chris Bone and Dr. Jason T. Fisher, where she utilized camera trap data to analyze temporal niche partitioning amongst competitive ungulate species in the Canadian Rockies. 

Persia has worked across government and non-profit sectors for organizations such as Parks Canada and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. Her current research interests include investigating mechanisms for human-wildlife coexistence and the relationship between human recreation and wildlife behaviour. Her work is made possible by the Clean Foundation and Science Horizons program

Dr. Tara Martin, Conservation Decisions Lab, UBC

Tara is a Professor in Conservation Decision Science with the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia. Tara is also the Liber Ero Chair in Conservation at UBC.  She is a pioneer in the field of Conservation Decision Science – combining predictive ecological models with decision science to inform what actions to take, where to take them and when to achieve our conservation and natural resource management goals. Tara leads a team of graduate students and research fellows seeking to understand, predict and ultimately inform decisions about the impact of global change on biodiversity and natural resources.  Tara was recently awarded The Nature Conservancy Professor in Practice Award, Thomson Reuters Citation & Innovation Award for her work in Climate change decision making and a Wilburforce Conservation Fellowship. Tara is a member of the IUCN Climate Change Specialist Group and co-leads the Climate Adaptation Theme.

Dr. William Rees

William E Rees is a human ecologist, ecological economist, former Director and Professor Emeritus of the University of British Columbia’s School of Planning in Vancouver, Canada.  His research focuses on the ecological requirements for civilization to persist, energy assessment, and the behavioural and socio-cultural barriers to change. Best known as originator and co-developer of ‘ecological footprint analysis,’ Prof Rees has authored hundreds of peer-reviewed and popular articles on (un)sustainability. He is an internationally recognized Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada whose awards include both the Herman Daly Award and Boulding Memorial Prize in Ecological Economics and a Blue Planet Prize (jointly with his former student, Dr Mathis Wackernagel).

Galiano Conservancy Association

The Galiano Conservancy Association is a community based non-profit society and registered charity dedicated to preserving and enhancing the human and natural environment on Galiano Island, the Traditional and unceded territory of the Penelakut and Hwlitsum First Nations, and other Hul’qumi’num-speaking peoples, and the W̱SÁNEĆ Nations, and the ceded Territory of the Tsawwassen First Nation. Among other projects, the Galiano Conservancy is currently trying to answer the questions: “Can the Galiano community live within one Earth? Can we live within one Island?” through their One Island, One Earth project. This work uses ecological footprint and biocapacity to determine whether natural resources are being replenished at a rate that can support local lifestyles, and provide enough resources for future generations.

5. Ecological governance in the Islands Trust area

Live: December 2, 2021 at 12 – 1:30pm Pacific.

Local governments have limited jurisdictional authority to address environmental issues in their communities. This is particularly true for the Islands Trust, whose unique governance structure limits their ability to implement and enforce strong environmental action. This final session in our five-part webinar series explores the operationality of Islands Trust policy and introduces strategies for making environmental protection policies stronger, with applications for other local governments in British Columbia. Further, this session will introduce the concept of ecological governance by reimagining the current policy framework through a lens of equitable environmental protection.

The session will be led by local experts Deborah Carlson, Staff Lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law; Joni Olsen, Policy / Negotiations Analyst with W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council; and Dr. Kai Chan, Professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia.

Featured guests

Deb Carlson, Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law

Deborah Carlson is a staff lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law for the Green Communities Program. She works with communities in British Columbia to support stewardship of land and water for community and ecosystem health, including ecosystem-based measures to adapt to climate change. The work involves understanding the legacy of colonial development, including regulatory gaps and failures in existing Canadian crown law, and supporting new approaches to regulation and management at landscape scales, in ways that uphold Indigenous laws and authority, and Constitutionally protected title and rights. Deborah has civil and common law degrees from McGill University, and co-teaches an Environmental Law Workshop at UBC’s Allard School of Law.

Joni Olsen, Policy / Negotiations Analyst, W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council

Joni Olsen is a Policy/Negotiations Analyst for the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council. She strongly believes in the principles and values of the W̱SÁNEĆ culture, in Indigenous Rights and Title, their Treaties and working towards implementation and structural change.

Joni has been an elected Councillor for the Tsartlip First Nation for 14 years and has a Major from the University of Victoria in Political Science and a double Minor in Indigenous and Environmental Studies. She is currently half way through her Master’s degree in Public Administration. Her goal is to create structural change in government, organizations, communities and society. She is working on creating policies and building relationships that are guided by W̱SÁNEĆ values, that educate, create opportunity and remove barriers, and that fundamentally change the system in which we live. Joni’s favourite part of her work is listening to the words of the W̱SÁNEĆ people and taking it to create new policy and design new opportunities. Although this is followed by difficult, slow negotiations, this challenge is her other favourite aspect.

Dr. Kai Chan, Professor, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia

Kai Chan is a professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia. Kai is an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented sustainability scientist, trained in ecology, policy, and ethics from Princeton and Stanford Universities. He strives to understand how social-ecological systems can be transformed to be both better and wilder. Kai leads CHANS lab (Connecting Human and Natural Systems), and is co-founder of CoSphere (a Community of Small-Planet Heroes). He is a UBC Killam Research Fellow; a member of Canada’s Clean16 and Clean50 for 2020; a Leopold Leadership Program fellow; senior fellow of the Global Young Academy and of the Environmental Leadership Program; a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists; Lead Editor of the new British Ecological Society journal People and Nature; a coordinating lead author for the IPBES Global Assessment; and (in 2012) the Fulbright Canada Visiting Research Chair at the University of California, Santa Barbara.