Project TEACH (Talking about Ecology and Aims for Conserving Habitat)

A collaborative educational webinar series developed in partnership between Raincoast Conservation Foundation, the University of British Columbia, Coexisting with Carnivores Alliance, and the University of Victoria.

Photo by Steve Woods.

Project TEACH is an extension of ongoing policy work undertaken by Raincoast’s Gulf Islands Forest Project. It has sought to inform and mobilize members from scientific, First Nation, and resident communities throughout the range of the CDF and CWH zones. Together, we learned about local conservation challenges and explored pathways for operationalizing this knowledge to influence stronger environmental protections in local communities. 

The purpose of Project TEACH

We hope that these recorded sessions will continue to empower community members to participate in local decision-making thus contributing to the “culture of conservation” our project partners have worked together to encourage. 

Project TEACH Partners

Wild Co logo.
Applied Conservation Science Lab logo.
CWCA Logo.


This initiative has been generously funded by UBC’s Community-University Engagement fund, and with support from Stream of Consciousness.

The University of British Columbia, logo.
Stream of Consciousness logo.

Webinar series

From wide-roaming carnivores to below-ground fungal networks, ecosystems are deeply connected. This connectivity means that when one element is disturbed or degraded, a cascade of effects can be felt throughout the system. To explore the landscape-level impacts of human decision-making, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, the Coexisting with Carnivores Alliance, and University of Victoria’s Applied Conservation Science Lab partnered with Dr. Cole Burton of the Department of Forest Resources Management at the University of British Columbia to host a publicly accessible educational series. 

Topics ranged from the connection between carnivore conservation and climate action to the impacts of recreational activities on animal behaviour and forest health. Leading ecologists, biologists, and other experts contributed to this series specifically focusing on the Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) and Coastal Western Hemlock (CWH) ecosystems characteristic to Vancouver Island and other small pockets of coastal British Columbia. Uniquely, following the virtual education series, hosted an in-person Solutions Session at University of Victoria Policymakers, scientists and community members were invited to an afternoon-long thinktank aimed at strategizing for stronger environmental protection policy within the target ecosystems.

The CDF zone

The CDF biogeoclimatic zone is the smallest and most endangered of 16 such zones in BC. It is also among the least protected, and this protection consists mostly of small disconnected patches. The ecological communities within this zone are among the most biodiverse in BC, with some of the greatest carbon storage capacity, yet they are the most at risk of ongoing development. Its neighbouring zone, the CWH is now well-known across the country due to the ongoing destruction of iconic old growth forests making news headlines over the past year. These places are unravelling from former levels of diversity and abundance. We must work together toward local solutions.

1. Connecting over Carnivores: The role of carnivores in maintaining climate stability in coastal BC

Date: May 12, 2022
Time: 12PM to 1PM

Large carnivores play an important role in maintaining balance in coastal ecosystems. However, as wild areas become increasingly fragmented, lack of viable habitat and corridors can lead to species declines and increased instances of human/carnivore interactions. As climate change impacts grow in frequency and severity, it is vital to increase understanding of human dependence on functional ecosystems, which in British Columbia means coexisting with carnivores. 

This session explores the ways carnivores contribute to ecological stability with a specific focus on Coastal Western Hemlock and Coastal Douglas-fir habitats on Vancouver Island. Some essential points of focus include: the harm caused by carnivore management regimes (e.g. culls); human/carnivore interactions, emphasizing the role of human decision-making in minimising friction; and the cascading impacts of reduced or extirpated carnivore populations.


Chris Darimont, Raincoast Chair of Applied Conservation Science Lab, Department of Geography, University of Victoria

Dr. Chris Dairmont is a Professor, Provost’s Engaged Scholar, and the Raincoast Chair of Applied Conservation Science Lab in the Department of Geography at the University of Victoria. Chris earned a PhD in Ecology and Evolution from the Biology Department at the University of Victoria and completed a postdoc at the University of California, Santa Cruz. As an interdisciplinary researcher, Chris has been influenced by a broad network of mentors and collaborators including colleagues, friends, and Knowledge Holders among the Haíɫzaqv (Heiltsuk), Wuikinuxv, Kitasoo/Xai-xais, and Nuxalk Nations. Chris has had a  long-term affiliation with the science-based eNGO, Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Chelsea Greer, Wolf Program Coordinator, Raincoast Conservation Foundation

Chelsea Greer is an emerging conservation scientist with an interest in animal ethics and coexistence. She currently coordinates Raincoast Conservation Foundation’s Wolf Conservation program. This initiative works toward shifting the provincial management of gray wolves away from a poorly informed and exploitation-based model to one that respects the welfare of wolves and their important role in functioning ecosystems. Chelsea holds a MSc in Geography from the University of Calgary where she studied the  behavioural ecology of reintroduced elephants. She also has a BSc in Applied Animal Biology from the University of British Columbia, which focused on the role of—and ethics around—animals in human society.

Gisele Martin

Gisele Maria Martin (they/she) is from the House of ʔiiḥw̓asʔatḥ of ƛaʔuukʷiʔatḥ / Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Gisele is a cultural lifeways, Indigenous language and Tribal Parks  guardian,  educator, outdoor guide, Nuu-chah-nulth canoe captain, photographer and artist. Gisele continues lifelong learning and traditional work of their family to uphold intergenerational ecological responsibilities for the continued protection of future generations of life. 

2. Fungi and plant diversity: Maintaining abundance in coastal forests

Date: May 19, 2022 (the recording of this webinar will be posted late June or early May)
Time: 12PM to 1PM

Southern Vancouver Island and the wider Georgia Depression region is home to a diversity of species–a diversity that was long stewarded by Coast Salish Nations-all with their own role in supporting functional ecosystems. With more severe ecological threats emerging, such as increased frequency of catastrophic wildfire, new policy options are being explored to adapt. However, it can be challenging to balance ecological integrity with economic and social values.  The third session of Project TEACH takes a deep dive below the forest canopy, to explore soil science, fungal networks, and understory plant diversity. The panel of experts explains the role these systems play in maintaining ecological resilience on the landscape and  explores pathways for maintaining species abundance in the climate-change era.


Dr. Allen Larocque, forest ecologist

Dr. Allen Larocque is a forest ecologist recently graduated from the Simard lab at UBC Forestry. His PhD thesis was entitled ‘Fish, Forests, Fungi’ project, and investigated how energy and nutrients derived from dying salmon flow through coastal forests.  An often overlooked component in this story is the soil; soils are incredibly active, living places full of bacteria and fungi that act as intermediaries between the salmon and the trees. Salmon nutrients are processed and metabolized by the soil microbiome and through these intermediaries are transformed and eventually passed on to trees and other plants. Allen’s current focus is on how we can use this knowledge to better manage forests in BC; and he has recently started a citizen science project to document the policy, political economy, and land-use history of local landscapes.

Dr. Marty Kranabetter, Regional Soil Scientist at BC Ministry of Forests

Dr. Kranabetter is the West Coast regional soil scientist with the BC Ministry of Forests. Marty’s areas of interest are soil ecology, biodiversity conservation, carbon sequestration, and forest nutrition/productivity. Marty is a member of the provincial soil science group undertaking North American-wide studies on compaction and site organic matter removal. Most recently he has also been examining nitrogen and phosphorus deficiencies inherent to coastal forests and their interactions on conifer nutrition and forest productivity.

Dr. Brian Starzomski, Ian McTaggart Cowan Professor and Director in the School of Environmental Studies, UVic

Dr. Starzomski loves to work in a variety of systems to study biodiversity questions, and is broadly trained as a community ecologist and conservation biologist. His research focuses on biodiversity structure and dynamics, and seeks to link theory and empirical approaches.  A current research focus is in exploring long-term human-environment interactions on the Central Coast of British Columbia, out of the Hakai Institute. He’s proud to have recently won a Teaching Excellence award at UVic.

3. Fostering forest resilience in the climate change era

Date: May 26, 2022
Time: 12PM to 1PM

Intact forests are intrinsically valuable, but also provide a plethora of ecosystem services that range from aesthetic to biologically imperative. Yet, in British Columbia there has been a long history of managing forests based purely on timber values which has resulted in staggering ecological loss. Though this is now well known, policymakers have been slow to integrate best available science into forest management practices. 

The third Project TEACH session focuses on forest ecology and management to increase awareness about the role forests play in maintaining biodiversity and climate resilience. It also integrates local policy perspectives, identifying leverage points for change. 


Dr. William Hammond, Plant Ecophysiologist, Global Change Ecologist, University of Florida

Dr. Hammond is a plant ecophysiologist, global change ecologist, and head of the ecophyslab at the University of Florida. Broadly, he is interested in how plant vascular systems react to extreme environmental conditions—especially regarding their function, dysfunction, and the limits of survival. His work researching plant vascular systems aims to bridge basic and applied research by identifying how physiological traits coordinate to confer drought tolerance and/or resistance, and developing novel ways to sense plant dysfunction, for improving plant survival in our warming world. 

Dr. Lori Daniels, Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, UBC

Dr. Daniels is a professor in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences. Her research strives to advance fundamental scientific knowledge on forest dynamics, which is imperative for conserving and managing contemporary forests and adapting to global environmental change. This research characterises how natural disturbances, humans and climate interact to drive temperate forest dynamics and resilience. Dr. Daniel’s enduring partnerships with local to national governments, environmental organisations, forest management companies, community forests, and First Nations have helped her to translate scientific advances to operational conservation, restoration and management policies and practices.

Dr. Garry Merkel, Registered Professional Forester member of the BC Old Growth Strategic Review panel

Dr. Garry Merkel is a member of the Tahltan Nation in northwest British Columbia. He is a registered professional forester with over 45 years of experience in the field, management, academic, research and community aspects of forest and land management. He has also worked in many fields, some of which include organizational development, community development, business development and management, governance, community-based land management and education. Dr. Merkel was one member of the two-person, independent panel that conducted the province of British Columbia’s strategic old growth review.

4. Connectivity conservation

Date: June 2, 2022
Time: 12PM to 1PM

The fourth webinar in the Project TEACH series focuses on the establishment and maintenance of ecosystem connectivity. According to a report by the Canadian Council of Ecological Areas, “Well-connected ecosystems [are] critical for maintaining important ecological and evolutionary processes (including species migration and adaptation), especially in an era of rapid climate and ecological change”. With greater opportunities for migratory activity, decreased fragmentation, and landscape-scale conservation, enhancing connectivity between protected areas can magnify the positive impacts of conservation efforts. 

This discussion advocates for connectivity over conversion. The panel of leading practitioners share case studies from around the country, and demonstrate how lessons from elsewhere can be applied to protect and enhance connectivity on a local scale.


Dr. Angela Brennan,  Research Associate and Conservation Scientist, UBC

Dr. Brennan works to develop research and data science on biodiversity conservation and wildlife ecology for the Biodiversity Research Centre and Institute for Resources Environment and Sustainability. She received a BS from the University of Wisconsin, an MS from Western Washington University and a PhD in Wildlife Biology from Montana State University. Prior to UBC, Angela spent 2 years working for the World Wildlife Fund on large mammal connectivity conservation in southern Africa and continues to be affiliated with the organization as a WWF Fellow. She has more than 10 years of experience studying the ecology and management of large mammal species and their movements in landscapes where humans and wildlife interact.

Dr. Meade Krosby, Senior Scientist, University of Washington Climate Impacts Group

In addition to Dr. Krosby’s role as Senior Scientist with the UW Climate Impacts Group, she is also the University Deputy Director of the Northwest Climate Adaptation Science Center. Dr. Krosby works closely with land and wildlife managers, policy makers and communities to collaboratively understand and address climate impacts on natural systems and the people who depend on them. Her current work includes vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning; large landscape conservation planning for climate resilience; and efforts to build climate adaptation capacity and communities of practice. Dr. Krosby received a B.S. in Biology from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Washington.

Chris Morgan, MSc, Geographer

Chris is a geographer interested in parks and protected areas, land use planning, and geographic information systems (GIS). He graduated with degrees in geography and cartography/GIS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and last year completed his Master’s of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George. He has worked as a planner for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and now lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and works for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, focusing on real estate and planning of the state’s public lands.

5. Recreation & conservation: The balancing act

Date: June 9, 2022
Time: 12PM to 1PM

Outdoor recreation can act as a gateway to environmentalism. Exploring natural environments allows us to develop a stronger connection to the ecosystems that surround us. However, recreation is sometimes at odds with conservation goals. With a visition in outdoor spaces growing, it is important to explore how human impacts can be managed while continuing to improve accessibility to nature. 

Project TEACH’s fifth session, discusses the balancing act between recreation and conservation. This includes identifying ways for outdoor enthusiasts to become advocates for the environment; ways to manage impacts; and how to engage different user groups on conservation topics. 


Dr. Cole Burton, Wildlife Coexistance Lab, UBC

Dr.Burton is a conservation biologist and wildlife ecologist with broad interests in using science to inform biodiversity conservation, environmental management, and human-wildlife coexistence. His recent work has focused primarily on the ecology, management and monitoring of terrestrial mammal communities in the transforming landscapes of western Canada. In 2017 he started the Wildlife Coexistence Lab (WildCo) at the UBC, where he is  a Canada Research Chair in Terrestrial Mammal Conservation and an Associate Professor in the Department of Forest Resources Management.

Dr. Sarah Elmeligi, owner and principal of Sarah E Consulting

Dr. Elmeligi’s career has focused on taking a holistic view to wildlife and landscape planning both in and out of protected areas. Her Master’s and PhD integrated biological and social research to understand how bears and recreationalists share some of western Canada’s most prominent parks and protected areas. As a professional conservationist, Sarah has worked with teams of people to create new provincial parks, increase species protection, and design facility plans that serve wildlife and people. Sarah has also worked with various First Nations to improve her own holistic understanding of ecosystems and to explore ways that Indigenous Knowledge can be woven with Western Science to influence land and wildlife management. Ensuring accurate representation of community and Indigenous needs in government planning processes and decision making has been integral throughout her career. Sarah’s first full length book, What Bears Teach Us, was published in 2020 and she now owns her own environmental consulting company focused on human-bear coexistence and park management effectiveness.

Gabe Schepens, Environmental Studies MSc Graduate, UVic

Gabe is an early-career ecologist with an interest in analytical statistics and modelling to support conservation and stewardship. Their recent internship at Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative worked to develop tools to inform cross-boundary wildlife management in the face of various threats. As part of a project on recreation ecology, Gabe developed predictive habitat maps for wolverines. Gabe’s other work includes landscape-level analyses of ecological change, such as vegetation shifts in the Rockies. They are currently working on multi-species conservation modelling of critical habitat in Interior BC.

6. In-person Solution Session facilitated by Raincoast and Coexisting with Carnivores Alliance

Location: University of Victoria,  Bob Wright (BWC) Building, Room A104

After over a month of educational sessions with subject matter experts exploring conservation challenges and opportunities, the organizers of Project TEACH invited community members, policymakers, and other conservation practitioners to  an in-person “Solutions Session” at the University of Victoria. Together we discussed lessons learned through the Project TEACH webseries to imagine better environmental protection policy in Coastal Douglas-fir and Coastal Western Hemlock ecological communities and beyond. This session was  live streamed by Stream of Consciousness and is now available to watch online.


Andy MacKinnon

Andy MacKinnon (MSc, DSc) worked for 30 years as an ecologist with the Research Branch of the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. (MSc, DSc). His graduate research was in mycology and he is the co-author of six guidebooks to BC plants. He is a retired professional forester and professional biologist. He has served as an elected Councillor in Metchosin since 2014. Other roles he occupies are the Chair of Metchosin Finance and Environment Standing Committee; Council Liaison to Metchosin Environmental Advisory Select Committee; and board member for the Greater Victoria Public Library. He also contributes to work done by the CRD Climate Action Inter-Municipal Task Force Committee, Capital Region Invasive Species Partnership (CRISP), Metchosin Hall Society, and Beecher Bay Sci’new First Nation.


Deborah Curran, Associate Professor, Executive Director, Environmental Law Centre, UVic

Deborah Curran, LLB, LLM, is associated with both the Faculty of Law and School of Environmental Studies (Faculty of Social Sciences) at the University of Victoria. She teaches in the areas of land and water regulation and law, including water law, municipal law, and the Environmental Law Clinic – Intensive course. As the Executive Director with the Environmental Law Centre at UVic, She supervises students working on environmental law projects for community organization and First Nation clients (see  All Deborah’s courses courses explore how colonial law interacts with or has an impact on Indigenous laws and communities.

Lauren Eckert, Conservation Scientist and PhD candidate at the Applied Conservation Science Lab in the Department of Geography, UVic

Lauren is a conservation scientist, PhD candidate, and Canada Vanier Scholar at the University of Victoria in addition to being a Raincoast Conservation Fellow and National Geographic Explorer. Her early research experiences around the globe exposed her to the complexities of interrelated social and ecological systems and motivated her to delve into conservation science that recognizes humans’ important role in global ecosystems, engages communities directly in conservation and supports Indigenous Nations and individuals reasserting their knowledge and rights. Her MSc work at the University of Victoria bridged Indigenous knowledge and ecological science through a community-engaged, Indigenous-led approach to conservation in partnership with Central Coast First Nations in their territories. Lauren began her PhD  in 2017 and  her current research interests include: the intersections of Indigenous and western sciences, Canadian environmental policy and the role human values play in our relationships with wildlife and, ultimately, conservation conflicts and collaborative ways to transform them.

Chief Gordon Planes, Elected Chief of T’Sou-ke Nation

Chief Gordon Planes’ traditional name is HYA-QUATCHA, named after his great grandfather from the Scia-new (CHEE-A-NEW) the salmon people. Elected Chief of the T’Sou-ke (SAA-UKE) Nation since 2008, Gordon previously held a position as the Back Country Operations Manager of the West Coast Trail for Parks Canada. He is a Coast Salish carver, artist, traditional singer, and captain of the T’Sou-ke traditional dug-out canoes for the last two decades. Gordon has previously taken a three-year assignment in working with his community to bringing back their Northern Straits SENĆOŦEN language. Gordon and his wife Marcella presently reside in the village of Siaosun and have 6 children, 7 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild. He actively works with his community in renewable energy, food security, cultural renaissance, and Economic Development.

Watch our past webinar series