Our Speaker Series

Each year we arrange presentations on a variety of conservation-related topics, featuring informative speakers from on and off Bowen Island. We had to take a break during the pandemic, but past presentations are shown below:

Feb-2020: The ongoing necessity of land and marine protection

Our last speaker event before the pandemic was on February 22nd, with a talk by Vicky Husband on “The ongoing necessity of land and marine protection”.

Vicky is a life-long resident of Vancouver Island. Born in Victoria, she is a recipient of the Order of Canada and Order of BC and an honorary doctorate from the University of Victoria for her volunteer conservation work in BC over the last 40 years. She is an internationally renowned forest and marine conservation advocate, acknowledged by the 1988 United Nations Global 500 Award. Vicky is a passionate defender of BC’s natural heritage, in support of parks and proper regional planning and land use.

We are grateful to the Knick Knack Nook Small Grants Program for their financial support for this event.

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May-2019: Herons, Hummingbirds, and Hawks of Bowen Island

An overview of Bowen’s special birds

Our 2019 speaker series continued on May 4th with a talk by Sue Ellen Fast on “Herons, Hummingbirds, and Hawks of Bowen Island”.

We learned about Bowen’s special birdlife, with the help of the Bowen Nature Club’s checklist, slides, and a few bones and feathers. A highlight was the latest about our nesting colony of Great Blue Herons, still producing chicks after twenty years, in spite of everything: a conservation success story worthy of such a such a beautiful and protected part of the world!

Winter birds include hummingbirds these days, along with dramatic flocks of sea ducks. We also shared observations about how birdlife on Bowen has changed, and took a checklist away to use on the trails.

About Sue Ellen Fast

Sue Ellen is a Bowen Island municipal councillor. She is a conservation and learning consultant with years of experience connecting children and families to nature, and a background in wildlife biology. Sue Ellen was chair of the Bowen Island Conservancy for nine years, belongs to the BC Municipal Climate Leadership Council, and lives here on Bowen Island.

We are grateful to the Knick Knack Nook Small Grants Program for their financial support for this event.

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Mar-2019: Ecojustice and Marine Habitat Protection

Our 2019 speaker series continued on March 9th with a talk by Devon Page, Executive Director of Ecojustice, about Marine Habitat Protection. At a time when we are celebrating Howe Sound’s recovery, we still face LNG and oil tankers, gravel mines, and deliberate or accidental pollution as potential threats to our marine environment.

Ecojustice is Canada’s largest environmental law charity. Devon spent his first 7 years there channeling his love of wilderness into protecting Canada’s endangered birds, wildlife and fish. He obtained the first injunction in Canada to stop logging in old-growth forests home to an endangered species (the northern spotted owl) and launched the first cases under federal species at risk legislation. Devon became Executive Director in 2008, and has focused on enhancing Ecojustice’s effectiveness by emphasizing litigation around key environmental and legal priorities, and expanding Ecojustice’s operations from British Columbia and Ontario to Alberta and the Maritimes.

For more than 25 years Ecojustice has gone to court to protect wilderness and wildlife, challenge industrial projects, and keep harmful chemicals out of the air, water, and ecosystems we all depend on.

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Jan-2019: The Orcas of Howe Sound

Our 2019 speaker series began on Saturday, 12 January, with a talk by Bob Turner on “The Orcas of Howe Sound”.

The return of Orcas (or Killer Whales) over the past decade has been an inspiring reminder that the health of Howe Sound/Atl’kitsem is in recovery. For the past several years, Bob, who is a long time Bowen resident, scientist, and now amateur film maker, has been recording stories about the wild inhabitants of Howe Sound. In this talk, Bob talked about his experiences making two short movies about local Orcas: one filmed by his brother while surrounded by a pod of orcas attacking a sea lion that had sought refuge against the hull of his boat; the other a quieter hour with a pod off the west side of Bowen Island.

Inspired as we are by these magnificent animals, we nonetheless need to confront the question of what it means for us to be good neighbours to the wild inhabitants of Howe Sound/Atl’kitsem.

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Jan-2018: Where are the Whales?

Monitoring and protecting Cetaceans through Citizen Science

Our 2018 Speaker Series began on Saturday, 27 January, with a presentation by Jessica Torode about the BC Cetaceans Sighting Network. We learned how to identify the different species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) in BC waters, the threats these animals face, and what we can do to help the Network with its mission.

There are 23 species of cetaceans and 4 species of sea turtles that spend time off the coast of BC, and 12 of these populations are listed as “at risk”. More research is needed to monitor and protect these vulnerable animals, but BC’s vast coastline makes regular scientific surveys financially and logistically challenging. The BC Cetaceans Sighting Network was created to encourage citizen scientists to assist in this research. For over 17 years, the monitoring data collected has been used in conservation-based research, including environmental impact assessments, critical habitat analysis, and the establishment of marine protected areas.

Jessica is the coordinator of the BC Cetacean Sightings Network. She was born and raised in West Vancouver and was inspired to pursue a career in marine biology after many summer boating trips in Desolation Sound. After graduation from the University of Victoria in 2009, she completed a training and research internship at the Vancouver Aquarium, and then went on to work at Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. In 2013, Jessica studied the effects of commercial fishing on the diet and body condition of harbour porpoises in Scotland. She completed her Masters Degree in Marine and Fisheries Ecology in September 2014

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Oct-2017: A Community Forest: how it could tear Bowen Island apart

Although the threat of industrial logging on Bowen Island has receded somewhat, we are hearing about the possibility of creating a community forest/woodlot and how that will give us control over what happens with our forests. But all is not what it seems.

On October 28th we heard about community forests and what could happen on Bowen Island from Ric Careless. For over 45 years, Ric has campaigned tirelessly to keep the best of British Columbia beautiful and natural. His work has entailed several encounters with the Forest Service trying to push Community Forests onto innocent smaller communities … often with unfortunate results.

Ric, who lives in Gibsons in Howe Sound, has led campaigns that have protected 10 million acres of land as parks and wilderness, including Tatshenshini, Spatsizi, Central Purcells, Height of the Rockies, and Nitinat Triangle in Pacific Rim. Ric was a co-founder of the Sierra Club in BC, and has received numerous awards for his work, including the Order of BC.

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Apr-2017: Howe Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region Initiative

Our 2017 Speaker Series wrapped up on 8th April with a talk by Ruth Simons, who was the Executive Director of the Future of Howe Sound Society (FHSS) and a life-long resident of the region.

Since 2011 the FHSS engaged with many Howe Sound organizations with shared values for Howe Sound, as well as with various levels of government, First Nations, and stakeholders, to encourage the development of an integrated, sustainable land and water management plan for Howe Sound which takes into account the overlapping principles of environmental protection, livability, and economic sustainability.

Ruth chaired the Howe Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region Initiative, and in her talk she explained the results of the Working Group’s efforts and how a UNESCO Biosphere Region can help achieve our common goals for protection of Howe Sound for future generations.

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Mar-2017: A tour of Terminal Creek Salmon Hatchery

The first event in our 2017 Speaker Series was a presentation and tour of the Terminal Creek Salmon Hatchery, hosted by the Bowen Island Fish and Wildlife Club (BIFWC).

We met in the Bill Rush Memorial Classroom, and spent about an hour learning about BIFWC, the salmon enhancement work volunteers carry out, and the fantastic Chum spawner returns seen over the last few weeks (Bob Turner has made a beautiful video documenting this). Then there’ll be a tour of the hatchery and Terminal Creek’s nearby salmon habitat area.

We were hosted primarily by Tim Pardee and Mike von Zuben. Tim is President, and Mike a Director, of the BIFWC, a Non-Profit Society created in 1967. Both retired as executives in the corporate world many years ago—Mike from IBM Canada and Tim from the RBC Financial Group. BIFWC volunteers are responsible for managing salmon enhancement activities on Bowen Island, under the supervision of Fisheries & Oceans Canada. Mike’s focus is on the operation of the Terminal Creek Salmon Hatchery, while Tim coordinates habitat rehabilitation projects and manages BIFWC administration and partner relationships.

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Nov-2016: The Great Howe Sound Recovery

We were very pleased to be able to bring the Great Howe Sound Recovery film and speaker event to Bowen Island, on Saturday, November 5th.

Howe Sound is home to vibrant communities, strong economies, and stunning nature, which attracts locals and visitors alike. Together with the David Suzuki Foundation we screened four short films and lead a discussion about the ongoing recovery of the Sound.

  • Hosted by Sarika Cullis-Suzuki, Roy Mulder’s film took us on an underwater tour of the glass sponge gardens and bioherms in Howe Sound, and also focused on the amazing work of Glen Dennison in studying and protecting these newly discovered organisms.
  • Bob and Tim Turner’s film will took us on a 6 day journey exploring the newly established Sea to Sky Marine Trail—the western-most extension of the Trans Canada Trail—where kayakers can journey the waters of Howe Sound and overnight at one of the 6 newly established camping spots.
  • A film sponsored by the Conservancy profiles marine scientist Ramona de Graaf and her amazing work protecting and teaching about our forage fish, and our need for healthy beaches showed why the “wee fish” are so essential to the marine food chain, to the diet of the Chinook salmon we put on our barbecues, and which are food for the Orcas we love to discover in the wild.
  • A film profiled citizen scientist/activist John Buchanan and his inspiring work documents the recovery of herring in the Sound, and of the return of Pink salmon to many of our once-decimated streams.

The evening concluded with an engaging discussion on the threats and opportunities for the recovery of Howe Sound, with several panelists, moderated by Stephen Foster:

  • Maya Broeke: Quest University student and researcher on Howe Sound’s marine recovery
  • Roy Mulder: Underwater videographer and activist
  • Bob Turner: Geologist and former mayor of Bowen Island
  • John Buchanan: Environmentalist and citizen scientist
  • Jessica Schultz: Research coordinator, Vancouver Aquarium’s Howe Sound Research and Conservation Group

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Apr-2016: Squamish River Watershed Society

Our 2016 Spring Speaker Series wrapped up with Randall Lewis, President of the Squamish River Watershed Society and Environmental Co-coordinator with the Squamish Nation. Randall talked about the Squamish Nation and their presence in this area, and the Society’s work.

Randall is the Environmental Advisor for the Squamish Nation. As well as his role as President of the The Squamish River Watershed Society, he sits on the Howe Sound Fisheries Round Table. Randall has worked internationally in fisheries and watershed restoration.

Randall being introduced by Bob Turner (it was such a warm day we moved our meeting outside to the lawn)
Photo courtesy of Owen Plowman

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Mar-2016: Green Shores initiative

Our 2016 Spring Speaker series continued on March 5th, 2016, with a presentation by DG Blair, about the Green Shores initiative, which is a way of successfully protecting shoreline properties using natural materials, slopes, and plantings.

DG holds a B.Sc. in Biological Sciences and a M.Sc. in Environmental Education and Communications. As Executive Director of the Stewardship Centre for BC since 2010, she provides leadership and facilitation of SCBC’s collaborative stewardship initiatives including Green Shores, Species at Risk, and Environmental Stewardship Community of Practice.

Speaker series - Green Shores

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Feb-2016: 2015 UN Climate Change Conference

Our 2016 Speaker Series continued with a presentation by Merran Smith, Executive Director, Clean Energy Canada, and a fellow at Simon Fraser University. Merran is a member of the B.C. government’s Climate Leadership Team, and the City of Vancouver’s Renewable Action team. Prior to her work on climate and energy, she spent over a decade on forest conservation and was called the ‘environmental architect’ of the Great Bear Rainforest conservation agreement.

Merran talked about the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

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Apr-2015: Garibaldi Park—Alpine Jewel of Howe Sound

On Saturday, April 18th, our 2015 Speaker Series wrapped up for the summer with a presentation by Bob Turner.

About the Park

Garibaldi Park has the most accessible, most diverse, and arguably most beautiful alpine landscapes in the Vancouver region. Its unique volcanic origins have created a landscape of rolling alpine meadows, rich in wild flowers, and have made it a popular hiking and ski-touring destination for nearly a century.

A view over Garibaldi Park

The Park’s diverse volcanic features are famous: the lava-dammed and turquoise-coloured Garibaldi Lake, the great landslide scar of the Barrier, the dark tower of Black Tusk, the curious flat-topped Table, multi-hued desert-like Opal and Cinder cone volcanoes, and the great peak of Mt. Garibaldi rising above it all. There are also the stunning glaciers of today, and the debris fields that mark their rapid retreat over the past century. And beyond Garibaldi’s gentler ridges are backdrops of craggy granite spires. So there are lots of stories to tell!

Bob has made his presentation slides available to us.

About our speaker

Bob Turner is a retired federal geologist and long-time resident of Bowen Island, who pokes around the corners of Garibaldi Park and the Howe Sound region. He has been explaining geology and landscapes to audiences for over 20 years. He is the co-author of the popular guide to Vancouver geology Vancouver – City on the Edge as well as GeoTour Sea to Sky: Geology and Landscapes along Highway 99.

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Jan-2015: Lines that don’t divide

Our 2015 Speaker Series commenced on January 24th with a presentation by Jay Taylor, Professor of History, Simon Fraser University.

Telling tales about chemicals, animals, and people in the Salish Sea

The practice of dumping waste into the Salish Sea has contaminated its ecosystem and imperiled human and non-human health. Thanks to a long history of washing and flushing toxins into the Sea, these substances have bio-accumulated across the ecosystem to the point that some salmon, seals, sea lions, and whales have become swimming toxic waste dumps. Worse still, persistent organic pollutants are now making their way back to their source. The ultimate consumers of human toxins are humans themselves, especially infants.

Dealing with the problem of pollution in the Salish Sea is particularly difficult because toxic substances migrate freely across the Canada-U.S. border, and decisions made on one side of the 49th parallel affect humans and animals on both sides of the line.

Jay provided a historical overview of the processes that have contributed pollutants to the Salish Sea, and discussed how the border has and has not divided the region chemically and politically.

Jay kindly provided a copy of his slides for the presentation.

Joseph (Jay) E. Taylor III studied history at the University of Oregon and University of Washington, receiving his Ph.D. in 1996. He taught at Iowa State University from 1996 to 2003, and since then at Simon Fraser University. He specializes in environment history and western North American history, and he has written widely on the subjects of fishing, outdoor recreation, and conservation. His first book, Making Salmon: An Environmental History of the Northwest Fisheries Crisis, (Seattle, 1999), won the George Perkins Marsh Prize for best book in environmental history and was named one of Choice’s top ten books in science and technology. His second book, Pilgrims of the Vertical: Yosemite Rock Climbers and Nature at Risk, won the National Book Outdoor Award for history and biography. He is currently writing a biography, tentatively titled Voice of the West, on a western US congressman who shaped federal conservation legislation in the first half of the twentieth century, and a book on the importance of historical perspective in environmental issues, titled Time and Nature.

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May-2014: More than Just a Pretty Beach: marine shorelines are critical fish habitats

Along our shorelines, forage fish species spawn and juvenile salmon feed. We are mostly aware of herring, but did you know that Pacific Sand Lance, Capelin, and Surf Smelt spawn on sandy and pebble beaches right at our feet?

These “forage fish” species are the cornerstone of marine food webs and are essential food for seabirds, marine mammals, and fish! Juvenile salmon forage along the high tide line, feeding on land-based insects swept to the ocean’s surface by winds, and on tiny invertebrates living within the beach seaweed wrack line.

Communities throughout the Salish Sea are working with biologists to better understand and protect these critical fish habitats. On May 22nd, 2014, Sea Watch Society Executive Director and Scientist, Ramona de Graaf, joined us on Bowen Island to give a fascinating evening talk titled. Ramona is a marine biologist and oversees the province-wide research program to document and protect beach spawning forage fish habitat.

Ramona led a beach tour on Friday May 23rd, at Pebbly Beach on Deep (Mannion) Bay.

We are delighted that classes from the Bowen Island Community School toured the beach with Ramona after the public walk.

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Apr-2013: Talking about herons

The heron nesting season is underway. Why should we care? What is important about these birds in particular?

To answer these questions, and more, the Conservancy, the Bowen Island Eco-Alliance, and the Bowen Nature Club arranged for a presentation and discussion by Ross Vennesland, a local ecologist with specialized knowledge of Great Blue Herons and their habits.

Ross talked about the heron life history, status, and population trends, and the implications of disturbance on their continued well-being.

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Apr-2013: Green Fire—Aldo Leopold and a land ethic for our time

Considered by many to be the father of wildlife management and of the United States’ wilderness system, Aldo Leopold was a conservationist, forester, philosopher, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast. “Green Fire” is the first full-length documentary film ever made about Leopold. It highlights his extraordinary career, tracing how he shaped and influenced the modern environmental movement.

The Conservancy showed the 72 minute film as part of our 2013 Speaker Series.

It is a beautifully-made piece, and really represents more than a simple documentary about Aldo Leopold. It also portrays how Leopold’s vision of a community that cares about both people and land—his call for a land ethic—ties together a wide range of modern conservation concerns and offers inspiration and insight for the future.

Green Fire was produced in partnership between the Aldo Leopold Foundation, the Center for Humans and Nature, and the US Forest Service. The film examines Leopold’s thinking, renewing his idea of a land ethic for a population facing 21st century ecological challenges. Leopold’s biographer, conservation biologist Dr. Curt Meine, serves as the film’s on-screen guide.

Green Fire describes the formation of Leopold’s idea, exploring how it changed one man and later permeated through all arenas of conservation. The film draws on Leopold’s life and experiences to provide context and validity, then explores the deep impact of his thinking on conservation projects around the world today. Through these examples, the film challenges viewers to contemplate their own relationship with the land community.

The high-definition film employs photographs, correspondence, manuscripts, and other archival documents from the voluminous Aldo Leopold Archives, as well as historical film and contemporary full-color footage on location, including landscapes that influenced Leopold and that he in turn influenced.

The film also features commentary and insight from some of today’s most recognized and credible scholars and conservation leaders, including: three of Aldo Leopold’s children (Nina, Carl, and Estella), Leopold scholars, noted environmental writers, scientists, humanities experts, public policy leaders, business leaders, and leaders of non-profit groups inspired by Leopold.

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Mar-2013: The Islands Trust

Wolfgang Duntz and Andrew Stone, our local Islands Trust Municipal Trustees, provided an overview of the purpose and work of the Islands Trust.

You may wish to review some background material on the Islands Trust that was presented to Mayor and Council in October 2012.

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Jan-2013: The OCP—Why it matters

Dave Witty (FCIP, RPP) talked about Bowen Island’s Official Community Plan (OCP), and why it matters.

The OCP helps to guide and manage Bowen Island’s future development and growth, balancing the social, environmental, and economic needs of the community. An important legal document, the OCP contains objectives and policies that guide municipal decisions on housing, transportation, parks and trail development, environment and natural resource use, municipal services, and economic development. In short, it provides the decision framework for almost all aspects of our Island life.

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Apr-2012: The plight of the West Coast’s wild salmon

On April 29, Dr. Alexandra Morton presented a talk on the plight of the West Coast’s wild salmon, and her work to convince the public, the fish farm industry and various government agencies to take measures before it is too late.

Dr. Morton is a registered professional biologist who was living in a remote archipelago studying whales when the fish farmers came to her town. Dr. Morton has been interviewed by Paul Kennedy for CBC’s Ideas radio program. The episode was broadcast in early 2011 and is well worth hearing: besides being an interesting topic, Dr. Morton is a great speaker.

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