Cetacean Observations in Boundary Pass – Lucy Quayle

For my Applied Research Project (ARP), I am collecting information on cetacean distribution in Boundary Pass, British Columbia. For the summer, I moved to Saturna Island which is part of the Southern Gulf Island chain. The main species that use this area during the summer months are humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) and both Biggs killer whales and Southern Resident killer whales (Orcinus orca). I am interested in looking at how and when they use the Boundary Pass area near Saturna Island and what kind of interactions they have with commercial vessel traffic, recreational boaters and ecotourism vessels. I will also be incorporating underwater acoustic data and time-lapse photography with my observational data to investigate the use of these methods for cetacean detection. A seasonal ‘Interim Sanctuary Zone’ or vessel-no-go zone has also been in effect since June 1st, on the east side of Saturna Island. This area was set up with the aim to further reduce underwater noise and physical disturbance in Southern Resident killer whale habitat. I am also interested in investigating the effectiveness of the Interim Sanctuary Zone by collecting data on both cetacean and vessel use of the area. Observational data collection takes a lot of patience but definitely pays off when a pod of 20+ orcas or a humpback mother and calf pass by.

Join Lucy and Dr. Ruth Joy in the upcoming sharing session on her ARP!




Zoom link:

This summer, Simon Fraser University (SFU) Masters student and researcher Lucy Quayle has been living on Saturna Island, gathering data about humpback whales, orcas and boats in the Interm Sanctuary Zone (ISZ) for the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW). Hear about her project and get a glimpse into her findings.

Ruth Joy is a Statistical Ecologist in the School of Environmental Science at Simon Fraser University (SFU). She’ll tell us about her research into predicting the movements of Southern Resident Killer Whales through statistics.


Fraser River Estuary Research – Jan Lee

My name is Jan and my ARP is focused on the bottom of the food chain in the south arm marshes of the Fraser river estuary. invertebrates live in the sediment and are primary consumers, which are important in bringing solar energy, that was harvested by plants, up the food chain to higher trophic. Juvenile salmon use the marshes as places to feed on the invertebrates and hide until they are large enough to go out to the ocean.

In the past 50 years the south arm marshes have seen the arrival of the european cattail which is an invasive plant species known for growing in large monotypic stands. The cattail is highly competitive making it difficult for native plant species to grow in these stands. My ARP is aimed at determining what impacts this invasive cattail is having on the local invertebrate communities.

To determine invertebrate community composition and diversity I took 50 sediment cores 25 from invasive cattail stands and 25 from native vegetation dominated areas. The cores were sifted to remove the sediment and leave only the invertebrates and the organic materials for analysis. The samples are then going to be sent off to a lab to determine what invertebrates are in each core as well as the number of each invertebrate.

Summer Fieldwork – July

Western Painted Turtle Predation Research – Cassie Friesen

This summer I have been working on the Sunshine Coast for my Applied Research Project (ARP). The best part about my research is that I get to work with turtles every day! My research is investigating predation of the endangered Western Painted Turtle species here on the Coast and will focus on a long-term solution to protecting these turtles.

The Western Painted Turtle is the only remaining native freshwater turtle here in B.C. Previous work has been done to increase its nesting habitat by installing various turtle nesting beaches. These were created in hopes to increase the populations reproductive rates. But these beaches now create a problem, and experience higher rates of predation due to densification of nests.

For my research I implemented two enclosure designs at various installed turtle nesting beaches along the Sunshine Coast. These enclosures are designed to allow for free roaming access to the turtles, while protecting the hatchlings and eggs from avian predators, such as ravens. I monitor these sites in person weekly and have multiple wildlife cameras set up to capture all the critters that pass by. Thankfully I had my experiment all set up before COVID-19 restrictions (early March) so I was able to carry on with my work without too many issues. I currently live on the Sunshine Coast while my experiment continues, and I hope to see significant results in the fall.  

Denman Island Trip 2019

Back in November, students in the first-year cohort travelled to Denman Island for their first field trip as a class. Throughout the weekend, we met with the community members and visited potential restoration sites across the island. On our final day on the island, we presented three different restoration ideas for the sites that we visited to a group of community members. It was a great weekend that allowed us to step away from the classroom and have a hands-on learning experience.

When we arrived on the Friday afternoon, a small group of community members joined us and presented one restoration project idea at Windy Marsh. The marsh had been cut into two when a road was built across it, which altered the hydrology of the marsh. The community members that live around the marsh want the natural flow to be restored so the marsh can be restored.

The next morning, we were up and out early to explore the island and visit more restoration sites. The first stop was Hinton Beach, where aquaculture activities are taking place on both sides of Baynes Sound. The beach has been compacted by vehicles that are related to the aquaculture activities. As well, plastics and other garbage from the aquaculture has begun to wash up along the beach. The community members are interested in finding a way to minimize the impact of the aquaculture on the beach environment and the species that rely on it.

The next couple of spots were related to re-connecting Windy Marsh to Morrison Marsh. One of the community members allowed us to come on to their property to get a better view of the marsh. We also went to another resident’s property on Morrison Marsh to look at the road that split the two marshes as well as a weir that helps prevent a local beaver from damming the marsh outflow.

We headed by to the camp and had a delicious lunch that was catered by a local chief. Following lunch, we headed out again for the last stop of the day. We went to Morningside Park to look at the bluffs along the beach. The bluffs are beginning to fail and the local residents are concerned that the slope might fail. The combination of beach and sunny weather made for a great final stop on our little tour of the island.

Following the beach site, we headed back to the camp, we were staying at and divided into groups to begin working on potential restoration ideas for each site. We also had one final presenter, the land manager of the Denman Conservancy Association, to tell us about the work that has been done on the island to help bring back the Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori). The butterfly species is considered Endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act and considered ‘critically imperilled’ on the global conservation rating. The decline of the butterfly species is directly related to anthropogenic activities, such as habitat conversion, and the population has drastically shrunk across the eastern Vancouver Island area.

The rest of the night was dedicated to us finishing off our restoration ideas so that they are ready for presentation the next morning. Between the beautiful sunset and the delicious dinner we had, it was a great final night on the island. The next morning, we headed to the local community centre to present our restoration ideas to a small group of residents. It was a great experience to interact with the community and it was a fantastic way to cap off a great weekend.

Vancouver Island Field Trip 2019

Visiting Cathedral Grove

This March, the first year cohort of MSc Ecological Restoration students joined the undergraduate ER students on a field trip up the east coast of Vancouver Island, starting in Victoria and ending up at Campbell River. As well as having a chance to explore the beautiful landscapes of the Island, we toured various restoration projects and learned about techniques and challenges from the practitioners on the ground.

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Field Course 2019 – Part 2: Terrestrial Module

In the second half our 2019 Field Course, the first-year cohort shifted focus from Aquatic to Terrestrial survey techniques.

We covered bird and vegetation surveys on campus at BCIT, but on our final weekend in the field we ventured further from town, traveling out to a field site near Mission, BC.

We set out small mammal traps on two grids, one in a second growth stand and the other in a remnant patch of old growth forest.

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Field Course 2019 – Part 1: Aquatic Module

The group on the final day of the field course – damp but still smiling!

Each year, the first-year cohort of ER Master’s students complete a Field Course to gain hands-on skills in sampling techniques and a practical understanding of study design for various types of surveys.

The course is divided into Aquatic and Terrestrial modules. This year, it ran on Fridays-Saturdays through March and April, which made for a hectic end-of-semester. On the other hand, it got us us outside in the field a fair amount which was a great change of pace.

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2019 ERSA Research Showcase

Second-year cohort at the annual ERSA Research Showcase

On February 28th, ERSA held its annual Research Showcase. This year, our showcase consisted of a poster day with the second-year cohort presenting their Applied Research Projects.

To kick off the event we had two alumni, Erin Roberts and Chloe Hartley, speak. They talked about about their Applied Research Projects and career paths after the program, and their advice for current students. This boiled down to being engaged in restoration by getting yourself out there and meeting people in the field. That seemed like solid advice, so we put it directly into action, mingling for the next few hours and checking out the wide variety of projects that the second-year cohort had completed.

Erin Roberts and Chloe Hartley, our alumni presenters talk about their career paths after graduation

It was a great chance to meet new people and catch up with people in different cohorts, as well as connect with project partners, graduates, and professors. For the presenters it also gave us a chance to talk about our research, and think about how to formulate answers to questions that might come up in our defences.

Our second-year presenters discussing their posters

A big shout-out to our ERSA co-Chairs, Sarah Bird and Keith MacCallum, for the massive amount work that went into making this event such a success! We’d like to thank the planning committee (Keith, Tim, Heather, Alex, Kate, Katie Moore, Katie Weise, & Darian) for their hard work. We appreciate that Wayne Hand, the Dean of Construction and the Environment at BCIT, and Steven Kuan, the Associate Dean, attended our Showcase. Further thanks to alumni Erin and Chloe for giving presentations and to all of the people from outside the program who came out to attend.

Students from both cohorts attending the showcase

Project Spotlight: Keith MacCallum – Investigating potential facilitative effects in Lower Mainland riparian ecosystems


Plants can interact with their ecosystems in a variety of ways. Facilitation is when these changes increase the survival, growth or reproduction of neighbouring plants. It is most commonly studied in arid and alpine ecosystems, but there is increasing evidence that it is a ubiquitous effect across all ecosystems.

Facilitative effects are important to ecological restoration. When they are properly understood, they can contribute to effective planning of plantings by creating better conditions for the growth of plants.

My study looked for potential facilitative interactions that might improve the growth of two shrub species common in Lower Mainland riparian forests.

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