The Pender Islands Conservancy Association is a registered land trust. However, our mandate goes beyond the conservation of land. We are engaged in many exciting and vital projects and activities related to stewardship, restoration, and monitoring of the land, our islands’ shores and the surrounding waters. Most of our projects involve collaboration with other organizations concerned with the stewardship of vulnerable habitats around the Gulf Islands and the Salish Sea.
We invite you to become involved if you want to share your expertise, to learn about an aspect of stewardship, or to have fun and meet like-minded people. Each project description includes a description of volunteer opportunities. For more information, please feel free to contact us.
Habitat Restoration & Monitoring Projects
HOPE BAY SALMON STREAM RESTORATION
Salmon are keystone species in the ecosystem of the Salish Sea and North Pacific. As eggs, fry and adults, they provide food for many animals, including birds, fish, bear, whales, and other salmon. They are an important source of nutrients for the forests around the streams and rivers in which they spawn, as eagles, bears, and other creatures drop uneaten remains of salmon carcasses into the surrounding forest. The Salmon Stream project was started in 2012 by a group of people interested in trying to help to provide a small offset to the massive loss of habitat and diminishing runs of Salmon in British Columbia.
Hope Bay Stream is reputed to have been a salmon bearing stream in the past, and since the stream flows through their property just before reaching the bay, the Hope Bay Bible Camp agreed to a joint project with the Pender Islands Conservancy to try to re-establish a salmon run at Hope Bay. Every January since 2013 (except 2014 when no eggs were available) tens of thousands of Chum salmon eggs have been put into a hatching cassette and placed in the Hope Bay stream. In addition, volunteers have carried out stream restoration work, consisting of removing invasive species, planting and protecting native plants, and adding gravel to the stream.
The eggs mature in the hatching cassette. Once they hatch as salmon-coloured alevin (tiny sac-fry with what is left of the egg still attached), they make their way out of the bottom of the cassette and into the gravel below.
They stay in the small spaces between the gravel until they have used up the last of the nutrients in their eggs. Then they emerge as tiny brown fry and make their way to the Hope Bay Estuary, and eventually out to sea.
The Hope Bay Salmon Stream Restoration Project has been built on partnerships. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans provides a community advisor to local stream projects such as ours. The fish hatchery at Goldstream has provided education and technical assistance, in addition to providing salmon eggs, and a hatching cassette for the eggs to mature in. The directors of the Hope Bay Bible camp have been enthusiastic supporters, providing help in every aspect of the project.
Interested in becoming involved in this project?
Volunteer opportunities include:
Sharing expertise and knowledge in areas related to pacific salmon, riparian habitat integrity, etc.
Stream monitoring: monitoring temperature, watching for returning salmon.
Stream restoration: planting, protecting and caring for native plant species, removing invasive species, stream bank stabilization, gravel amendments to stream bed, etc.
Educational opportunities, including field trips to the fish hatchery at Goldstream.
Helping with school visits when eggs are placed into the stream
For further information and historical background regarding this project, click here
EARTH DAY BEACH CLEAN-UP
Every year on or around Earth Day, the Pender Islands community pulls together and cleans our beaches, shores, pathways, and roads. This is a vital environmental stewardship project, especially with the catastrophic, and still increasing, levels of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. Each piece of garbage or plastic that gets picked up is one less piece of garbage or plastic that could end up in the stomach of an unfortunate seabird or entangling and drowning a marine mammal.
On Beach Clean-up day the people of North and South Pender search out and pick up enough garbage, litter and debris to fill two large commercial garbage bins. Afterwards they enjoy a free lunch, prizes, displays, and music.
Volunteer opportunities with the Earth Day Beach Clean-up include:
The majority of volunteers clean their favorite beaches, not just on Clean-up day, but all through the year, and bring their collected debris down to the bins on collection day. But there are many other roles to fill during Beach Clean-up:
Contact community groups and businesses in February to advise them of the date and invite them to join us.
Solicit local businesses and organizations for donations of draw prizes
Help obtain funds from community organizations for volunteer appreciation lunch
Help advertise and promote the event
Provide educational sessions to school children at the local school
Help set up and take down tents, tables, etc.
Helping to check volunteers in at the collection site,
Set up and serve coffee, treats and lunch
Provide, or arrange for, entertainment during lunch
Help other volunteers load the garbage they have collected into the bins
Provide educational displays
Please contact us if you are interested in helping with the Beach Clean-up, either before or during the Earth Day event.
INVASIVE SPECIES REMOVAL
Invasive species are a major threat to native ecosystems. Like many island ecosystems around the world, habitats on Pender Island have been seriously degraded by introduced and invasive species, which push out native plants and animals and reduce biodiversity. For example, Scotch Broom has pushed out millions of native plants and animals all along the Pacific Coast from the Sierra Nevada to the Haida Gwaii.
The Pender Islands Conservancy has an Invasive Species Committee that organizes invasive species removal work bees. This year we have focused on Scotch broom, and plan to organize work bees to tackle daphne laurel and tansy ragwort. In the past we have worked with other community groups to address invasive bullfrogs. We also provide information and education on identifying and removing invasives and how to foster native species in your garden.
For more information on the most destructive invasive species on Pender Island, click here.
Volunteer opportunities with the Conservancy Invasive Species Committee include:
Sharing or gaining knowledge of invasive species and how to control them.
Sharing or gaining knowledge about gardening to discourage invasives and encourage native species.
Participating in, or helping to organize, an invasive species work bee (e.g. the Broom Bash).
Helping to transport invasive plants to disposal sites.
Working with other community and government groups to develop and actions plan for control of certain invasive species, such as bullfrogs.
If you are interested in any of these opportunities, please contact us.
Eelgrass is a marine plant with long ribbon-like leaves that grows in underwater “meadows” in coastal waters and inlets. It is a perennial flowering plant that grows from the low tide line down to about 6 meters of water, and provides food and shelter for many marine creatures, from microbes and tiny crustaceans to birds and seals. Eelgrass meadows are important habitat for small fishes such as herring and juvenile salmon. Eelgrass plants also help to stabilize shorelines and reduce erosion and are excellent carbon sinks. Eelgrass meadows can be damaged, shaded out, or smothered by many kinds of human activity along the shoreline, such as the building of docks, construction of seawalls, dredging, or disturbance of streams leading to excessive sediments. Even a single trailing anchor can cause significant damage to eelgrass beds.
Pender Islands Conservancy Association has partnered with SeaChange Marine Conservation Society to help restore eelgrass habitats on Pender Island by preparing eelgrass plants for planting by the SeaChange divers.
Depending upon their interest or expertise eelgrass project volunteers can:
Join in a workbee to prepare the eelgrass shoots for planting
Help organize eelgrass work bees or educational presentations
Billet divers and organizers in their homes,
Share or obtain knowledge about eelgrass and its vital role in the ecology of the Salish Sea.
Provide consultation to community members on protecting the foreshore and marine environment, for example when anchoring boats or during near shore installations such as docks.
Interested? Please contact us today!lick
Research & Citizen Science Projects
KELP MAPPING PROJECT
Bull kelp is a large seaweed that grows in beautifully rich underwater forests in coastal waters. Kelp forests are vitally important to the ecosystems of the coast as they provide habitat to an incredible variety of organisms, from plankton to crustaceans, snails to small salmon, sea otters to waterfowl. Unfortunately, kelp forests are negatively affected by changes in temperature and salinity of sea water, increases in silt, toxins, and creatures that feed on the kelp. For example, declines in sea otter populations and the collapse of sun star populations have led to a great increase in the numbers of sea urchins, who love to munch on kelp.
In 2019, the Conservancy Associations of Pender, Mayne, Saturna and Galiano Islands received funding to support the Galiano Conservancy Association’s project for Cetacean Conservation in the Salish Sea, to map eelgrass and kelp beds around the Southern Gulf Islands. This project is part of a larger study of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows that has been ongoing for years in various locations around the Salish Sea. In 2019, our Conservancy participated in the kelp mapping portion of the project.
Our participation was in the form of equipment use and volunteer field surveyors who monitored kelp beds around Pender Island. We also provided community education and information regarding the importance of kelp and eelgrass habitat to the entire ecosystem and food web of the Salish Sea.
The project involves citizen science volunteers going out onto the water with canoes or kayaks with handheld GPSs and mapping the kelp by outlining beds with GPS points. The GPS data is backed up by tracking the GPS points with written data using forms developed for this purpose, as well as making observations and taking photographs. Other volunteers download the GPS data and send it to staff at the Mayne Island Conservancy for analysis.
Mapping general takes place in August, since that is when the kelp is at its peak, and during low tide when it is most visible. Every attempt is made to standardize dates and time, as well as mapping protocols.
If you are handy with a canoe or kayak and are interested in participating in the mapping this summer, please contact us. This commitment involves a 4-hour day of training, and two to three 4-hour days of mapping in the summer. We map for two hours, one hour before and one hour after the lowest low tide. Since it takes a while to launch and get out the beds, the process is usually 4 hours per mapping day.
AVIAN ECOLOGY PROJECTS
The Pender Islands Conservancy maintains several avian ecology research and monitoring programs, including:
Studies of migratory aerial insectivores (violet-green swallows, purple martins)
Forest-dwelling resident songbirds (chestnut-backed chickadees) breeding in nest boxes
A community-wide barn swallow nest mapping project.
Our local citizen scientists assist with nest box monitoring--and for chickadees, colour band re-sighting--to document timing of breeding and bird survival over time. Our barn swallow nest mappers work with local landowners to locate and protect active nests of this federally listed and threatened species on our islands.
Through these research projects, the Conservancy will be able to assess the health of our local ecosystems using songbirds as biological indicators, and through long-term monitoring we may be able to detect future effects of climate change on these sensitive island biological communities.
FORAGE FISH RESEARCH PROJECT
Forage fish are various species of small schooling fish that consume plankton and tiny animals floating near the surface, and in turn become food for everything higher in the food chain, such as larger fish, seabirds, and marine mammals, including whales. They are a crucial food source for all ocean wildlife, and thus are of enormous and ecological and economic importance. Unfortunately, these little fish are very vulnerable to overfishing, changing ocean conditions and habitat loss due to shoreline development.
Pender Islands Conservancy volunteers, under the guidance of forage fish expert Ramona de Graaf, surveyed several beaches on Pender Island from 2011 to 2017 for evidence of forage fish spawning. In 2014 it was confirmed that surf smelt were spawning on Medicine Beach and sand lance on Mortimer Spit.
The project is being renewed for 2020 with the assistance of Haley Tomlin, B.Sc and her team from the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute at Vancouver Island University.
Monitors take samples and record data at beaches that have appropriate characteristics for forage fish spawning. These samples are then studied for evidence of forage fish eggs and thus verify spawning activity.
There was great excitement in 2014 when positive samples were found for winter smelt at Medicine Beach, and for sand lance at Mortimer Spit. The winter smelt finding was especially thrilling as it is so rare an occurrence. Both depend on nearshore habitat for their survival, but also require eelgrass beds and kelp forests for rearing their juveniles.
Monitoring takes place on the nearshore, and consists of selection of sites, collecting bulk samples of beach material which are screened three times using successively finer screens, scooping into sample jars and adding preservatives and labels.
Data collected includes: characteristics of the sample station, tides, weather, photos and sketches of the area. In the past, samples and the data sheets were sent to biologist Ramona de Graaf, who analyzed the samples and records the data. She recorded positive samples are then recorded in the Forage Fish Atlas. In 2020 we will be partnering with Haley and her colleagues.
The Pender Islands Conservancy Association is very thankful to our wonderful volunteers without whom this research could not take place. New volunteers are most welcome. For more information contact us.
If you cannot volunteer, you can still help by assisting in caring for our beaches and encouraging others to do so. You can remove litter you see when you walk the beach, pick up after your pet, and refrain from driving on the beach, moving logs, or otherwise disturbing the beach surface under which the forage fish spawn. (Although serious disturbance of beaches, such as driving over them to launch boats, greatly impact their survival, light use, such as beach walking, does little or no damage to the hatching process).
For more information on forage fish monitoring and the history of this project, click here.
Land Stewardship Activities
MEDICINE BEACH STEWARDSHIP
The Pender Islands Conservancy Association acts as stewards for the Islands Trust Conservancy to manage and care for the Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary. As stewards, Conservancy representatives check the beach and sanctuary on a regular basis, makes reports, and help to address any issues. For example, on January 1st 2018, a derelict boat washed up on the beach and against the berm that protects the vulnerable marsh at Medicine Beach. Since many different government agencies, both Federal and Provincial, oversee the area, it took many months and numerous calls and emails to address getting the boat removed. After 18 long months, the boat was finally removed by the Dead Boat Society, under a grant by the Federal government.
Volunteer opportunities in Land Stewardship include:
Join the Pender Conservancy Land Stewardship Committee
Participate in covenant monitoring and reporting activities
Visit the Medicine Beach Sanctuary regularly and report your observations
If you are interested in any of these volunteer opportunities, please contact us.
Covenants are a way that landowners can protect environmentally sensitive areas of their land from development or exploitation in perpetuity. They are explained in detail in our section on Protecting Your Land.
Once a covenant has been established, it is monitored jointly by representatives of the Islands Trust Conservancy and the Pender Conservancy.
Each year a specialist, usually a professional biologist hired by the Islands Trust Conservancy, comes to Pender Island to inspect the covenants. A Pender Island Conservancy Association board member or staff person accompanies the inspector to the covenants.
Education & Information Activities
HABITAT CONSULTATION FOR LANDOWNERS
Land owners who wish to learn more about the plants and creatures that inhabit their property can arrange to have a biologist come and walk their property with them, pointing out flora and fauna and special features that may be found on their land. They can also get information on dealing with invasive species and discuss gardening with native plants, etc. Interested? Contact us.
CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT FOR KIDS (CBC4KIDS)
The CBC4Kids is a free, family-friendly holiday event, now in its 6th year on the Pender Islands. Held mostly outdoors, this is a fun winter birdwatching event that engages youth in real citizen science. Small groups of children are paired with volunteer bird mentors, and scatter to find, identify and count the wild birds in our naturehood. Anything feathered and flying, perching or swimming, counts. Once we regather, our bird lists are tallied, and we have a good quack about what we’ve seen. All data collected is submitted to Birds Canada, contributing to the longest-running Citizen Science effort in North America.
Each year there is a different theme, and sometimes there are special guests. The theme in 2020 was migration, and we learned about which birds stay on Pender all year round, and which birds arrive or head somewhere else for the winter. In 2019, for our fifth anniversary, the theme was raptors, and the Duncan Raptor Centre brought a Harris’s hawk, a peregrine falcon and a spectacled owl to the delight of all the participants young and old.
Bird Studies Canada promotes Christmas Bird Count for Kids events right across Canada. In our community, the event is financially supported by the Pender Island Field Naturalists and the Pender Islands Conservancy Association. Many thanks go to the volunteer organizers and bird mentors, who give their time and expertise to share their enthusiasm for birding with our young people.
The Pender Conservancy and the Islands Trust Fund placed an education kiosk at Medicine Beach in 2018. The Conservancy is now developing a series of education kiosks along the community path extending from the Community Hall to the Driftwood Shopping Centre.
We launched this initiative in 2020 with a barn swallow/aerial insectivore education kiosk installation across from the Driftwood Centre. Future installations will provide information about the ecology and conservation priority of Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystems, wetlands, and landscaping with native plants.
EDUCATIONAL SEMINARS & PRESENTATIONS
The Pender Island Conservancy understands the importance of education about ecology, habitat, and environmental issues. Thus, we provide education in a variety of ways, including hosting or co-sponsoring educational seminars and presentations, providing information displays at community events, and writing articles for the local newsletter, The Pender Post. We also include summaries of research or environmental projects and give suggested readings in our newsletter “Sea to Cedars”. Contact us to find out more.
The Conservancy is involved in a variety of educational initiatives that support our goals. In the spring of 2020, we participated in the ṮEṮÁĆES Climate Action Project, in which three five-day courses explored the relationship of Traditional Indigenous knowledge and culture with the latest Climate Science around the Salish Sea.
For the course on Youth Leadership for Climate Action, Conservancy President Graham Boffey, Board member Dean Mills, and Sea Change partner Nikki Wright facilitated three learning stations at Medicine Beach in which eighteen youth from around the Salish Sea were introduced to possibilities for youth action projects to support the protection of sensitive ecological environments.
Three Conservancy representatives also participated in the course on Climate Change in the Salish Sea Archipelago, led by course instructor Deb Morrison. This session featured opportunities to learn about the traditional history of the Medicine Beach Sanctuary from W̱SÁNEĆ course facilitators, who described how the area was both a source of medicines and an important spiritual location for Indigenous peoples of the Salish Sea.
Graham Boffey provided information about the more recent history of the Sanctuary and the challenges to preserving and protecting the area in the face of increasing human pressures and climate change.
Preparing for these educational activities involved extensive collaboration. We especially thank Paul Petrie of the ṮEṮÁĆES Steering Group, Nikki Wright of Sea Change, and Julie Johnston, Climate Action educator, for their guidance during the planning process.
For information about educational events, click here.