The Salish Sea is a transboundary bioregion of global ecological and cultural significance, host to a diverse range of terrestrial and marine ecosystems as well as a growing human population. This region includes Canada’s rarest ecosystems, hosting the highest density of species at risk in BC. It is also highly developed, with certain areas comprising as much as 80% private property.
Increasing development in this region places the stewardship of globally precious ecosystems in the hands of private landowners, underlining a critical need for localized citizen science initiatives to raise awareness for this region’s unique ecology. The conservation of this region at once presents unique challenges for research collaborations and conservation strategies that must extend across political boundaries.
Harnessing the momentum of ongoing community-based biodiversity research, our initiative has enlisted a team of researchers in a biogeographic study of this region of critical conservation concern, including taxonomic experts, resident citizen scientists, and curators of biodiversity projects in several communities in British Columbia, CA, and Washington, USA.
By engaging individuals in this research program, we hope to inspire them to take on stewardship roles as curators of their own biodiversity projects, contributing to an interactive bioregional database that integrates with iNaturalist.
This project will engage some of the region’s most prominent naturalists, research institutes
and an international team of computer scientists, resulting in:
WWU’s Transboundary Initiatives include the Center for Canadian-American Studies (founded in 1971), the Border Policy Research Institute (founded in 2005), and the Salish Sea Institute. The university launched the Salish Sea Institute in the fall of 2015 in response to an unmet need for ongoing dialogue and action regarding the health of the Salish Sea. A diverse group of concerned citizens identified this critical gap, including representatives of tribes and First Nations and numerous institutions and organizations in Washington State and British Columbia. The Salish Sea Institute addresses this need for ongoing and respectful dialogue and action by providing a structure for scholarly collaboration across boundaries of culture and political geography.
Dr. Baloy works closely with the director of the Salish Sea Institute, Ginny Broadhurst, along with WWU faculty, staff, and students and beyond campus partners to develop place-based curricula, research, and events for students to explore the environment, history, and communities of the Salish Sea. This work aims to foster a sense of place and raise awareness of the value of the Salish Sea and the issues that threaten its health. In addition to serving as the administrative home for the biennial Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference, the Institute hosts gathering to cultivate collaborative governance and protection of the Salish Sea. The mission of the Salish Sea Institute is to foster responsible stewardship of the Salish Sea, inspiring and informing its protection for the benefit of current and future generations.
In Fall 2019, the Salish Sea Institute is launching a new multidisciplinary program of study at Western Washington University called Salish Sea Studies.
Dr. Baloy’s social science background and cross-border personal and professional experience will enhance this project’s multidisciplinary team, and provides a strong foundation for the new Salish Sea Studies courses that will be offered at WWU and Whatcom Community College with links to this project. Additionally, through Director Ginny Broadhurst’s long career working in environmental nonprofits and agencies in the Salish Sea, she has developed a large network of environmental nonprofit leaders, environmental agency staff, and Salish Sea enthusiasts. Combined with Dr. Baloy’s expanding academic network on both sides of the border, the Salish Sea Institute hopes to be able to mobilize a powerful group of people ranging from governmental leaders, educators, and students to access and use the wealth of biodiversity resources this project will create.
Antranig is currently collaborating with Philip Tchernavskij of Université Paris-Sud, investigating the role of biodiversity information networks such as iNaturalist in serving the needs of local communities, with a focus on the applications of biodiversity data for conservation and natural history education. Toward this end they have been conducting semi-structured interviews with project stakeholders, outlining their various interests and goals, including those of overarching organizations such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). This research program is intended to frame the difficulties that current software integration technologies pose for smaller-scale groups, proposing the implementation of user-friendly, versatile and collaborative tools that can interface with existing frameworks such as iNaturalist.
Antranig has extensive experience with Bayesian and Frequentist statistical inference, data visualization, machine learning, and accessible web development, which will be enthusiastically deployed to produce attractive, accessible and innovative visualisations and statistical tools, bringing together the worlds of citizen scientists and professional researchers.
Charlie continues to maintain and enhance his software by adding new features on request to enable increasingly powerful searches of the dive logs, and to assist Donna in curating the database, which is the basis for Andy Lamb's Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest.
In her work, Donna currently focuses on photo-documenting marine organisms in Howe Sound and on training less experienced divers in marine taxonomy. Donna curates the Pacific Marine Life Surveys database in partnership with Ocean Wise and the Coastal Ocean Research Institute.
Dr. Gibson has authored or co-authored 18 refereed publications which have been cited over 1200 times. He has served as an executive board member with the Entomological Society of Ontario (President) and the Biological Survey of Canada (Secretary). He has served as a scientific reviewer for NSERC, Agriculture Canada, and dozens of scientific journals. For three years, he acted as Project Manager for the $3million Genome Canada-funded “Biomonitoring 2.0” project.
Throughout his career, Dr. Gibson has had the chance to study and collect insects in Hawaii, northern California, Argentina, Costa Rica, Thailand, and the Smoky Mountains. He has visited and worked in museums and insect collections in San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, Toronto, and Montreal. His current research focuses on the insects that inhabit the shore lines, forests, grasslands, mountain tops, and urban spaces of British Columbia. He is seeking to develop greater understanding of the unique insect species (especially flies) that inhabit the Pacific coast.
As a part of this project, Dr. Gibson will provide insight into insect collection and identification. He will transfer his skills in efficient trapping and preparation of insect specimens as part of a large-scale, but minimally-invasive survey. He will also work with project collaborators and community members to develop insect identification skills. As curator of the Entomology collection at the Royal BC Museum, he will also work with project collaborators and museum curators to develop protocols for long-term preservation and display of botanical and insect specimens collected through this initiative.
On moving to Canada Scott’s passion for taxonomy broadened to even more groups. After working as a postdoctoral fellow at Agriculture and Agrifoods Canada on early genetic barcode feasibility studies of Fusarium fungi, he then pursued his postdoctoral fellowship at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, working on the genetics and taxonomy of the highly diverse fish parasites in the genus Gyrodactylus and other pathogens of shellfish.
Scott currently combines his knowledge of genetics and taxonomy as the barcode collections manager at the Pacific Biological Station, a research department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Here he has worked on projects involving marine molluscs and bivalves, benthic invertebrates, freshwater fish and monitoring for marine invasive species, in particular tunicates and bryozoans. He is involved in cutting edge research using genetic tools to non-invasively monitor species at risk and offer early detection of aquatic invasive species.
At home, Scott runs the Lantzville Biodiversity and the Beetles of British Columbia iNaturalist projects. Insects, in particular beetles, are his main interest, and he takes the skills he has acquired collecting and studying these groups to participate in regional bioblitzen. Scott enjoys studying the diversity of life right outside his backdoor, sharing the amazing things he discovers with others to inspire their own backyard investigations. He has led walks and given talks at schools in Lantzville and Whistler, BC and is an avid identifier for the Australian biodiversity app Questagame.
Scott has published close to 30 articles as part of his professional career and recently had his first beetle paper accepted for publication.
Scott’s understanding of the importance of classical taxonomy and collections, combined with an acute knowledge of the genetic revolution and its role in biodiversity research, as well as the major contributions that can be made by citizens scientists, makes him well positioned to connect the worlds of academics and community-based research, to enhance knowledge and the enjoyment of learning at all levels.
In 2011 Judith took up residence in Squamish, BC, where she initiated the Biodiversity Squamish project, an iNaturalist project based around the boundary of the Howe Sound watershed. Judith remains devoted to the cause of many environmental groups in Squamish, motivated by a lifetime of experience as an educator and botanist with a passion for the natural environment. Her favourite past-time is making expeditions to sample vascular plants in subalpine and alpine communities of the Coast Ranges, which make-up a breath-taking and vibrant component of the Salish Sea’s biodiversity.
As a SCUBA enthusiast (NAUI, 1967), Andy has completed 3,790 logged dives, featuring detailed marine life documentation. This documentation has been organized in a digital data base managed by Oceanwise (Vancouver Aquarium) and it is readily made available to environmental conservation groups. From 1975 to 1995, Andy created and taught a ten week Marine Life Identification course for SCUBA divers. He is a co-author of Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest (including a routinely updated and increasing online version) and Coastal Fishes of the Pacific Northwest (both with Harbour Publishing). In 2016, he co-authored a condensed version of the latter, A Field Guide to the Common Fishes of the Pacific Northwest, also by Harbour Publishing.
For his work as a marine naturalist, Andy has received many honours. In a 2013 paper in ZooKeys, Dr. Gary Williams honored Andy with the name Gersemia lambi for a newly described species of Pacific Northwest soft coral. In October, 2016, he was named the Naturalist of the Year, by the Western Society of Naturalists. In June, 2019, Andy received an Honorary Doctor of Education degree from the University of Victoria.
Andy continues to supply popular articles for various publications including a past series in Northwest Dive News. He is actively involved with the Thetis Island elementary school (K to grade seven) via a marine aquarium, beach walks and in class instruction. Andy and his wife Virginia live on Thetis Island where they own and operate Cedar Beach (www.cedar-beach.com) a marine-oriented B&B.
Having gained her Ph.D in Geography from Edinburgh University, Briony was a sessional lecturer at the University of Victoria for 20 years, acting as an innovative teacher dedicated to interdisciplinary learning and communication of environmental issues and science. She has given workshops and lectured widely across British Columbia on natural and cultural history and stewardship, and has played a critical role as a mentor and educator for many young conservationists.
A founding member of The Land Conservancy of BC, Briony has worked with local and provincial environmental and cultural organizations since 1991. She founded the first Garry Oak ecosystem conservation grass roots organization, raising awareness of the ecosystem to national level and resulting in major conservation efforts. This initiative later became known as the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team, which manages research into over 100 federal species at risk. She has also worked as a naturalist with award-winning eco tour and educational operators for 25 years.
Briony is an award-winning writer of creative non-fiction books, including 'A Year on the Wild Side: A West Coast Naturalist’s Almanac', 'For the Love of Nature: Solutions for Biodiversity', 'Islands of the Salish Sea: A Community Atlas', the 'Salish Sea Teacher’s Handbook' and 'Backyard Biodiversity and Beyond: Elementary Teacher’s Guide to Biodiversity in British Columbia'. She has been a feature writer and columnist with over five hundred articles on environmental issues and natural history in newspapers, magazines, government publications, online news sources and peer-reviewed journals. She is also a contributor to many anthologies and chapter books, including the national award-winning 'Northern Wild: Canadian Contemporary Nature Writing'. Her recent award winning, 'The Real Thing: The Natural History of Ian McTaggart Cowan', documents the fascinating and important history of naturalist practice and biodiversity study across North America. The subsequent book tour and CBC Ideas show 'The Bison and the ‘B’' received positive feedback from across the country about the relevance of this discussion in today’s climate.
A pioneer of ‘community mapping,’ Briony has created numerous artistic community maps that have been published across North America and Europe, including across coastal BC and western USA as a team member for the Salish Sea Mapping Project. She has also developed exhibits and signage for many parks and museums and is the recipient of many awards, including the national Environmental Learning Award from Canadian Geographic.
A researcher with demonstrated leadership in community engagement for action research and communicating science, Briony has conducted baseline inventories for conservation covenants, First Nation’s tribal parks, carbon offset programs, and ecosystem-based management plans. In 2006-2007, she collaborated on a socio-economic and ecological baseline study, synthesis and public outreach package for the proposed Southern Gulf Island Marine Protected Area (Parks Canada). In 2011, she coordinated the Burgoyne Bay/Xwaaqu’um bioblitz with local naturalists and the public. She is currently supporting elders on their cultural eco-restoration plan for Xwaaqw'um.
In 2019 Andrew was recognized with an Islands Trust Community Stewardship Award for his work as curator of the Biodiversity Galiano project (www.biogaliano.org ). This project was born out of Andrew’s undergraduate honours thesis, which was initially intended as a field guide to a place on Galiano Island. This year-long project quickly expanded in scope to include the rest of the island, motivating island residents in a sustained effort to document the island biodiversity using iNaturalist. The project has since engaged more than 200 local residents and inspired several other biodiversity projects in the region, serving as a model for community-based biodiversity research.
Through these ongoing initiatives Andrew has developed keen insight into the conservation problems facing the place he now calls home. Since 2010 he has worked alongside regional conservation groups, First Nations, and island residents, building common ground for the cause of conservation. To this day he remains dedicated to the project of improving community-based biodiversity research in a globally precious bioregion under increasing development pressure.
Andrew has amassed a private collection of over 12,000 insect, plant, lichen, and bryophyte specimens, and has organized and participated in multiple bioblitzen, including a recent terrestrial bioblitz on Calvert Island organized by the Hakai Institute. He is currently collaborating with over 30 specialists on a muli-taxonomic data paper for Galiano Island, summarizing approximately 3,500 taxa recorded through formal scientific and contemporary citizen science research efforts.
Andrew is currently pursuing his MSc at the University of Victoria, researching the implications of seasonal drought for plant and pollinator communities in the southern Gulf Islands of BC, and is employed as Stewardship Coordinator for the Mayne Island Conservancy. As a graduate student in the Starzomski Lab, he also assists an iNaturalist-based biodiversity mapping project funded by BC Parks, to engage young naturalists in an inventory of BC’s protected areas. His research is funded by the BC Parks Living Labs program and the Starzomski Lab at the UVic School of Environmental Studies. He (‘chlorophilia’) is currently among the top contributors to iNaturalist within the province of BC.