Eelgrass Restoration Sept 27th – 29th

JOIN US TO HELP TRANSPLANT AND RESTORE EELGRASS IN OUR INTERTIDAL ZONE

Last month the Eelgrass Restoration event was cancelled due to unsafe levels of Enterococci in the Estuary due to the large shellfish die-off during the June heat dome.
The event is rescheduled for September 27th-29th and we’re looking for volunteers! It’s easy to learn to tie the rhizomes for transplanting and create more habitat for salmon fry to grow up in along with other intertidal creatures.  This event is fun, and happens outdoors with appropriate Covid distancing.
Seachange Marine Conservation Society in partnership with Cowichan Tribes and the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre will be hosting this eelgrass transplant event to create and restore eelgrass meadows in the Cowichan Estuary. 
Join us in Hecate Park, Cowichan Bay
Monday, Sept 27th through Wednesday Sept 29th  for  9:30 -11:30 am & 2-4pm shifts
For more information and to sign up to volunteer: call Nikki at 250-652-1662 or Email Nikki@seachangelife.org

 

Jane’s Birthday Youth Watershed Restoration Program Fundraiser – Aug 29th

Party with a Purpose – Celebrate with me & Support our Youth Watershed Restoration Program – Goal  $5000  DONATE

by Jane Kilthei, CENC Board Chair and Nature Centre Volunteer

One Saturday in the late summer of 1951 my parents celebrated their wedding anniversary for the last time (although they remained faithfully together). I showed up that day and have been causing trouble ever since – hopefully mostly “good trouble” of one sort or another.

This summer, I’m turning 70! On Sunday, August 29th from 1 -4 pm, I’m celebrating my birthday in Hecate Park down on the water by the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre and you are invited.   “Masimba Marimba” will play for us – bring your dancing shoes! There will be cold drinks, tea, coffee and cake, AND I’m asking for your support for the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre’s Youth Watershed Restoration Program, so bring your cheque book!

If you can’t make it to the party, you can still donate to support the program via Canada Helps here.  Put “youth restoration program” in the message box. The Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre is a charity, so you’ll get a tax receipt.

It seems I host a “party with a purpose” once every decade ever since I turned 50. In 2011, at 60, it was a party (with MASIMBA, the same wonderful Marimba band) to raise funds for our dream – creating the Estuary Nature Centre. And together we did it!

Since opening our doors in 2012, a big part of the Estuary Nature Centre’s work has been engaging youth in watershed education and restoration projects. Starting in the spring of 2019, with a 26-month Eco-Action grant from Environment and Climate Change Canada and a dedicated restoration staff lead, we were able to scale up that work – engaging more young people in conservation and restoration work over the past two+ years, including throughout the pandemic with Covid protocols in place.

In these times when climate impacts are increasingly affecting ground water, water flows in our rivers and the salmon and the other wildlife who rely on it, this has been important and satisfying work. As our grant funding comes to an end, we’re determined to continue making this ecosystem work a significant priority, as an ongoing youth restoration program with a deepening education component.

To do that, our Goal is to raise $5000 by September 6th. Of course, we’re also writing more grant applications – and most of those we won’t hear about until April or May. Raising $5,000 now means our restoration coordinator can keep the program’s momentum building, without a staffing gap. It also means we can continue offering young people hands-on educational restoration opportunities throughout the fall and into 2022.

This is a program close to my heart. I’ve been privileged to support and mentor young people who are deeply worried about the climate crisis and engaged in organizing Fridays-4-the-Future climate actions. I watch them finding hope and inspiration as they plant native species to restore riparian areas that shade the water for young salmon – making a hands-on difference right now, while they’re also pushing hard on governments at all levels to do what is needed to address the climate emergency.  They inspire me. We also see whole classes of students from local schools find a deeper place of caring for the Earth when they get their hands in the soil to care for her.

So, instead of birthday cards or gifts (what 70-year-old needs more stuff anyway?) I’m asking friends, family, Nature Centre supporters and party goers alike to donate to the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre’s Youth Watershed Restoration Program.

Why this work matters – protecting an important ecosystem & our climate

When I moved to the Cowichan Valley 24 years ago, I feel in love with this beautiful and rich inter-tidal ecosystem.  Living in Cowichan Bay we can watch the estuary daily as it changes with the tides and the seasons.  Trumpeter Swans over-winter here.  There is a Pacific Great Blue Heronry in the ravine across from the Nature Centre that now has more than 100 nests and 200+ herons call it home.  We watch them flying back and forth in the spring bringing sticks to build their nests, hear them squawking at circling eagles to protect their nestlings, and watch them, still as statues, fishing on the tidal flats.  There’s a Heron cam on our website where you can watch them nesting and raising their babies between mid-February and mid-July from any place in the world. Most of all the Nature Centre provides a place where people of all ages can get engaged, learn about and fall in love with the estuary, which means they then care for and act to protect this special place and the two watersheds, the Cowichan and Koksilah, that meet here.

Climate Change & the Big Picture

The science about our rising greenhouse gas emissions and the dangers of our changing climate have been known for at least half a century. By the 1980’s I knew a lot of really smart people who were working on the problem. That was when Larry and I were training to be midwives and working to bring midwifery into Canada’s public health care system to protect women’s access to safe, compassionate maternity care, plus raising two kids.

Somewhere around 2004, I realized that the climate crisis was basically getting more and more out of control – emissions rising and climate destabilization happening far faster than science had predicted, international treaty processes stalled, political leaders with their heads in the sand and the fossil fuel industry carrying on like there was no tomorrow – which is unfortunately still pretty much the case. I dove in and read 50 plus books on climate science and countless journal articles, and saw how the climate crisis affected pretty much everything else the supported life on Earth.

I feel very connected to this next generation, not only because of my own two kids, but also from 32 years of working in midwifery, with mothers birthing 100s of babies into my hands. I wake up at night worrying about their future on this planet with its rapidly rising temperatures, more and more destructive storms and wildfires, increasing health risks and displacing vulnerable people.  So, what to do?  And what has the climate crisis got to do with our very local initiative to protect the Cowichan Estuary?

The foundation of the estuary ecosystem is eelgrass, which provides a vital nursery for juvenile salmon and other marine life.  Eelgrass meadows are also incredibly efficient at sequestering carbon.  A Sierra Club of BC report highlighted the urgency of protecting seagrass meadows, at risk of disappearing just as our ancient forests are.  In BC estuarine seagrass habitats, with the top-ranking ones for carbon storage located on the coast of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, store enough carbon to balance the emissions of 200,000 passenger cars per year.  Marine zoologist and paleo-climatologist Dr. Colin Campbell, says eelgrass meadows are “probably the most efficient carbon removal mechanism on Earth”.   Every year we are privileged to host and support Nikki Wright and the Sea Change Marine Conservation Society doing eelgrass restoration in the Cowichan Estuary and Genoa Bay to enhance habitat for the salmon, birds and marine mammals who call this intertidal ecosystem home – and also for our children, who need a planet with a stable climate to call home.

Despite our local efforts and those of many others taken over the past decade there is still much to do.  Fossil fuel-burning and our country’s emissions continue to accelerate. We do have the technology to move away from fossil fuels. Indigenous wisdom and western science can together guide us in protecting the ecosystems that support life here on Earth.  I believe we know the social, economic and infrastructure changes and the collaborative processes needed to navigate this existential crisis. We are in a climate emergency.  Our young people are raising their voices, yet governments at all levels around the world are not yet doing enough of what is needed at the emergency pace needed. There are many ways to get involved. We all have a role to play.  Supporting young people in doing conservation and restoration work in our climate-challenged watersheds is one way you can make a difference. Every action matters.

Come to the Party!  – Bring your partner, spouse and kids, and help me celebrate another decade of life on this wonderful blue planet – and bring your cheque book to help keep it that way!  Or donate here.

Date:               Sunday, August 29th, 2021

Time:               1 pm to 4pm

Treats:             Cold Drinks, Tea Coffee and Cake

Fun:                 Danceable Marimba with MASIMBA starting around 1pm

Place:              Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre,

RSVP to jane@cowichanestuary.ca, especially if you’d like a map

For out-of-towners wishing a longer stay in the Cowichan Valley, the Wessex Inn is across the road from the Centre near the Heronry, the Ocean Front Suites are just down the road and there are many bed and breakfast options available nearby – booking in advance a good idea.

Drip Irrigation Workshop in the Koksilah Watershed – July 24th, 9am – 1pm

Hands-on DRIP IRRIGATION WORKSHOP – Back by popular demand!
We are going to build a drip irrigation system from the ground up in the Koksilah Watershed!
Saturday, July 24th, – 9 am -1pm
Ages: Adults and Youth 15 and up. The workshop is limited to 15 people so we can effectively social distance for the full workshop.
Register for your spot soon!
This 1-day workshop will support you to learn or refine skills in building a drip irrigation system. Permaculture expert, Jason Greenwood from Greenwood Earthcare, will lead us in building a drip irrigation water system together to learn the skills to each build our own in our own backyards. Drip irrigation saves you money, time and most of all water, which is a scarce resource here in our Valley in the summer months when gardening!  Water-saving gardening also means gardening without guilt, because you can be confident you are protecting our aquifers and salmon bearing streams. Jason is a Permaculture Designer, Earth Care Provider & teacher with lots of experience with drip irrigation systems and he’s passionate about re-connecting people with the power of nature and plant allies.
Cost: free – you donations are gratefully accepted. Our goal is to help you be a watershed warrior and conserve water without barriers!
Closer to the event you will be sent the details of the workshop location in the Koksilah Watershed near Bright Angel Park. The workshop is outside, so bring your hat, sunscreen and/or rain gear and dress for the weather.
TICKETS: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/drip-irrigation-workshop-grow-your-own-food-save-water-money-tickets-161245273955

2020 Volunteer of the Year Award

2020 Volunteer of the Year Award

We are proud to give our Volunteer of the Year Award for 2020 to Stephen Bishop who we thank for consistently helping us through Covid closures, with school groups and the care and maintenance of our touch tank.  We thank him for building our fantastic display board in the Centre and for bringing in nature themed cards to raise funds for our work. Thanks Stephen, we appreciate you!

Remembering Eric Marshall

Eric on weekly rounds with the Swan & Goose counters – photo Derrick Marven

Eric Marshall lived his life in service to community and the natural world, with a deep knowledge and love of creatures large and small, from the tiniest nudibranch and all things aquatic in the Cowichan Estuary, to birds of all kinds and the giant Humpback Whales that travel up and down our west coast waters. He had a great gift for sharing his knowledge and love with others, to the special delight of children at our touch tank. This love of the natural world was a love he also shared with his wife Dorothy, his long-time partner in his life’s adventures. We celebrated Eric’s 90th Birthday at the Centre on October 25, 2020 and on December 17th he left us. Eric, thank-you for your gifts. We miss you. It is hard to even begin to say how much.

Eric grew up in England. A natural scientist and archivist, he was recruited to come to Winnipeg to create the world-class scientific research collection that bore his name: the Eric Marshall Aquatic Research Library at the Freshwater Institute on the University of Manitoba campus. It was one of seven regional Department of Fisheries and Oceans libraries lost to Ottawa’s cost-cutting in 2013 – a terrible blow not just to Eric, but to the scientific community. The sign from the library, retrieved by his son and brought to Cowichan Bay, was one of the artifacts from his life on display at Eric’s birthday celebration. Eric was our diligent Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre science librarian since we began in 2012.
Eric and Dorothy moved to Cowichan Bay in August 1996. Visiting the floating Marine Ecology Station in Cowichan Bay was early on Eric’s list. As Eric told it, Marine Biologist Bill Austen greeted him and said, “Great to have you as a volunteer – I’m would like to go to a sponge conference in Australia and you can look after the Station while I’m away!” Eric became Treasurer for the Station and when the Station moved to Sidney in 2001, he went with Bill in his boat as it was towed there. He stayed on as Treasurer for a couple of years as the old Board handed over the running of the station to a new one.
When the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre opened in 2012, we were delighted when Eric volunteered his services and joined our Operations Committee. When we became a separate charitable society, Eric was elected to the Board and served as Vice Chair until his death. Eric was a dedicated volunteer docent and teacher at our fresh and salt water aquaria and touch tank, much loved by visitors of all ages, including our many school groups. He took amazing photographs of the animals and plants in the tanks, labelled and put them in a binder which remains a wonderful resource, with those creatures currently in the tanks at the front of the binder and photos of others at the back, ready to bring forward when a new specimen is added. Ever the meticulous science librarian, Eric also prepared notes on each of these creatures to support other volunteers in providing information to visitors. While he was at the touch tank, his wife Dorothy could often be found on the viewing platform with school groups looking at the birds on the Bay, with notes prepared by Eric to assist her in expanding on the life history of our local birds, along with a long piece of cord with key tags marking the wing spans of common birds that Eric prepared to provide a better idea of their sizes. Eric was both our Estuary Nature Centre librarian and a keen photographer for us and for the many other groups of which Eric was a part. Many of his beautiful photos can be found here on our website. We honoured Eric and Dorothy together as volunteers of the year in 2016.
Eric was a member of the Cowichan Valley Naturalists’ Society (CVNS) since arriving in the Valley. He worked with DFO on surveys of juvenile salmonids in the Bay for a number of years, hauling in the seine net while DFO staff counted the fish in the net. Eric was also a regular on the Valley’s November to March weekly swan and goose counts, soon expanded to include raptors, as well as at the Birds Canada waterbird counts taking place monthly from the south shore of Cowichan Bay. In the winter he also made monthly counts of beached birds on the south side of the Bay for Birds Canada and previously, as a volunteer with DFO’s Cetacean Watch, was called out to check beached seal or sea lion bodies washed up in the Bay. In 1997 he became secretary of the CVNS, served as president from 2004-2019, and edited the CVNS newsletter. He represented the Naturalists on the Cowichan Stewardship Round Table, served on the Board of the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society and on an advisory committee for the Cowichan Watershed Board. Eric became a CVNS honorary life member in 2019. In 2019 he also took on the role of “caretaker” for the Cowichan Estuary’s Internationally recognized Important Bird Area.

 

Humpback Whale photo by Eric Marshall

Between 2005 and 2008 Eric and Dorothy spent time each winter in Hawaii working with a humpback whale research team based on Maui monitoring the comeback of the previously endangered humpback whales. The many photographs Eric took of humpback whale tails were added to the Happywhale database and he would regularly receive notices from the system telling him where his whales were seen. Most spend the summer months feeding in Alaska, although three headed to Kamchatka one summer to feed. One of the whales he and Dorothy saw in Hawaii was regularly seen feeding in Alaska and one summer decided to head south to Mexico for a change. Eric provided many informative talks throughout the Valley on the Humpback Comeback.

 

Prior to coming to Canada Eric took part in many amateur dramatic performances. Locally he was part of a CBC reading of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the Cowichan Theatre, as one of those acting out the story on the stage as it was read, and won prizes for his poetry readings at the Cobble Hill Fair. Eric and Dorothy regularly attended Duncan United Church where Eric was an occasional lay reader, deliverer of “The address to the haggis” at the Robby Burns Night dinner and a reader in the Church’s reading of A Christmas Carol. Eric, along with Dorothy, was also a member and volunteer with the Cowichan Historical Society, the Chemainus Theatre, the Cowichan Theatre, the local Friends of the Library Society, and was a teacher/presenter for Elder College, as well as a member of the Elder College Advisory Committee.

Eric receiving his Simple Generosity Award on behalf of the CENC
Eric was a good, kind and generous human being and will be greatly missed.

Thanks to Peter and Everyone who participated in our Online Youth Leadership and Team-building Training!

Are you, or do you know a young person who is a climate activist or passionate about acting on behalf of nature? An evening and a day of interactive online leadership training with dynamite facilitator Peter Gibbs. More info here: http://www.cowichanestuary.ca/2019-youth-leadership-and-team-building-training/

Water Conservation in the Koksilah Watershed – Responding to Climate Disruption

Salvaging salmon fry in the Koksilah River. (photo Genevieve Singleton)

On July 17th, the Nature Centre is partnering with the Cowichan Watershed Board to host an evening on Water Conservation in the increasingly drought challenged Koksilah Watershed. Join us for a solutions-focused community conversation from 6 pm to 9 pm at the Hub in Cowichan Station.

Sierra Robinson, Permaculture Teacher

Speakers Tom Rutherford, fish biologist and Watershed Board Executive Director, and David Slade, Watershed Board member and former President of the BC Groundwater Association, will be joined by 17-year old Sierra Robinson, permaculture teacher, farmer, film-maker and crew-lead for the Cowichan Valley Earth Guardians. Together they will talk about the severe drought conditions in the watershed, the ongoing challenge of climate change and real, on-the-ground water conservation solutions.

“Water conservation is everybody’s responsibility,” says Rutherford, “While it’s easy to point fingers at the big agricultural users, we all have to step up.  We can all be better water stewards.”

A world-café style community conversation will follow the presentations to give residents a chance to share what water conservation efforts are working, what is worth trying and what kind of support is needed to better address the growing water challenges in the Koksilah.

During the evening local gardeners and hobby farmers in the Koksilah Watershed will also have a chance to apply to win one of six free permaculture water conservation garden audits on their property. These will be conducted by local permaculturists Jason Greenwood and Sierra Robinson in August. Those householders participating in garden audits will receive a report with specific water conservation recommendations for their property.

Permaculture is an ecological approach to gardening and food production and one of its most exciting aspects is its approach to water. Permaculture designers use landscape design to conserve and store water while building topsoil. Some permaculture projects have been so successful that they even recharge groundwater supplies.

One of the gardens selected for an audit will also be chosen for a Permaculture Blitz implementing water conservation solutions. This includes both design support from our permaculture experts and a day of hands-on help from a team of young volunteers to work on a water conservation garden transformation this fall.  The team will bring tools and willing hands. The property owner will cover the hard costs, such as the purchase of trees or shrubs.

 

Click HERE to enter to Win A Permaculture Water Conservation Audit

 

The Great Blue Heron Hair-off Fundraiser

You may remember local teacher and environmentalist Jim Wisnia’s 2012 “Pony Up for the Point” campaign when he raised $7500 to help Sansum Point become a protected Regional Park. He had his ponytail cut off on Earth Day at the grand opening of the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre. Well, Jim has been growing his hair since them and he is ready to have a radical hair-cut on behalf of the Estuary Nature Centre and wildlife habitat, with a special focus on our Pacific Great Blue Herons, the fannini subspecies that nest in the ravine near the Centre. Hear the story straight from Jim:

“I’m now conducting a two-month fundraising campaign for the Nature Centre in support of things I value highly: nature education, wildlife monitoring, habitat restoration, community-building, and programs for the advancement of youth.  

The Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre is located on the shore of Cowichan Bay, a designated Important Bird Area where the Cowichan and Koksilah Rivers flow into the ocean.  It is a place where nature lovers meet and share stories.  Nature Centre staff and volunteers offer children marine and watershed science programs on class visits and day camps.  Drop-in visitors can learn from the saltwater touch tank, the juvenile salmon aquarium, the interactive watershed model, the videos of elders’ stories, the bird viewing tower, and the trail-side signs.  Immediately uphill from the Nature Centre is the largest Great Blue Heron nesting colony on Vancouver Island, nourished by the abundant life in the estuary. 

For a few years I’ve been letting my hair grow long.  I’m offering it up on Earth Day (April 22, the Nature Centre’s seventh anniversary) in the “Great Blue Heron Hair-off,” and I’m asking for your tax-deductible contribution to my campaign.  My goal is to raise $9000.  Depending on how much my campaign raises, it will help:

1-  Purchase a live-feed video camera for monitoring the heron nesting colony ($1500)

2-  Support a Restoration Biologist and a Youth Educator in mentoring and teaching a youth group in waterside habitat restoration in ($900)

3-  Bring 15 high-school-age youth to the 2019 Youth Leadership Training: Engagement for Healthy Watersheds ($1500)

4-  Support a day-long Whole Watershed Thinking workshop for youth ($1500)

5-  Bring five children from low-income families to a nature immersion summer science camp ($1100)

6-  Bring five classes from low-income neighbourhoods to the Centre’s nature immersion programming ($1000)

7-  Hire an educator to develop French language nature immersion programming ($1500)

Besides helping us learn more about our Great Blue Heron colony, donated funds will also provide youth scholarships, giving the next generation of leaders the big-picture context and the confidence to undertake hands-on restoration activities and to use their stories to connect with others around shared values, thus strengthening this conservation-minded community.

Donations can be made online at Canada Helps <https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/cowichan-community-land-trust-society/campaign/great-blue-hair-off/>  or send a cheque (noting Great Blue Hair-off) to:  Cowichan Community Land Trust, #6 – 55 Station Street, Duncan, BC  V9L 1M3.

Ken & Donna: 2018 Volunteers of the Year

Coordinator Haley Guest presents Ken and Donna with their 2018 “Volunteers of the Year” certificates

We’d like to introduce Donna Zipse and Ken Bendle, our 2018 “Volunteers of the Year”. Donna and Ken moved to Cowichan Bay from the Prairies just over a year ago and immediately fell in love with the estuary and the Cowichan Bay community.

Long-time volunteer Kerrie Talbot recalls their first day volunteering last year: “It was winter and it was snowing – I mean really snowing. I was ready to put up a ‘Closed’ sign at the Nature Centre when Ken and Donna showed up with smiles on. Like the good prairie folk they are, they jumped right in and shoveled the deck and stairs so that we could stay open safely.”

Donna and Ken are now regular volunteer interpreters at the Centre. They have also become godparents and protectors to all the critters and in our aquarium and touch tanks, researching their needs, making sure they are well fed and keeping an eye on the predator-prey balance in our little indoor ecosystem. During the three and a half day power outage in December they were a core part of the team keeping the critters fed and devising ways to keep their waters oxygenated without power!  On top of all that, they more than their share of keeping the place clean and tidy. Thank-you Ken and Donna!

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