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.

Eelgrass Restoration

Eelgrass Restoration Underway in Cowichan Bay

 

Cowichan Tribes, with support from the federal Coastal Restoration Fund, has teamed up with the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre to re-plant eelgrass in the Cowichan Estuary for a second year.  Eelgrass restoration is overseen by a team of eelgrass aficionados from SeaChange Marine Conservation Society. They will work with SCUBA divers and community volunteers to replant the northern area of the estuary. If all goes well, salmon will have a meadow to find shelter and food as they leave the river system or return home.

“For many years the northern side of the estuary has been lacking eelgrass while the southern side near Hecate Park has continued to thrive” said Chief Seymour of the Cowichan Tribes. “In historic times the elders tell of fields of eelgrass across the whole estuary where they raked crabs and harvested seafood. When the tide was out the table was set”.

The team will re-plant two areas on the northern end to supplement plants installed in June 2019 with the support of volunteers. The transplants from last year did fairly well, considering the big rain storm in late January, 2020. The sites will be monitored every 2 months to see how they fare this coming winter.

The Estuary Project including eelgrass restoration is a component of a larger CRF award of $2.7M for 5 years of restoration work on three different projects (Estuary Restoration, Riparian Restoration and Stoltz Sediment Remediation). During the first two years of the Estuary Project, Cowichan Tribes and Industry partners focused on completed a second breach of the WesCan Terminal Causeway and historic railway to reconnect the Cowichan River to the southern side of the estuary.  Studies were also completed to narrow down limiting factors to eelgrass growth in the estuary and to identify suitable areas to try replanting.  In 2019, we collectively transplanted 5,000 shoots. This year we are aiming for 6,000. The shoots are harvested from the southern end of the bay, which continues to do well.

Replanting will take place from August 24th through 29th.

Volunteers are needed to tie weights onto the eelgrass donor plants to ready them for the divers to restore the estuary.  We will meet at Hecate Park for 2 hour shifts, beginning at 9:30 am daily. We will follow a Safety Plan to keep everyone safe and comfortable.

For more information and to sign up, contact Nikki Wright (SeaChange): 250 652-1662 or email: seachange@shaw.ca

Or contact the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre at 250-597-2288 or email: coordinator@cowichanestuary.ca

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/

2020 Youth Leadership and Team Building Training

2020 Youth Leadership and Team Building Training

We’re hosting our annual Youth Leadership Training, an interactive experiential workshop focusing on inclusion, diversity and shared leadership for youth, online this year. The training will start the evening of Friday May 8th from 6 – 8 pm, and continue Saturday, May 9th from 9 am – noon and 1- 4 pm and take place via Zoom which allows us to break into pairs and small groups.  There will also be breaks to eat lunch and spend some time outside in nature.

Led by Leadership and Engagement Organizing Facilitator Peter Gibbs, who has tons of both in-person and on-line facilitation experience working with young people, budding change-makers will have lots of opportunities to learn and practice leadership and team building skills.

The cost is $15 and we have bursaries available.  Just tell us why you’d like to attend.

The day will honour First Nations perspectives and offers opportunities to learn about how:

  • our stories tap into shared values, connect us in relationships and create positive change;
  • to build a team to create social and environmental change; and
  • to create a “Theory of Change” and take it out into the world.

It’s going to be an amazing interactive learning-filled day!

There will also be post-workshop opportunities for youth to be out in nature and put their leadership and team building skills into action on water conservation and hands-on watershed restoration projects in the Cowichan and Koksilah Watershed – and to get volunteer credits for school once we are able to gather again.

How to Register

Time: Friday, 6-8 pm and Saturday, 9 am-noon and 1-4 pm

Cost: $15 per person. We don’t want cost to keep young people from attending. We have bursaries available for those in need.

Email admin@cowichanestuary.ca and let us know if you need a bursary.

Register via eventbrite here

Water use restricted on Koksilah River to protect fish populations

“The Province is restricting water use by select users on the Koksilah River to protect fish populations, which are under threat due to low water flows in the river.

The Koksilah River is located south of Duncan on Vancouver Island and supports significant aquatic ecosystems and fish species, including steelhead, coho salmon and trout. These fish populations are important to local First Nations and provide economic benefits.

Ministry biologists have determined that current flow levels are so low that habitat conditions are severely degraded and fish populations may be threatened. The flow of water in the Koksilah River has dropped below 180 litres per second (less than 2% of mean annual discharge) and may be trending downward.

From now until Sept. 30, 2019, specified licences that authorize water use directly from the Koksilah River and its tributaries, and users of wells in aquifers that are hydraulically connected to the river, must cease all diversion and use of water for industrial purposes and for irrigation of forage crops, such as hay and corn.

Ministry staff will be conducting compliance checks in the Koksilah River watershed for the duration of the fish population protection order.

By restricting water use for irrigation of forage crops, such as hay and corn, but allowing water use for stock watering and irrigation of perennial crops and vegetables, water flows should be restored to a level sufficient to maintain fish populations while minimizing effects on users, such as the agricultural sector.

Steps toward developing a water sustainability plan for the Koksilah River watershed are being taken, which is anticipated to help with overall water management in the area. In the event water flows recover to above 180 litres per second on a sustained basis following any significant precipitation events, the Province may revoke the order.”

 

Source: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2019FLNR0215-001616

Celebrating Water – Beer And Burger Fundraiser at Cow Bay Pub

Celebrating WATER- Rejoice together in the gift of Water and support The Work of The Cowichan Nature Centre, with an evening of songs, stories, and memories about Water- plus beer and burgers!

We’re gearing up for a busy fall season of nature education and restoration and need YOUR help.

Join us for a Beer & Burger fundraiser at the Cow Bay Pub featuring great food, a silent auction, fantastic live music from Paul Ruszel AND storytelling from local naturalists and nature lovers all in Celebration of WATER

Do you have a local Water story to share? It can be personal, epic or amusing, poem, song or story – email alicia@cowichanestuary.ca before September 20th and be included in the storytelling circle.

Don’t miss our silent auction featuring local art, gift certificates from local businesses, and more.

Tickets includes a burger (chicken, beef, or veggie), side of fries or salad, and a drink (domestic beer, wine, or cider).

$25 per ticket, available online, or at Volume One Books, the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre (1845 Cowichan Bay Road).

An evening of stories, music, a silent auction, and delicious food – all for a good cause! Hope to see you there!

All proceeds will support local nature education and restoration at the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre.

Volunteer Open House BBQ!

Volunteer Open House BBQ!

This August 21st we are having an Open House BBQ for past, present and potential Volunteers. 

Ever considered helping guide students as they explore the shorelines, hand out binoculars to community members so they can watch Osprey nesting, participate in watershed restoration projects? Well, this August might be your chance to learn more about how to get started.

Invite is by RSVP, if you are interested in joining us for a Volunteer BBQ and learning about volunteering at the Nature Centre, email info@cowichanestuary.ca for details. 

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