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!

Restoration Workshop with Dave Polster

Do you want to help restore wild spaces? To feel a part of nature, your community and make a difference? Join us for a 1.5 day workshop.







Workshop Details:


Day 1 online, using Zoom, focusing on theory (1-5pm) *sounds long but Dave’s presentation is very engaging and there will be a break midway through!*

Day 2 will be spent in the field  (9-3pm)

ALL AGES. minors 16 and under must be accompanied by a parent/guardian.

This is a 1.5 day workshop to learn and refine skills in the field of Ecological Restoration. By renewing and restoring degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems and habitats in the environment we will work as a group to learn the skills and transfer them into key techniques out in the field.

The goal is to bring together people who are already working in the field of restoration or are excited to learn more about it. No experience is necessary for this course.

The first day will be spent on Zoom setting the context. The second day we will travel to a field site (likely Stoltz Bluffs – but TBD) and take part in learning some key bioengineering techniques to enhance the success of restoration projects.

Our teacher, David Polster, is a plant ecologist with over 35 years of experience in vegetation studies, reclamation and invasive species management. He graduated from the University of Victoria with an Honours Bachelor of Science degree in 1975 and a Master of Science degree in 1977. He has developed a wide variety of reclamation techniques for mines, industrial developments and steep/unstable slopes as well as techniques for the re-establishment of riparian and aquatic habitats. He has authored numerous papers and teaches graduate level courses on these topics.


Cost: $89 per person (includes Dave’s restoration workbook)



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.

Honouring Eric Marshall’s 90th Birthday!

The Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre is proud to honour Eric Marshall in the event of his 90th birthday!

We are hosting a drop-in birthday “party” at the Nature Centre to celebrate a lifetime of dedication to nature and community. Come and drop by to speak with Eric and Dorothy, view a slideshow of images from his adventures and community work and tour the Nature Centre.

In lieu of gifts Eric is asking that you consider making a donation to the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre. Click the link below to be redirected to our Canada Helps donation Page.  On behalf of Eric and the Nature Centre, thank you for your donation.

Donate to Eric’s 90th Restoration and Nature Education Fund

We look forward to seeing you here!



Eelgrass Restoration – New Dates: September 27th- 30th

Eelgrass Restoration Underway in Cowichan Bay – September 27th to 30th


Cowichan Tribes, with support from the federal Coastal Restoration Fund, has teamed up with Sea Change Marine Conservation Society and the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre to re-plant eelgrass in the Cowichan Estuary for a third year.  Eelgrass restoration is overseen by a team of eelgrass aficionados from SeaChange. They will work with SCUBA divers and community volunteers to replant the northern area of the estuary. If all goes well, salmon will have an expanded 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 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 WestCan 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 September 27th to 30th

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: nikki@seachangelife.org


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

100 Men Who Care Donation!

A Big Win for Environmental Education!

100 Men Who Care Cowichan Valley have donated $11, 261 to the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre!

100 Men Who Care Cowichan Valley are an organization of men who meet quarterly to socialize, learn about local needs, and provide pooled funding to selected charities.

As proud recipients of their donation of $11, 261 the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre has many plans to put to good use these generously donated funds.

The Nature Centre’s mission is to engage the public – especially children and youths – in understanding natural systems and to foster stewardship.  We have a saltwater touch tank, watershed model, microscopes birdwatching telescope, and more.  Over 5000 visitors a year walk through the doors. Funds made available to 100 Men Who Care will be used to look after our vibrant Nature Centre, improve information displays and create new and exciting interactive displays and media.

In the spring and fall of 2019 over 1000 students came with their classes to the Centre for science-oriented programs and about 100 children came to summer day camps.  The Centre aims to double its hands-on watershed restoration work this coming spring, summer, and fall.  Transportation funding will enable more of these experiences, especially for students from low-income neighbourhoods. Funds to provide partial or full scholarship for students or youth in need will be used to expand our environmental outreach to those groups of society who are otherwise unable to take part in our programming due to the simple barrier of cost.

A massive thank you to 100 Men Who Care! You have each made a difference for children and nature in the Cowichan Valley!

Spring Break Restoration Camp – Cancelled

Spring Break Watershed Restoration Camp – Mar 19th & 20th – Cancelled


We are sad to announce that the Restoration March Break Camp scheduled for Thursday and Friday, March 19th and 20th, is now CANCELLED, consistent with increasing Corona virus health advisories.

Saturday’s World Planting Day on the lower Cowichan River is also CANCELLED.  We have made these decisions in consultation with our leader team and our restoration partner, the BC Conservation Foundation (BCCF).

We are looking forward to rescheduling the restoration camp on a weekend in June (watch for dates)  and will be working with BCCF and the Earth Guardians – Cowichan Valley to reschedule the World Planting/Restoration Day on the same beautiful site on the North Arm of  Cowichan River in the late spring or early summer, when we hope that our contribution to “flattening the curve of the Corona Virus” will again be allowing us to gather together in nature.

Stay tunes for these upcoming events – there will be opportunities for children and youth to get outdoors, soak up the beauty and joy of nature, and make a difference in the Cowichan Watershed by putting on their gloves and boots and getting to work with our education team, restoration biologist David Polster at Stoltz Bluff, and with BCCF biologist Danny Swainson where the North Arm of the Cowichan meets the Estuary.

Participants will learn about and explore native vegetation, river ecology and learn about planting native species and about the process of “live-staking” for restoring watersheds.  Children and youth will come home with new skills and inspired by nature and their experience of working together to restore a natural ecosystem!  It will happen!  And in the meantime wash you hands and take care of each other.

Questions?  Contact sierra@cowichanestuary.ca. Or phone:  250-597-2288

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