2023 Summer Nature & Science Camp leader positions – apply now!

We are hiring a Summer Camp Coordinator and 2 Camp Leaders for our upcoming 2023 Nature and Science Summer Day Camps! You don’t want to miss an opportunity to be part of this amazing team!

30 hrs/week from mid-June through August.

Our summer nature and science camps creatively engage participants from 5 to 9 years-old (groups of twelve 5-7 or 7-9 year-olds over a 5-day camping experience)i n fun hands-on learning, including arts, crafts, games, mud-digs, beach seines and other science-based activities related to nature, our local estuary, watersheds and ecosystems, conservation and restoration, and citizen science. Games and activities are mostly outdoors, including on the beach, along our estuary interpretive trail and up on our wildlife viewing tower. Indoors we have aquariums and an observation tank with marine and intertidal creatures, microscopes, telescopes. and interactive displays. We have camp curriculum materials and resources, and there’s also lots of room for our summer camp leader team to get creative. Respect for local Indigenous care for the land and wisdom is also foundational.

Click here for our Summer-Nature-Science-Camp-Coordinator-2023

Click for find our Summer-Nature-Science-Camp-Leader-2023

How to Apply:  Please submit a cover letter and resume by May 15th via email, mail or in person to:

Alison Adamson

Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre

Box 5 Cowichan Bay Rd
Cowichan Bay, BC V0R 1N0

Email: alison@cowichanestuary.ca

IMPORTANT NOTE: Positions are contingent on Canada Summer Jobs funding and may change in response public health directives on group activities related to Covid 19.  This may affect employment contracts. 

We look forward to hearing from you and the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre thanks all applicants for your interest.

Only those selected for an interview will be contacted.  Job interviews may be conducted online via Zoom.

Nature Centre founder Jane Kilthei retiring from her work with the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre

Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre founder Jane Kilthei is retiring from the Society’ board and her work with the Centre over the past 12 years at the Nature Centre’s upcoming Annual General Meeting on March 29th. During her time with the Centre Jane has served as the Centre’s lead grant-writer, fundraiser, board chair, volunteer executive director, restoration program champion, and as one of the Centre’s regular weekend interpretive volunteers.

In February 2011 Jane began writing grant applications, under the auspices of charitable non-profit the Cowichan Community Land Trust, securing $300,000 in development grant funding from the federal government’s West Coast Community Adjustment Program and from Island Coastal Economic Trust to build the Centre.  She then led the Centre’s community fundraising campaign team, working with folks from the Land Trust, the Cowichan Valley Naturalists and other local groups, and raising an additional $60,000 locally to make the project a reality, bringing on support from individual donors, organizations like the Duncan Rotary Club, and developing partnerships with Cowichan Tribes, the Cowichan Watershed Board, and the Cowichan Valley Regional District. The first big fundraising event for the Centre was a summer potluck and marimba dance party at Affinity Guest House on the estuary for Jane’s 60th Birthday, followed by the Nature Centre’s first of many Beer and Burger fundraisers at the Cowichan Bay Pub with music, a live auction and a packed house of supporters. More recently, on August 29th, 2021, Jane celebrated her 70th on the lawn at the Centre with Masimba Marimba, the same band, raising $5,000 to support the Centre’s riparian restoration work with youth.

Jane was also instrumental in the process of the Centre becoming its own charitable non-profit, the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre Society in 2019, along with her partner Larry Lenske, the Centre’s treasurer and lead number-cruncher for many years, who will also be retiring as of the March AGM.

In 2021 Jane was interviewed by Island Coastal Economic Trust, one of the Centre’s original core funders, for a series of portraits of community builders across BC’s coastal communities working to create positive change. This piece speaks to why the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre matters to her.  Here’s that 2021 interview.:

Stories from the Coast

Creating resilience today for stronger ecosystems tomorrow


When people find ways to contribute in positive ways, it solidifies how we can make a more equitable, just and environmentally-sound place for everyone.” – Jane Kilthei, Board Member, Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre 


The link between midwifery and building strong water ecosystems may not be immediately obvious. But for Jane Kilthei, the connection is clear.

“As a midwife, I got to know whole families. I care about the many children born into my hands who are now having babies of their own,” says Jane, who was a practicing midwife for 15 years before working another 17 as the Executive Director and Registrar at the College of Midwives of BC. “I want (all these children) to live in a healthy world and have a healthy future.”

Teaching children for the future
Over the past many decades, it’s fair to say that Jane has been doing more than her share to help build strong prospects for generations to come. She speaks of “children’s curiosity about nature” and “their soaking up of nature’s lessons” as key reasons why children can affect change – including the inevitable impact on their own parents’ lives. As Jane summarizes, “teaching children gives ecosystem education a wider reach.”

Jane was initially recruited from her home in Ontario, in 1997, to help position midwifery practice inside BC’s healthcare system. But living year-round in an urban environment wasn’t possible, so she negotiated splitting her time between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Proximity to water ecosystems is her lifeline of sorts, prompted by growing up along the many rivers and lakes in Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Taking care of our environment
“A lot of people move to the West Coast, but there are so many things about the ecosystems here that people don’t know about when we arrive. We want to look out on the water, but we don’t realize how responsible we are for shorelines, plant life, marine life… how much nature relies on our care.”

After moving to Cowichan Bay, Jane became engaged in community conversations with those concerned about the local estuary – “that magical place where the rivers and ocean meet” – and the need for education around this “complex and vulnerable ecosystem under the surface of the water”. In February 2011, after learning of funding opportunities, Jane approached the Cowichan Land Trust. They agreed to act as the charity who’d apply to create a nature interpretive centre. The only caveat was that she wrote the application and would lead the necessary fundraising for matching funding. The endeavour – which Jane summaries as “quite the journey” – fittingly culminated with the opening of the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre on Earth Day 2012 (April 22nd).

Helping instill belief and agency
“The Centre has been a huge draw for tourists, for the local community and for schools,” says Jane. “And over the past nine years, we’ve also developed a program for youth that gives them hands on experience in restoring riparian areas – something they love to learn about and where they believe they can make a difference in their own communities today. At the same time, it pushes adults to act on the climate emergency through their Friday for the Future climate strikes.”

Educators at the Nature Centre also teach school classes about intertidal life and Citizen Science, through projects such as shellfish censuses, beach seines and eel grass restoration days.

“I’m most proud when I’m watching a kid, who may only be 7, take their grandparents around the Centre explaining with confidence what they’ve learned about – describing the salmon cycle or water cycle in detail. That’s where it really lands,” says Jane, who acknowledges her daughter’s bird photography passion, starting in Grade 6, helped strengthen her own love of nature. “When we can all take a deep breath, I think we can see that everything in life is interconnected.”

And while the interconnection of life today, particularly as it relates to the effects of climate change, may be anxiety-provoking for many, Jane sees this as an opportunity to further connect and collaborate.

Encouraging ways to contribute
“When people find ways to contribute in positive ways, it solidifies how we can make a more equitable, just and environmentally-sound place for everyone. And there are so many places to plug in.”

Getting involved or staying informed may have been challenging for various reasons throughout the pandemic, and Jane remains clear that staying engaged and adaptable are key to building resilience. Strong communities, she says, are ones where there is enduring relationship building, communication and connection.

Listening and problem-solving
“I think resilience is an approach to life that includes both looking ‘big picture’ – at systems and changes happening – while also being personally connected to the land and people in our communities in both vulnerable and curious ways,” says Jane. “It’s about slowing down and listening, as much as it is problem solving.”

Jane admits to being “relentlessly persistent and optimistic about working for a better world”. Turning 70, she says, has also left her thinking more about how she can mentor others to carry on her work – just one more reason she is drawn to working with younger generations.

Jane is actively involved in several other local ecosystem-related groups, climate change, social justice and other work with youth.

To get in touch with Jane email her at: jane@resiliencematters.ca 

2022 Volunteers of the Year!

Meet our 2022 Volunteers of the Year!  We are grateful to all of our volunteer nature interpreters who welcome visitors to the Nature Centre, and we especially want to recognize this amazing team of five – Dorothy Marshall, Kathy Coster, Gail Mitchell, Judy Wilson (all pictured here), and Jane Douglas – who all came, and continue to come, to share their knowledge and welcoming smiles with Nature Centre visitors week after week, sunshine, rain or snow, throughout 2022. and now into the new year. We couldn’t have done it without them!

Interested in Volunteering at the Centre?
If you care about our watersheds and our estuary and want to contribute, we’d love to welcome you to our volunteer team.  You don’t need to be an expert.  We’ll give you an orientation, access to resources, and pair you up with an experienced volunteer for at least two shifts at the Centre (more if you like) to meet and get to know the creatures in the aquarium and observation tank and learn the ropes. We’d love to expand our team right now so we can also expand our weekend open hours and allow more people to learn about this magical and sensitive estuarine ecosystem starting in mid-March.  Volunteers are also invited to participate in fun restoration events accessible to a range of ability levels.  Contact our Administrative Coordinator alison@cowichanestuary.ca or our wonderful volunteer VolunteerCoordinator Gail Mitchell at gail.mitch44@gmail.com

And don’t forget to come by for a visit!

Interested in Volunteering with Us or Joining our Board?

Want to Make a Difference in our Community? Consider Joining Our Board!
The Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre Society is looking to expand its Board of Directors, as well as grow its marine and watershed education and restoration programs, community outreach, volunteer base, and staff supports.  Now is the time to join us and be part of moving forward as an organization!
We are particularly looking for people who have skills in fundraising, marketing and outreach, financial management (a potential treasurer-type good with budgets and reading financial statements), policy development, and/or technology and social media, as well as a passion for learning about and protecting the natural world.  Can you or someone you know contribute 8 hours a month to help us fulfill our mission and vision?  We have a great board team and we’ll be having a Board training and development session soon.
Please contact Board Co-Chairs Jim Wisnia wisnia@telus.net and/ or Tracey Brown traceybrown@yahoo.com if you are interested. Tell them something about yourself and why you’d like to get involved – send us your CV if you have one – and ask Jim and Tracey any questions you have.  Your can also suggest someone else you think might be interested and would be a good fit for our organization.

Interested in Volunteering at the Centre?
If you care about our watersheds and our estuary and want to contribute, we’d love to welcome you to our volunteer team.  You don’t need to be an expert.  We’ll give you an orientation, access to resources, and pair you up with an experienced volunteer for at least two shifts (more if you like) at the Centre to learn the ropes. We’d love to expand our team right now so we can also expand our weekend open hours and allow more people to learn about this magical and sensitive estuarine ecosystem.  Volunteers are also invited to participate in fun restoration events accessible to a range of ability levels.  Contact our administrative coordinator alison@cowichanestuary.ca or our wonderful volunteer volunteer-coordinator Gail Mitchell at gail.mitch44@gmail.com

Quw’utsun Sta’lo’ Skweyul – Cowichan River Day, Sept 25, 10am-3pm

Join us for Quw’utsun Sta’lo’ Skweyul (River Day) Sunday, Sept 25th, 10am to 3pm for mural making with Quw’utsun artist Shawn Johnny and carving with artist Herb Rice, Quw’tsun Elder wisdom & cutural teachings, music, Tzinquaw Dancers, beach explorations to meet and learn about intertidal creatures and our watersheds & more.

Louisa Varco, CENC Aquarist and Educator connects with Volunteers

This past summer Lousia Varco joined us as our Aquarist and as a part of our Educator Team.  Throughout the fall Louisa could most often be found in the evenings quietly fine-tuning the salinity in our intertidal aquarium and observation tank and checking on the well-being of the intertidal creatures

Louisa (centre) orienting volunteers

Louisa is now in the final weeks of completing her Fisheries and Aquaculture Technology Diploma at VIU. She also has experience working as a Independent Contractor with DFO on the European Green Crab Trials, has worked with marine mammals, and spent last summer working at the Deep Bay Marine Field Station.

This past Friday afternoon February 18th a number of our volunteers, staff, and board members, enjoyed an informative aquarium orientation and update with Louisa, with lots of time to ask questions and get to know one another.

Louisa is now looking forward to working with volunteers to setting up our seasonal freshwater salmon fry tank in anticpation of raising coho salmon fry and sharing that experience with visitors (part of the DFO’s Salmonids in the Classroom program).

Our intertidal observation tank and aquariums are a big draw for school classes and visitors and we are thrilled to have Louisa as part of our team.

We are currently looking for contract marine educators to deliver school programming this coming fall and spring. Aquarium maintenance candidates with experience in delivering marine education programming may be interested in also applying to be a contract educator at the Nature Centre, as part of a combined contract.

We are accepting applications now. Please apply  to admin@cowichanestuary.ca with resume and references.  Start date: as soon as possible.


“Luschiim’s Plants” Indigenous Plant Talk & Book Signing Oct 3rd, 3pm

Join us October 3rd at 3pm outside on the lawn under the tent at the Nature Centre for an Indigenous Plant Talk & Book signing, with authors Quw’utsun Elder Luschiim Arvid Charlie and local ethnobotanist Nancy Turner, and a chance to purchase a signed copy of their gorgeous new book “Luschiim’s Plants”.

More info and a place to sign up and reserve a spot at https://www.facebook.com/events/1297594733992642


Eelgrass Restoration May 24th – 28th






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
May 24th-28th 2022
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
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