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: 

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 with resume and references.  Start date: as soon as possible.


Ecological Restoration Summer CAMP – Aug 8th -12th

Our Ecological Restoration Camp this August 8th to 12th is specifically geared for youth ages 10-12 who are eager to take their love of and curiosity about nature and turn it into positive hands-on action in the world.

Participants in this camp will get a chance to learn about the Koksilah watershed and the challenges it currently and historically has faced such as drought, invasive species, logging, and excessive harvesting of groundwater, and what the community is doing to address them. They will learn about and engage in removing invasive species to improve the health of the ecosystem, as well as learn about native plant species in the area and how we can support their growth. The days will be a balance of activities such as nature walks, art and satisfying hands-on invasive species removal. Our goal is to nurture the growth of the relationship between campers and the environment while participating in learning and light restoration activities. Each day will center around a different element of the watershed: the river, the animals, the understory vegetation, the trees, and the community.

Location: We are delighted to be hosted by the Cowichan Station HUB for this camp. All camp programs will be run out of the Hub Facility and Grounds.

Hours: Camps run from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm – please bring your own lunch

COVID UPDATE: We will be monitoring current PHO guidelines and post up to date Summer Camp policies so you can rest assured your camper will have a safe and fun experience with our team.

Details and Fees

Camp fees are $240 per child for a total of five days. Single Day Attendance: $45 per day per child. Single Day Attendance during week-long camps may be available if the camp is not fully booked and depending on health and safety protocols.

We are proud to offer access to two bursary funds for camp fees this year.

Cowichan Valley Naturalists’ Society has set up a camp fee bursary in honour of the late Eric Marshall who volunteered and dedicated himself to nature education in the marine environment. To apply for this bursary please download our application here: Eric Marshall CVNS Bursary Application 2022.

The Nature Centre also has its own bursary fund set up to fully or partially fund our camp fees for 2022. To apply for this bursary please download our application form here: CENC Camp Bursary Application 2022 .  Bursary applications may be submitted with Registration documents (found below) to

All Camps run from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.  You may drop off your child between 8:45 am and 9 am.

As our camp leaders are busy setting up for the day, we cannot offer early drop off or late pick up. Parents will be charged late fees for not adhering to drop off and pick up times.

For children with special needs, contact to discuss possible accommodations.

Our staff are working hard to ensure the safety of all of our campers during Covid-19. You’ll find more details on how we will will work with you as parents to support your child to have a safe, health camping experience in our Covid 19 Parent Guide.


How to Register

Registration will go “live” in May so stay tuned!

Registration is a two-step process:

  1.  Go to Eventbrite, select a camp, sign up, and make payment. (Each camp is also linked above in the camp schedule to Eventbrite). Payment can be through a credit card on Eventbrite or cash/cheque mailed to or dropped off at the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre.
  2.  Download and complete a camp Registration/Medical form linked below:

IMPORTANT: Your registration is not considered complete until we have received the medical information and waiver forms. Payment and forms must be received at least 2 weeks prior to camp start date or your registration will be forfeited.

CANCELLATIONS & REFUNDS:  If a camp is cancelled due to Covid-19 provincial health requirements, all camp fees will be fully refunded to affected families.   

Families withdrawing a child’s registration within the two week period prior to the camp offering will be charged an administrative fee. If a camper withdraws during camp, they will be charged for days attended plus an administrative fee unless the withdrawal is illness-related.

Questions?  Contact Or phone:  250-597-2288

Restoration at Jack Fleetwood Memorial Park this TUESDAY – Postponed Due to Site Flooding – Stay Tuned!

Restoration at Jack Fleetwood Memorial Park this TUESDAY – Postponed Due to Site Flooding – Stay Tuned!

Postponed AGAIN Due to Site Flooding – Stay Tuned!

Looking for something to do this Wednesday morning?

Join CVRD Parks & Trails and the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre to remove Himalayan blackberry from Jack Fleetwood Memorial Park on the beautiful Koksilah River! This will help to make way for the native species that grow in the area and prepare the site for school groups who will be coming out to the park later to take part in experiential learning events hosted by the Nature Centre.

Date: Tuesday April 5, 2022

Time: 10:00-1:00 PM

Location: Jack Fleetwood Memorial Park

Task: Himalayan blackberry removal

Accessibility and Safety: The work site is accessible by stairs and is partially on a slope. There is no washroom facility at this park. Sturdy closed-toe shoes, long pants and long sleeves are required. Please dress for the weather as the event will go on as long as conditions remain safe and workable. Safety glasses, gloves and tools will be provided but please feel free to bring your own.

The safety of volunteers and staff is our priority. Face masks will be worn during this event when appropriate physical distancing is not possible. Each person in attendance must self-assess prior to the event to ensure that they have no cold or flu-like symptoms before attending the event.

Sign-up: Please sign up for this event through your volunteer account by clicking here. Prior sign-up is required for this event as space is limited. Please be in touch if you’d like to sign up by phone or email instead.

We hope you can join us!


We are hiring Summer Camp Leaders!

We are hiring a Summer Camp coordinator and 2 Camp Leaders for our upcoming summer season 2022 and you don’t want to miss an opportunity to be part of this amazing team!

Click here to find our Summer Camp Coordinator Job Description

Click here to find our Summer Camp Leader (35hrs/wk) Job Description

Click here to find our Summer Camp Leader (25hrs/wk) Job Description

How to Apply:  Please submit a cover letter and resume by April 20th via email, mail or in person to:

Amy Clinton-Baker

Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre

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


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. 

Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre thanks all applicants for their interest.

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




Paid Youth Internship – Spring Break – Apply NOW

We are so excited to invite youth aged 15 to 20 to apply for a paid restoration internship this Spring Break!

From March 21st to 25th at Bright Angel Park, youth will gain valuable work experience in ecological restoration techniques that will help propel them into employment fields such as Environmental Sciences, Biology, and Ecology. Each 5-hour day will be a mix of invasive species removal, native species planting, and daily Lunch-and-Learns where they will be mentored by local experts.

Position: Restoration Intern
Organization: Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre
Location: Bright Angel Park

Compensation: $18/hr

Hours: 9:00am-2:00pm (27 hrs total)

Position Type: Temporary, March 21st to 25th, 2022 (with paid 2hr orientation Friday, March 18th)

Application Deadline: March 11, 2022

Skills gained:

  • Invasive species identification and removal techniques
  • Native species identification and planting procedures
  • Ecological restoration techniques and theory
  • Daily Lunch-and-Learn workshops from local experts
  • Restoration monitoring and surveying skills
  • Valuable work experience to help propel you into a related field

Skills/Qualifications needed:

  • Enthusiasm for environmental restoration
  • Strong work ethic
  • Ability to perform physical duties of the job in all outdoor weather conditions
  • Leadership skills
  • Excitement to learn
  • Youth aged 15-20

What you’ll bring

  • Snacks/Lunch for the day
  • Your all weather clothing

To Apply:

Email us your resume to by March 11th, 2022

Big Huy ch q’u (Thank you) to our collaborator, Cowichan Watershed Board and partners.

Coastal Waterbird Survey – Feb 13th 10am

What: Coastal Waterbird Survey

When: Sunday Feb 13th 10-11am

Where: Meet at the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre car park in Cowichan Bay

Organised by the local Cowichan Valley Naturalists this is a Citizen Science project for Birds Canada. An hour of counting the birds that use the estuary happens every month from September to May at high tide. Contact for more information.

New Birders welcome!

“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


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


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