Letter from ED: Leigh-Ann Fenwick

Report from the BVRC’s AGM held on March 26, 2019

1.1 Research Programs

The Bulkley Valley Research Centre (BVRC) enables research to improve the ecological, social, and economic sustainability of natural resource management, and has done so since 2002. The Centre is a knowledge-transfer hub, facilitating a necessary link between the academic inquiry and natural resource management challenges facing us in the 21st century.

The Center’s research programs enhance the ability of academics, graduate students, resource industries, First Nations, government agencies, and public interest groups to address pressing issues that require scientific inquiry. The Centre has enabled a long list of excellent research over the years. This tradition of excellence continues. Three projects that continue this legacy are:

1. The Forest Stand Neighbourhood Dynamics Research and Modeling Program. This research project is a collaboration with the Ministry of Forests, initiated by Dave Coates and now led by Erica Lilles.

2.  The Endangered Whitebark Pine Ecosystems of Northern BC is a research and restoration project established in 2007 by Dr. Sybille Haeussler. This research examines how the resilience of whitebark pine ecosystems is affected by cumulative impacts of mountain pine beetle, blister rust and a warming climate. The restoration focuses on areas recently disturbed by wildfires, mountain pine beetle or salvage logging of beetle-killed lodgepole pine. 

3. The Integrated Systems Research Program. Climate change and climate change adaptation were a focus of BVRC research from 2007 to 2017, thanks to the Gordan and Betty Moore Foundation. The program, led by Don Morgan, studied climate change’s impacts on the forest industry, biodiversity and ecosystem resilience, as well as cumulative effects research.

These research programs have contributed a legacy of data from which to draw on, and are being built upon today as Dr. Alana Clason takes on the role of BVRC Post-Doctoral Research Associate working with Erin Hall, Masters Student at UNBC.

1.2 BVRC as an Incubator and a Public Good

BVRC as an incubator. In addition to the valuable knowledge generated through the Centre’s long-standing research programs, the BVRC serves as an incubator, both for initiatives such as the Skeena Knowledge Trust and the Morice Watershed Monitoring Trust.  Both initiatives are collaborative endeavors with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en and graduate students.

Science in the public interest. The BVRC creates learning and extension opportunities for both our members and the community through our popular biweekly seminar series, community-based workshops, conferences, and other networking events. We connect researchers with each other and the greater community through these extension events. We also support community engagement on natural resource management issues through the research and distribution of data that promote long-term community sustainability, such as the recent Northern Conference for Wildfire Resilience hosted by the BVRC in Burns Lake, April 2019.

1.3 Looking ahead - 2019 and Beyond

The BVRC managed over $440,000 in contracts for local researchers and applied resource practitioners in 2018, much of which was new business. The number of new projects and new funders* was diverse and delved into new program areas.  

Even with this contract success, the audited financial statements presented at the AGM clearly show that the Centre ran at a loss in 2018, as in the previous three years. This situation is not sustainable. As such, the BVRC Board and Executive Director are actively looking for ways to reduce costs to sustain the financial viability of the Centre. In order to continue to facilitate research to advance stewardship of our natural resources, we will continue to look for growth opportunities and welcome ideas and input from the membership and the larger community.

*Funders include provincial government agencies (BC's Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, BC's Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation; BC’s Wildfire Service); non-governmental organizations such as Tides Canada; other funders (Forest Enhancement Society BC, Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, TD Friends of the Environment Fund); Forest Industry (Canfor, West Fraser, Hampton); Community Forests (Burns Lake Community Forest, Chinook Community Forest); Pinnacle Pellet; Small Businesses (Bulkley Valley Engineering Services, ERM, Shifting Mosaics Consulting, Northern Fire Works, Eclipse Geomatics, Tyhee Forestry Consultants); and, private funders.

The BVRC will reduce costs by:

  1. Redirecting and refocusing the Centre’s administrative staff time to core work only, i.e. administration of contracts and procurement of projects and funding partners;
  2. Further reducing overhead expenses related to office space lease;
  3. Mobilizing and leveraging volunteer resources to run our popular extension services (e.g., lunchtime seminars, community-based workshops, etc.). We will be calling for volunteers for these events.

To sustain the financial health of the BVRC, the Centre will focus its efforts on securing larger contracts that reflect key strategic priorities. The focus on larger research programs and bigger contracts is less administratively intense and generates more income. However, larger, more complex projects require a lot of proposal writing time up-front, which is a consideration. The BVRC is interested in pursuing research funding in the following strategic priority areas: wildfire, environmental genomics, and climate change adaptationMembers - please let us know if you are interested and willing to spend effort and time to help out on proposal writing.

The BVRC Board and Executive Director will be working hard to refine the BVRC’s value proposition. To do this, we will refine which funders and what projects to pursue related to the Board’s new strategic priorities. This approach should increase the likelihood of proposal success, focus the allocation of staff time, and reduce overhead expenses. Financial viability will benefit researchers and programs, as well as extension activities. The BVRC Board and Executive Director will articulate this strategy in a three-year financial plan, to be developed in the coming months.

2019 AGM Recap

We want to thank our members, the board, and staff for joining us at our AGM on March 26th. What a wonderful evening full of amazing food (northerners really know how to potluck!) as well as the popular 3-minute showcase. 

Our BVRC award winners this year included:

Sybille Haeussler - Irving Fox 
Tyler McCreary - Jim Pojar
Lynn Westcott - Volunteer Distinction


Long-standing board service recognitions to Brian Edmison and Don Morgan (16 years!)

Our newly elected Board of Directors.

Sybille Haeussler receiving the Irving Fox Award (along with a hand made whitebark pine crown!)

Tyler McCreary's mom, Terrie, accepting the Jim Pojar award on his behalf.

A potluck feast! Thank you to all those who brought a dish. 

BVRC Squad.

Northern Conference for Wildfire Resilience - Overview & Update

On a positive note, following the very successful delivery of the Northern Conference for Wildfire Resilience (NCWR) in Burns Lake on April 24-26, 2019, the BVRC is well positioned to be a facilitator of the BC Northern Wildfire Resiliency Initiative (NWRI) moving forward. This initiative was launched with the NCWR that brought together 160 participants from various government agencies and forest industries, community members, practitioners, First Nations, researchers and consultants.

The purpose of the NCWR was to kick-start the forest and fire management paradigm shifts required for forest and community resilience. To achieve this purpose, the conference was designed with a unique format composed of two parts: Part One was the three-day working conference - an opportunity for land and resource managers and leaders from all levels of government, First Nations, forest industry, consultants, scientists, and communities, and anyone affected by the 2018 wildfires, to get together and discuss what we can do collectively for forest and community resilience.

Part Two of the conference was an evening community session, free and open to the public, where we invited residents from the Nadina Forest District - Burns Lake, Houston and surrounding areas, to join us for information, a window into the conference, and to ask questions.

The main outcome of the conference is the NWRI - a collaborative initiative led by the Bulkley Valley Research Center with key local players to promote partnerships, practices, policies, and planning that will increase the resiliency of northern BC’s forests and communities to wildfires. The NWRI members came to consensus on the need for a new approach to wildfire management. Additionally, the provincial government committed to a project to increase landscape wildfire resiliency. The BVRC will be busy in the coming months working on next steps to support this initiative.

In addition, the BVRC is excited to be working with the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) to start a wildfire research program addressing information needs across the BC’s northwest and north-central ecosystems to assist BCWS with operational applications. The BVRC Executive Director will be striking a BVRC Wildfire Research Steering Committee to assist in the delivery of both the NWRI and wildfire research program, and will provide progress updates to members in future newsletters.

Finally, the BVRC is happy to announce that we will play a role as a purveyor of information and resources related to wildfire resilience in the North. Please visit and refer to the following BVRC resources for ongoing information and resource links:

Kudos Corner

The very successful delivery of the NCWR is due to the dedication of the Research Centre’s Conference Planning team. The Research Centre has a very small, part-time administrative team, and we did most of the planning and delivery in-house. Recognition needs to go to our BVRC conference coordinators Nav Smith and Dawn Hanson, whose work, commitment, and dedication made the conference possible. Also, a big thanks to the Research Centre’s Board of Directors, who were instrumental in supporting the conference from pre-concept to post-delivery: Irene Ronalds, Evelyn Hamilton, Brian Kolman, Adrian de Groot, Kira Hoffman, Johanna Pfalz, Adriana Almeida-Rodriguez. Also, a big thank you to our BVRC research associates Dr. Karen Price and Dave Daust for their expertise and guidance. And one last thank you to Alana Petrella for doing the amazing artwork on the conference storyboard.

Thank you also to all of our members and supporters for your help in sustaining the BVRC, one of the few non-profit, independent, unfunded research organizations in western Canada.

Conference attendees.

Dr. Lori Daniels - keynote speaker -  discussing problems with the traditional paradigm of forest succession.

Panel speakers Paul Hessburg, Jeff Mycock, and Kevin Kriese answer questions on the paradigm shifts needed for change.

Chief Rick McLean, Tahltan Nation, speaking on TEK and fire management tools.

BVRC now on Twitter & Instagram!

We've expanded our online reach; you can now find us on Twitter & Instagram. Follow and tag us in your posts! #BVRC



Welcome Sheena Briggs - Office Manager!

Sheena is the new Office Manager at the BVRC, where she is responsible for contract management, project coordination, membership renewals & processing, and administrative support. Sheena relocated to the Bulkley Valley in 2018, where she has been keeping herself busy as a Spirit North Program Leader and cross country ski coach with the amazing indigenous youth and community members at the nearby community of Witset.

Sheena is a skier at heart; which has led her to work at a number of ski hills in Alberta, BC and the Yukon, but she is also a big fan of riding her mountain bike when the ground isn’t covered in snow. Holding a degree in Environmental and Conservation Sciences from the University of Alberta, Sheena has experience in the non-profit, government, and environmental consulting sectors of the natural resources field; most recently including stewardship coordination with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Sheena is passionate about conservation and connecting people to land management, and she is thrilled to be part of the BVRC team.

Featured Project: Smithers Research Site Among Plant, Animal Species Interaction Study Across Americas

Hudson Bay Mountain near Smithers, BC was a research site for a study that examines the interactions between plant and animal species in the Americas.

A study released in February reveals interactions such as predation and competition between plant and animal species are much stronger in tropical regions and lower elevations. Some of the experiments in the report were conducted near Smithers by our very own BVRC members Sybille Haeussler and Kerrith McKay.

The study, “Seed predation increases from the Arctic to the equator and from high to low elevations,” was published on Feb. 20 in the online journal, Science Advances (DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau4403)

The experiment involved researchers from 13 institutions across the Americas and deployed 7,000 seed depots distributed across a huge geographical area, with 79 sites spread out over 18 elevational transects, each replicated three to six times, stretching from Alaska to the equator. The sheer scale of the research makes it by far the largest field experiment ever conducted on this subject. This new evidence supports a fundamental hypothesis about life on earth, first formally put forward by Charles Darwin – that interactions among species increase at lower latitudes and elevations.

❝ While this seems really self-evident,” said Haeussler,  “it’s important that such a foundational piece of evolutionary ecology be backed by very strong evidence in the same way that physicists keep testing Einstein’s theory of relativity, using newer and better methods. The earlier evidence in support of Darwin’s hypothesis came from a series of small-scale studies using inconsistent methods that could easily be contested. And a few recent studies poked some holes into what most ecologists simply assume to be a fundamental truth.  As scientists, we can’t afford to be intellectually lazy. That’s never been more true than right now, when it seems like the science and reason, themselves are being questioned. ❞

The international research team was led by McGill University’s Anna Hargreaves, and used a simple experiment that mimics how plants and animals interact with each other — leaving seeds out for 24 hours to see how many get eaten.

❝ Theory predicts that interactions among species — like predation and competition — will be strongest in the warm, productive, biodiverse ecosystems of the tropics and low elevations,” says Hargreaves, an evolutionary ecologist in McGill’s Department of Biology. “For example, the spectacular diversity of tropical trees is thought to result partly from stronger interactions between plants and the animals that prey on their seeds, which shapes how and where plants grow and adapt. ❞

Using consistent methods and seeds from the Arctic to equator, this new study shows that seed predation increased by 17 per cent from the Arctic to the Equator, and by 17 per cent from 4,000 metres high in the Andes down to sea level. The research team replicated the 24-hour experiment several times during each latitude’s natural seed-producing period.

In Northern B.C., Haeussler set up a transect with five sites extending from Highway 16 (477 m elevation at the Bulkley River Bridge) to the rocky alpine tundra above the Smithers ski resort (1,900 m elevation). Together with Bulkley Valley biologist and researcher Kerrith McKay, Haeussler has run the experiment twice each year since 2015.

❝ Biotic interactions like those between plant seeds and seed-eating animals form the basis of the complex ecosystems that support human life on earth,” says Haeussler “It is essential that we better understand global patterns in these key interactions, given the enormous task of managing and restoring ecosystems under stress from human population growth and climate change. ❞

The researchers are now extending the project to mountains with different climates and ecosystems at the same latitudes, to test what drives stronger interactions.

Yellow Floating Heart in Seymour Lake

Nymphoides peltata, a Eurasian ornamental aquatic plant, was planted in Seymour Lake about 25 years ago by a past resident. Extremely invasive and crowding out native species, it has spread to over 15% of the lake's shoreline. Yellow Floating Heart reproduces by seeds, stolons (runners), and rhizomes (underground stems). Crowding out native species, it has spread to over 15% of the lake's shoreline. Until it was recently discovered in a lake in the lower mainland, Seymour Lake is the only natural lake in BC known to have this extremely invasive plant.

Seymour Lake is a popular destination for Smithers residents who frequently swim and paddle in the lake, which could result in the plant spreading. The Seymour Lake Conservation Society (formed 2015) has relied on grants from the Wetzinkwa Community Forest Corporation and the PCAF, and volunteers to manually control the plant, including the placement of lake mats in some areas. However, the infestation continues to expand and we are still looking for more effective means of control. Please watch for the information signs at the public beach areas asking that you thoroughly clean your watercraft before leaving the lake.

For information, please contact Poppy Dubar of the Seymour Lake Conservation Society: prdubar@gmail.com

Call for Volunteers

Have you wanted to be more involved with the Centre but not sure how?

Please let us know if you would like to be placed on a special call-out list for the following events:

Seminar Series

  • May 8: Fire & Lichen Research
  • May 22: Date Creek Breeding Bird Research
  • June 5: Climate Change

Exploring Our Natural World Workshop Series

  • May 25: Bee Appreciation Day

Volunteers will be rewarded with a BVRC bumper sticker, and after 25 hours, a bugwood bean coffee card!

If you would like to know more about the work and tasks involved and how you can help, get in touch. We are flexible and accomodating!

Call for Research Assistants

From time-to-time, our Research Leads require research assistants to help out with their projects both in the field and in the office.

Please let us know if you would like to be placed on a special call-out list to assist on research projects. Email us.

Its Cool to be Kind!

The BVRC is requesting in-kind donations.

The Centre is in need of computer equipment such as desktops and laptops. Please consider an in-kind donation of computer equipment to support the team.

Charitable receipts will be issued for donations over $1000.

Thank you for thinking of us!

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