Transformation and growth at the BVRC

Spring has settled into summer in the Bulkley Valley and it has also been a time of planting and harvest at the BVRC. We welcomed four new board members at our recent AGM and a few changes have also taken place at the support staff level. We are excited about the fresh perspectives these individuals will bring to the Centre and how they may influence our direction going forward.

We are in the midst of creating a new strategic plan for the next five years, which is always an exciting time for us. We pause to reflect on what we've accomplished over the past five years and envision where we are heading. Our newest board members are joining the BVRC at a time when their voices can truly have an impact on our growth and development.

Another recent change that arose from discussions at our AGM is the implementation of new membership categories. This will ensure greater involvement by individuals and community agencies in order to create a healthy and diverse membership, which we believe is integral to the strength of the Centre. Our goal is to ensure the wider community can contribute to the direction of the BVRC and that our membership is comprised of a dedicated and diverse group of individuals, organizations, and businesses. The Centre depends on the people it serves in order to effectively carry out its research goals.

Several new and interesting projects are underway this year and I wish you all an enjoyable and productive field season. Be sure to stay connected—the BVRC is open for business throughout the summer.

—Rick Budhwa, Executive Director

Lydia Howard begins maternity leave

On June 30, 2016, Lydia and Chris Howard welcomed their second child, James Gregory Howard. Lydia is now on maternity leave from her position as Communications Coordinator at the BVRC.

Lydia joined the Centre in the spring of 2015 and has made a substantial contribution to the organization in the intervening year. Her role included managing all the internal and external communications for multiple research projects and events at the Centre, which she juggled with ease. Above and beyond these responsibilities, she also created recommendations for the ongoing development and design of a more dynamic and user-friendly website.

Rick Budhwa describes Lydia as creative, diligent and independent, maintaining that "she left a great legacy in a fine tradition of communications professionals."

We thank Lydia for all the energy and expertise she has given to the BVRC over the past year and wish her, Chris, big sister Eloise, and baby James much joy.

Melissa Sawatsky joins the BVRC

We are excited to welcome Melissa Sawatsky to the BVRC team. Melissa will be taking over Lydia Howard's role as Communications Coordinator.

Melissa is a writer, editor, library professional and creative writing teacher. She has published articles, creative non-fiction and poetry in various magazines and journals and earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia.

Melissa grew up in Vancouver and since relocating to Smithers in 2012, she has worked at the Bulkley Valley Museum and Smithers Public Library, as well as providing freelance writing and editing services. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Bulkley Valley Community Arts Council. In 2014, Melissa welcomed her daughter into the world, who is proving to be her most challenging and fascinating teacher.

In her role at the BVRC, Melissa will manage and coordinate both internal and external communications, including web and print communications and public relations.

Using UAV technology to support natural resource research and management

There is a lot of hype about unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, commonly known as drones) these days. The BVRC, in collaboration with Larry McCulloch of LM Forest Resource Solutions Ltd., will help you stay grounded (so to speak) as we elucidate what the technology has to offer and add to a resource manager’s toolkit.

There are a plethora of applications for unmanned aerial systems. For example, they can generate:

  • timber development information
  • silviculture surveys
  • terrain data
  • fire hot spot detection
  • pit, pile, and object volumes
  • research plot measurements
  • industrial site maps
  • transmission line data
  • fuel loading assessments
  • change monitoring
  • stream morphology
  • high definition video showcasing physical attributes of an area

According to Larry there are numerous vehicles and sensors to choose from and the number is growing every day. The vehicle itself can be anything from a balloon to a satellite, which must be matched with sensors and ground technology that meet the needs of the imagery you aim to capture. UAVs under 25 kilograms are growing in popularity because they provide a lot of flexibility and yield very high quality products when used at an appropriate geographic scale (varying from the plot level to a couple of thousand hectares).

It should be noted that getting from the imagery to the applications is no trivial matter, since it's all about post-processing. There are dozens of different programs available to create 3D point clouds, orthomosaics, digital elevation models, tree data, heat maps, stereo models, and final mapping products, which can be pricey. If you think this technology will serve your ongoing or upcoming research projects, be sure to factor it into any related funding proposals.

There are a number of reasons why this technology is important. From a business perspective, it has very good potential to reduce data acquisition costs in many applications. It can also provide much more accurate results and a permanent visual record of site conditions, leading to better management decisions. Larry reasons that "if you can get a 100% census of species, heights and stocking for an entire cutblock, and a permanent photographic record at equal or lower cost than measuring sample plots on an area, why not?"

On a larger scale, the data that can be produced using UAVs has the potential to transform how resource management solutions are made and improve environmental stewardship because of higher resolution and more accurate data than has ever been available in the past. This can serve to help us all leave a resilient environmental legacy for future generations.

For more information on matching your data needs with UAV technologies, please feel free to contact the BVRC at Also be sure to save the date for Larry's upcoming BVRC Seminar Series presentation on the subject scheduled for November 30, 2016 at the Old Church in Smithers.

UAV bare earth model

Same UAV model with trees

Member profile: Laura Guillon

Laura Guillon is a microbiologist who just recently joined the Board of Directors, having been a member of the BVRC since moving to Smithers in 2014. She and her partner, Jordy (who grew up in Smithers), were drawn to the lifestyle and outdoor recreation opportunities the valley had to offer. Laura was also excited to find there was an active research and education centre based in Smithers and it factored into their decision to move here.

She became a member of the BVRC immediately after arriving in the valley and appreciates how the Centre brings the research community together and makes it easy to meet other members, which she knows from personal experience can be difficult for someone who is new to town. "We are starting to really love it here. It's a great place to have a family with all the programs and support in place," says Laura.

Originally from Prince George, Laura completed her post-secondary education in Vancouver, where she was involved in a number of research projects over the course of her academic and professional career. While pursuing a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Biotechnology, she was offered a summer student position at the BC Centre for Disease Control working on the West Nile Virus monitoring program. During her graduate studies at UBC in Interdisciplinary Oncology, she completed her thesis project at the BC Cancer Research Centre experimenting with the natural killer cells (lymphocytes) that play a key role in the early defence against pathogenic organisms and cancer, including leukemia.

Laura also has a keen interest in environmental leadership and cycling. She first started biking in an effort to save money after moving to Vancouver. "I quickly fell in love with the freedom and joy of commuting by bike and became passionate about promoting both biking and sustainable choices," says Laura. She has worked with the Provincial Health Services Authority, UBC, and other teams in partnership with Climate Smart to track and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote her passion for cycling.

In 2015, Laura and Jordy welcomed their daughter, Freya, who is currently eight months old. This past November, they bought their first house near Lake Kathlyn, where they enjoyed building a garden this past spring. When Laura found out there was an opening on the BVRC Board of Directors, she embraced the opportunity to make a contribution to the community. "I'm still finding out how my experience can contribute and what I can bring, but am excited by the possibilities," says Laura. She hopes to help the Centre expand, thrive, and continue to bring the research community together.

We wish Laura every success in her new role on the board as she and her family plant seeds for their future in the Bulkley Valley.

Upcoming BVRC photo contest

2015 winning entry by Kara Pitman

Remember to bring your camera if you're out in the field this summer. The BVRC runs an annual photography contest during the month of August and this year's theme is People in the Environment. We would love to receive your photos of people immersed in and interacting with the natural world.

The winner will receive a gift card and the winning image will be displayed at the BVRC office. The submission deadline is
September 15, 2016.

We will send out an official call for submissions with further details shortly.

Note: When you submit your photos you are agreeing to BVRC's use of your image(s) on Facebook, our website, and various BVRC-related communications.

Summer social barbecue

We will be hosting a casual backyard barbecue at our downtown location near the end of summer.

Stay tuned for details!

NRTG's natural resource course offerings

The Natural Resources Training Group (NRTG) is offering the following training programs in 2016:

Electrofishing Certification:

  • Williams Lake, July 25th-26th
  • Kelowna, August 4th-5th
  • North Vancouver, August 9th-10th

Note: NRTG’s Electrofishing Certification course is WorksafeBC-approved, and includes free, lifetime re-certification.

Fisheries Field Skills:

  • Terrace, September 12th-23rd
  • Haida Gwaii, September 19th-30th

Streambank Restoration Techniques:

  • Calgary, October 6th-8th
  • Saskatoon, October 11th-13th

Environmental Field Skills:

  • Cranbrook, October 17th to November 4th

For further details about the course schedule and to register, visit the NRTG website.

If you are interested in having the NRTG offer training programs to your organization, contact them at 250-323-2599, or

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