Laskeek Bay Conservation Society, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada.
Laskeek Bay Conservation Society (LBCS) has been active in conservation work on Haida Gwaii, British Columbia (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands), for over 20 years. We undertake long-term monitoring and research, and provide volunteer and educational opportunities to help people better understand, conserve and advocate for the marine and terrestrial ecosystems in and around Laskeek Bay.
Our field research station on East Limestone Island allows visitors and local students to gain hands-on experience in wildlife monitoring in a wilderness setting. We collect data on seabirds, with our main focus on the Ancient Murrelet. This little burrow-nesting alcid is considered to be at risk (“special concern”) because of the impact of introduced species (raccoons, rats) on these colonies. Approximately 50% of the world’s Ancient Murrelet population nests on the smaller islands of Haida Gwaii – over 250,000 breeding pairs in about 30 colonies.
With 24 years of monitoring behind us, ours is the longest running continuous sea-bird monitoring data set in British Columbia. In addition to collecting data on Ancient Murrelets, LBCS also carries out research on Black Oystercatchers, Cassin’s Auklets, Pigeon Guillemots, Marbled Murrelets, Storm-Petrels, and Glaucous-winged Gulls, and conducts sea surveys of the surrounding waters in search of whales, dolphins, and Steller sea lions. Besides its value for monitoring wildlife populations and fluctuations, our data also contributes to a better understanding of climate change, and the effects of potential oil drilling, tanker traffic, forestry, and wind energy projects on local ecosystems.
Monitoring methods and protocols are low impact and designed in such a way that they can be readily learned and undertaken by volunteers, supervised by two staff biologists. Our data is published in annual LBCS Science Reports (available in PDF format from our website, www.laskeekbay.org.) The field research station is active from May through July each year but we also have an office in the village of Queen Charlotte which is open year-round.
Small groups of students from local schools have been visiting East Limestone Island annually since 1991. They spend part of a day in the seabird colony, learning about the breeding biology of the Ancient Murrelet. At night, they sit quietly with a staff member at designated points along the shoreline, where two-day old chicks are “funnelled” though one of four small gates on their way to join their parents on the ocean. Students assist with catching and weighing the lively chicks, recording data and releasing the chicks at the shoreline. Graduating high school students often mention their Limestone experience as a high point in their school career.
Since our earliest years we have worked closely with federal and provincial agencies with responsibilities for environment and wildlife. Once the impact of raccoons on Ancient Murrelets breeding on East Limestone was acknowledged the Society was actively involved in developing a strategy for regular monitoring to detect their presence on other important seabird colonies around Haida Gwaii. We have many years of experience in using nest boxes as a means of restoring habitat damaged by raccoons. More recently we have been trying to increase the recruitment of Ancient Murrelets to the colony through “social attraction.”
Science advisor Tony Gaston surveys the mouth of a funnel, one of two recently rigged with a motion sensor camera.
An Ancient Murrelet chick, in the loving hands of a volunteer.
Map of Ancient Murrelet colonies in British Columbia, Canada.