The beginning of a longterm monitoring project by Future Science Leaders students on False Creek.
The home of the Future Science Leaders program (FSL) is the Telus World of Science, a prominent landmark at the eastern end of False Creek. Today, this area is noteworthy for it’s proximity to the bustling heart of Vancouver Downtown to the north and west, trendy Kitsilano, Fairview, & Mount Pleasant (south and west), and the unique Strathcona & Grandview-Woodland to the east. However, prior to the 1800s this now-urban area was marked by a mudflat surrounded by temperate rainforest on land and an estuary below the tides that supported an abundance of sea life.
Landscapes and ecosystems change with time, especially when humans are around. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) provides policies and guidelines that help us manage risks and mitigate the negative effects of developments near water. Habitat Island was created in compliance with these policies to help reduce the longterm impacts of building the Athlete’s Village for the 2010 Winter Olympic games along the southern edge of False Creek.
On the evening of September 11, 2013, the FSL students took the ten minute stroll from Science World to Habitat Island to collect the first data of a long-term monitoring project of the intertidal life colonizing the island. By counting chitons and crabs, and estimating cover of mussels and barnacles, we hope to see whether the island is serving it’s purpose. Is the human-made intertidal zone being recolonized? How quickly?
Despite Vancouver’s penchant for rain, the summery weather held out for us on the 11th and we were able to enjoy the beautiful sunshine while dodging the tide and crouching amongst the rocks. Excitement rose and fell as the crab traps were tossed into the water on either side of the island and came up empty. As we wrapped up data collection, a few students took the opportunity to relax and skip a rock or three before we made our way back.
After the spring break we’ll revisit the Island to try to capture seasonal effects in diversity, and in late April we’ll take a field trip to sample the late-successional intertidal ecosystem in Stanley Park. With this data to compare to, this year’s students will be able to assess the Habitat Island community as it stands today while keeping an eye to the future; how far does it have to go to rebuild what was lost? The FSL students of September 2014 will be the first to be able to look back and ask, how far has it come?
With this longterm monitoring project, all the FSL students will be able to contribute real, scientific data about the effectiveness of conservation projects like Habitat Island that may help future developers make informed choices about city planning.
Written by Tanya Stemberger