A Condo at the Lower Spawning Channel

The foundation has been poured and the frame is up for the first condo at the Lower Spawning Channels… A bat condo!

Bats are perhaps one of the most elusive and under-appreciated species found within the Seton Corridor. Being a bat isn’t easy – with their pointy ears, bizarre upside-down sleeping habits, and their iconic role in the movie Dracula, bats inspire fear in many people. However, bats are really quite harmless and fill a critical role in our ecosystem.

Here are some of our favorite “bat facts”:

  1. Bats will live for up to 30 years! 
  2. Bats are the only mammal that can fly. Although they are often confused with birds, bats are in fact more closely related to humans. This means that they deliver live young (called pups) and breast feed. 
  3. A bat will typically have one pup per year. Because bats will sleep hanging from the ceiling, pups have to learn quickly how to hold on to their mother in the roost or they fall.
  4. Bats can eat over 1000 mosquitos per hour (and no – they won’t suck your blood). Promoting good bat habitat near your home is therefore a great way to control mosquitos. 

We have confirmed that there are at least 12 species of bats in Lillooet, many of which are listed as threatened or critically endangered in Canada. To help improve bat habitat in the Seton Corridor, Splitrock Environmental, in partnership with the Lillooet Naturalist Society, has started construction on our first bat condo. 

The bat condo will be installed near the Lower Spawning Channel. This is a great spot since many species of bats have been observed to actively use the spawning channels. Once finished, the bat condo will house hundreds of bats. Pictured below is the metal frame on which the condo will sit. The condo will be installed on top of the post soon – check back on our website or visit the spawning channels to see the finished product within the next few months. 

If you are interested in learning more about bats or learning how you can install a bat house near your home, take a look at the following links:

http://www.bcbats.ca/

http://www.lillooetnaturalistsociety.org/bats

The framework for a new bat condo. Photo credit: Vivian Birch-Jones, Lillooet Naturalist Society.

What are we up to….

Well, 2018 has officially started, and with it, brought a time for reflecting, planning, and reporting at Splitrock Environmental.

This last year was an adventure to say the least. Although field work has finished, our team now has thousands of data points, photos, and maps to parse through.

Alicia conducting a statistical analysis of vegetation data

Over the next few months, our Biologists, Environmental Technicians, and GIS team will be hard at work analyzing data, writing reports, and making recommendations based off of the 2017 work.

Take a look at some of our past projects here, and check back soon to see some of our 2017 work!

In addition to finishing 2017 projects, a significant amount of time each winter is invested into strategic planning and preparing for the upcoming year. Each January we set aside time to reflect on the previous years’ work and identify opportunities to improve on our skills and experiences. Kim and Jessica have invested a considerable effort into updating our safety protocols, selecting training courses for our Environmental Technicians and Biologists, and ensuring the resources are in place for an exciting and successful year. Also, our Biologists have already started developing field sampling procedures and ordering equipment for upcoming projects in 2018.

Although the bulk of our field work won’t start for several more months, watch for these upcoming projects:

  • Starting over the next few weeks, some of our staff will be bracing the cold to conduct fuel management work in the hills around Lillooet
  • As the salmon fry start to leave the spawning channels on their journey for the Ocean, Splitrock will be conducting smolt outmigration surveys to estimate the number of smolts successfully leaving the Lower and Upper Spawning Channel. This work will start in mid-February and will continue until May.

Odin elbow deep in field notes and vegetation data

Kim and Jessica reviewing a project proposal for upcoming work.

Daryn and John elbow deep in old land use reports for the Seton Corridor.

 

 

The Tales of the Tracks

While it may seem that winter is a quiet time in the Seton Corridor as may species hunker down and hibernate during the cold winter months, to the careful observer, the landscape is full of activity. The carpet of snow covering our landscape provides a unique opportunity to peer into the daily trials, tribulations, and adventures of wildlife in the winter.

Species such as deer and birds continue to meander in and around our spawning channels as they look for food and water during the winter months. As wildlife interacts with their landscape, they leave behind signs that they were there. Signs can include snags of hair on a fence or tree branch, animal feces or scat, scratch or chew marks on tree trunks, or feathers.
However, in the snow (or mud) we can see perhaps the most noticeable signs of wildlife – their tracks.

To the creative observer, tracks and other signs that wildlife leave behind can be read almost like a story. In many cases, this story is short and sweet, merely telling us that a species has passed by. For example, these bird tracks found outside Splitrock are perhaps a crow looking for a snack, or maybe a raven on its way home.

But sometimes, if you are lucky, the signs left behind by wildlife can provide a momentary peak into something more exciting.

Here there was a struggle – you can see the light impressions of wings beating against the snow as well as a flurry of feathers that have been left behind. Perhaps this is the signs of a Chukar that was taken by a larger bird of prey, or maybe a mouse that was found hibernating under the snow.

By following animal tracks, we can learn a great deal about the wildlife that live in this area.  Before the snow all melts, find a chance to take a walk outside and do some detective work on what story the tracks near your home are telling you.

Salmon in the Canyon FraserFEST

Bring family, friends and neighbours for an evening celebrating the Fraser River down by the river!

Saturday August 5, 2017 from 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Located at the Cayoosh Creek Campground

Activities will include: Mini-golf, Salmon obstacle course, large 3D fish community art project, riverside field walk, fish ID and water bug discovery, and lots of hands-on interactive booths with a focus on wildlife, habitat, and sustainable living.

Bike Rodeo: Decorate your bike on site and then join the bike rodeo starting at 4:30 pm. Don’t forget to bring your helmet! For kids and adults.

Live music featuring Sekw’el’was drummers, local artists, community choir, and singer/songwriter Rachelle van Zanten http://www.rachellevanzanten.com

Food booths will be selling a diverse range of food for your enjoyment – with much of the produce coming from local farmers.

The Mystery of the Gun Creek Crop Circles

Okay, well they aren’t exactly crop circles but if you have been out in the Goldbridge area this summer you might have found yourself thinking ‘What the heck has been happening out around the Gun Creek Fan area of Carpenter Reservoir?’ It looks like the remnant site of a giant sand castle building party or some alien craft landing sites. Well to answer your justifiable curiosity, what you are witnessing are in fact experimental riparian enhancement trials. What the heck are those you will probably ask? Well the massive landscaping work is the result of efforts by Splitrock Environmental and X’wisten band’s excavator and heavy machinery operator to implement large scale experimental plots. The plots are intended to encourage natural re-vegetation down into the plant unfriendly drawdown zone of Carpenter Reservoir.
The trials were designed to create micro topography (mounds and depressions) on sites that are otherwise completely flat and compact due to years of repeated flooding. The effects of the newly created pitted and mounded areas include;
• creating varied roughened and loosened soil conditions that provide microsites with cooler facing slopes and moisture collecting depressions.
• Dramatically increasing overall surface area heightening infiltration of precipitation and slowing runoff.
• The pits will act like pockets and capture both wind and water born seeds trapping them in greater numbers than flat ground.
• The depressions will funnel moisture and diversify moisture retention,
• The north facing slopes protect from drying effects of the sun and wind.
Splitrock crews planted our nursery grown native sedges and grasses into sections of the treatment areas to determine if planting speeds up re-vegetation. In addition, seeds of the vegetation superstar lakeshore sedge (Carex lenticularis) (applause!) (a native species able to survive the extremes of annual drought and flooding inherent in a reservoir’s operation) were sown into test plots. A ton of work went in to these trials and a litany of monitoring was and will be carried out. We will be watching closely over the next few years in an attempt to answer the question of whether anything can be done to support natural colonization of vegetation into the Carpenter Reservoir drawdown zone.
If you are up in the area be sure to check out some of the sites, they can not be missed! Please resist the urge to clamber, drive, dig, climb, and comb through the sites as every bit of disturbance can be a setback to re-vegetation in this extremely harsh growing environment. Be sure to let us know if you have any further questions. And as for the alien conspiracy theorists out there sorry to burst your bubble.

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Biologist position at Splitrock Environmental

 

Employment Opportunity

Biologist and Project Manager

Splitrock Environmental Sekw’el’was is an aboriginal owned business that specializes in environmental consulting services, ecological restoration and propagation of native plants.

We are looking for a highly motivated individual who has a passion for the environment, who is a team player and has project management experience.  If you are looking for a change, joining our team and this growing business in a beautiful rural community could be the opportunity you have been waiting for.  For this specific position we are looking for someone who is a R.P.Bio., and/or who has a thorough knowledge of local environmental regulations and their application to a wide variety of projects within industry, government and non-profit settings. This position requires working from Lillooet BC.  Lillooet is located on the Fraser River, on the cusp of the Coast Mountains and the dry interior, thereby having a high biodiversity.

 

Responsibilities:

As a key member of our team you will be responsible for ensuring project staff meet, maintain or exceed client-specific outcomes, while working collaboratively to build the relationships necessary to grow the business. You will be able to successfully oversee environmental monitoring programs, develop habitat and wildlife projects, as well as design and manage a variety of mitigation and restoration projects from initial proposal submission, to implementation.  You will:

 

  • Undertake site investigations and environmental impact assessments
  • Submit proposals for a variety of environmental projects
  • Supervise and mentor junior biologists and technicians
  • Analyze and interpret data, provide science-based recommendations and mitigation requirements, prepare technical reports, and present findings to stakeholders
  • Implement conservation, restoration and adaptive management plans for diverse projects
  • Develop and carry out long-term monitoring programs
  • Liaise with clients from various sectors, ranging from aboriginal, government, industry, and non-profit organizations
  • Work with other professionals from various fields, including engineers, hydrologists, fish and wildlife biologists, aboriginal elders, naturalists and invasive species agrologist.

 

Qualifications:

The successful candidate will possess the following:

 

  • Degree or Master Degree in Environmental Science, Biology, Forestry, Botany, Restoration of Natural Systems or similar related field, with 4-5 years of experience working in an environmental consulting setting or an equivalent combination of education and experience.
  • Demonstrated experience with the practical application of the scientific process from developing a conceptual study plan to address clients’ goals, experimental designs, field work, data analysis and report preparation.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills and ability to work effectively in interactive multi-disciplinary team situations.
  • Class 5 Drivers License
  • A strong preference will be given to candidates registered or eligible for registration as an R.P.Bio with the College of Applied Biology.
  • Preference will be given to candidates with demonstrable experience in GIS, statistical analysis, and vegetation and habitat work in a variety of BEC zones.

 

Strong applicant who do not meet the above qualifications but feel they will be a good fit at Splitrock Environmental are invited to apply.

 

A cover letter and resume detailing your experience and qualifications must be submitted to manager@splitrockenvironmental.ca by Wednesday 19 July 2017.

Splitrock Environmental Employment Opportunity

The Release Call of the Western Toad

Unlike many other frog and toad species, most Western Toads (Bufo boreas boreas) do not use a vocal call to advertise for mates.  So, if you heard frogs calling this spring, you were most likely hearing Pacific Tree Frogs (Pseudacris regilla), and not Western Toads.

This interesting fact left us with one question: What is the meaning of these Western Toad calls recorded by our friend Ian Routley at Pavilion Lake?

The answer is actually quite interesting, but before we tell you, we will give you a hint:

Image recorded by Ian Routley at the same time as the sound recordings, May 7th 2017 at Pavilion lake.

If you guessed that these sounds were cries of passion, then you were incorrect.  These sounds are actually what herpetologists refer to as “release calls”.  You see, when frogs mate, the male grabs the female around the waist and snuggles up tight while he fertilizes her eggs.  But sometimes a problem occurs when a male grasps another male instead of a female.  In this case the male who has been mistakenly grabbed begins to protest by uttering a series of chirps that sound not unlike the peeps of a baby chick – the “release call.”  A way of saying: “please let go of me, you have the wrong mate!”  While they are shy to speak for most of the rest of their lives, male Western Toads demonstrate the courtesy of speaking up to let another fellow know when he is wasting his time.

The most important sites for Western Toad breeding in the Lillooet Area are the wetlands of the Fountain Valley, and the Pavilion Lake series.  These sandy bottomed lake host breeding populations of toads which come together in the spring to mate and deposit large colonies of eggs.  Throughout the summer you can look in the sunniest parts of these lakes and maybe you will see large schools of charcoal black Western Toad tadpoles.  In the late summer, drive with care and try not to hit the newly metamorphosed western toadlets as the move out from their natal wetlands, and into the upland forests that they use for foraging and hibernating.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has listed Western Toads as Endangered globally due to massive habitat loss, and population declines at the southern edge of their range in the US.  Though they also occur in western Alberta, and perhaps the southern Yukon, British Columbia is the core of their range, and the most important region for Western Toad conservation globally.

Like most other amphibians species, the greatest threat to the Western Toads are loss of habitat, and pollution.  So if you want to be a friend to the Western toad, the most important thing you can do is to participate in efforts to protect our precious wetlands!

If you are interested to learn more about Western Toads, the BC Frogwatch Program has some very good information.

 

 

 

Searching for the Dinosaurs of the Fraser

Biologists and recreational anglers alike regard the Fraser River White Sturgeon, Acipenser transmontanus, as one of the most elusive and sought after fish species throughout Western Canada. White Sturgeons can exceed eight meters in length and 100 years of age, making them one of the largest and oldest species of fish in North America. Sturgeons are listed as Endangered in the Upper Fraser, Columbia and Kootenay Rivers and Threatened in the Lower Fraser River. Sturgeons in the Middle Fraser, including Lillooet populations, remain unlisted.

Biologists working alongside Lheidli T’enneh First Nations in Prince George, British Columbia, have intensively studied White Sturgeons within the Upper Fraser River watershed. To learn about this research and increase our local capacity to study and handle Sturgeons, two Splitrock employees, Corrie Allen and Travis Rankin, traveled to Prince George and spent two days on the Fraser River participating in an experimental field biology tour.

As part of this program, Corrie and Travis had the unique opportunity to observe and practice techniques including: setline and angling approaches to capturing Sturgeons; proper handling techniques; determining sex through surgery; suturing techniques; and, PIT and radio tagging Sturgeons.

In Lillooet, an existing PIT tagging program lead by a local Conservation Officer and assisted by Sturgeon Operators has had success in monitoring Sturgeon captures throughout the Middle Fraser. This program has been ongoing for several years and has contributed to our understanding of Sturgeons in this area.

Here at Splitrock, we are excited to take these techniques and knowledge back to Lillooet for a new Sturgeon project that Splitrock and St’at’imc Eco-Resources will collaboratively implement this summer. The objective of this new initiative is to support and promote the conservation of White Sturgeon populations in the Middle Fraser by engaging aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities to better understand local Sturgeon biology, the current and cumulative impacts on local sturgeons, and to provide a strategic plan for studying and monitoring the Middle Fraser Sturgeon moving forward.

If you are interested in getting involved with this work or would like to learn more, contact Splitrock at: 250-256-0002 or email Corrie at corrie.allen@SplitrockEnvironmental.ca.

 

Corrie showing off the team’s first catch.

Travis waiting a bite.

Sturgeons were placed onto a fish ‘stretcher’ where they were processed and subsequently released. In the above image, a Biologist is carefully performing surgery to determine the sex of the sturgeon. This technique can only be used on larger fish.

The team caught and processed an 8.5 ft fish, weighing in at 232 pounds. Because no PIT tag was found in this fish, this is believed to be the first time it has had contact with humans. Interestingly, because of its size, Biologists predicted this fish could be over 100 years old.

To identify the precise age of a Sturgeon, a small piece of the leading ray on the pectoral fin is removed. In a lab, Biologists can then count the number of rings in the sample to determine age, much like tree rings are used to age trees.

 

 

Permanent Photo Point Monitoring

Photo point monitoring is a method of repeat photography used to track changes on the landscape through time.  One of the most well-known series of repeat photographs is the Mountain Legacy Project, which is recreating historical photos dating back to 1861 in the Canadian Rockies.

Here at Splitrock we use this technique to monitor the progress of re-vegetation on our ecological restoration projects.  Below are two images from our Powerhouse site.  The first was taken before restoration work in 2010, and the second one was taken almost exactly two years later after we had begun to remediate the soil, and re-plant the area with native wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs.

Currently, we are working on establishing permanent photo points at all of the wetlands in the Lillooet area.  We hope to return to these photos through the years to monitor the health of our wetlands.  Each image includes the surrounding landscape, because wetlands are dynamic features, which may grow, shrink, or move in response to human alterations on the landscape, ecological succession, geo-morphological processes, and climate change.

 

Andrew James, Fred James, and Yvonne Michell establishing a photo point of a wetland on Duffy Lake Road, from the deactivated Boulder FSR.

We would like to work with landowners and community members to re-monitor the photo points at each of our wetlands, so we are developing protocols, data-sheets, and other resources to help train new users on this exciting and powerful technique.  If you are interested in photo point monitoring, or if you have a project which would benefit from repeat photography, please contact us, we would love to share what we have learned.