Citizen Science & Stewardship
Environmentally mobilized citizen volunteers
What is Citizen Science & Stewardship?
Citizen science and stewardship are two different but related activities that encourage public participation in helping to understand and manage the natural environment around us. Stewardship is simply the act of taking care of something, including land and ecosystems. Stewardship includes: doers, donors, and practitioners. For example, doers may volunteer to remove invasive plants, pick up garbage, or plant trees. Donors give money or help raise funding for a cause. Lastly, Practitioners work daily towards steering governmental agencies, scientists, stakeholder groups, or any other group toward a stewardship outcome. Citizen Science on the other hand, is the collection, and sometimes analysis, of data by members of the public.
At ThINC, we do both.
Learn more about our programs below!
Community Bat Program
At least eight species of bats live on the Thetis Island including the endangered Little Brown Myotis and the threatened Townsend’s Big-eared Bat. We participate in the BC Community Bat Program to educate Thetis Islanders about bat appreciation and the ecological importance of bats, what to do about bats in buildings and dead bats, and how to monitor for white-nose syndrome ( a fungus deadly to bats and which has not been found yet in BC). Annual bat counts are carried out by volunteers at several locations four times a year and the information is added to the BC Community Bat Program database. Bat boxes have been installed at several locations on the island.
Bats are not only fascinating, but important. To learn more about bats and to find out what to do if you have bats in a building, find a dead bat, or encounter one in your home, click here for Bat FAQ or contact our Community Bat Program Coordinator: Rob at
Western Screech Owl Recovery
Western screech owls were once common in the Gulf Islands but have been impacted by logging and by the immigration of the larger barred owl into the region. Specially designed nest boxes can assist with attracting the western screech owl back to an area. Our volunteers have installed approximately fifty next boxes on private properties throughout the island. The boxes are monitored for owl presence/absence twice a year using a wildlife camera on an extendable pole. The data is submitted to Madrone Ecological Consulting as part of a larger Vancouver Island/Gulf Island monitoring program.
Purple Martin Recovery
In 1985, only five nesting pairs of purple martin, the largest of the swallow species in North America, were left in British Columbia. Since then, conservation efforts using specially designed nest boxes have increased the breeding population to 1100 pairs, a precarious foothold. To assist with these conservation efforts, our volunteers built and installed six nest boxes on pilings in Telegraph Harbour in the spring of 2020. To our delight, purple martins quickly moved in and raised young. Monitoring is carried out yearly.
Forage Fish Monitoring
Forage fish such as Pacific sand lance and surf smelt are critical species at the base of the marine food web, feeding larger fish such as salmon, which in turn feed marine birds, seals, sea lions and whales. Yet forage fish have not been well-studied and the locations of beaches where spawning occurs has not been well-mapped. Our volunteer team samples local beaches each month and prepares the samples using specialized equipment. The samples are sent to the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve Research Institute laboratory at the University of Vancouver Island where they are analyzed for the presence of forage fish embryos.
Read 'The Forager' newsletter and get 'hooked' on forage fish citizen science.
Seastar wasting disease has decimated populations of many species of seastar over the past few years. Under the direction of Andy Lamb, a local marine biologist, volunteers count seastars yearly at the waterfront near the Portal and at Clam Bay to monitor for recovery of the purple seastar.
Pollinator Garden at the Nature House
Volunteers built and continue to maintain a pollinator demonstration garden at the Nature House to provide forage for native pollinators such as bumble bees, dragonflies, and hummingbirds. The garden serves as a wonderful educational venue.
Check out this Southern Vancouver Island Bee Identification Guide to learn your bees.