Raincoast Applied Conservation Science Lab

Spirit bear to the left of picture holds a pink salmon that is still alive in its mouth, as it stands on rocks near flowing silver water.

Photo by Jeff Reynolds.

The importance of salmon diversity

One of the most important characteristics of science is its ability to improve understanding about the natural world. Often that means questioning ‘established’ knowledge. For years, we have advocated for increased allocation of salmon for wildlife.

We typically thought of allocation simply as the total biomass available to bears and other ecosystem recipients. Our recent work, however, has shown how that focus was too narrow. Although allowing enough salmon biomass to escape the nets of fishers is clearly important, so too is the diversity of salmon species available to wildlife. A recent paper, led by Dr. Christina Service, showed how salmon consumption by black bears increases not with extra salmon biomass, but instead with the availability of more salmon species. Having different areas and times of spawning, multiple salmon species offer black bears more access to salmon across watersheds and the spawning period. This new knowledge helps inform local management decisions relating to safeguarding (or restoring) smaller, less commercially valuable salmon runs.

Beyond Bears

Although the Raincoast lab is known for its work on grizzly, black, and Spirit bears, we also conduct applied research on other organisms. Our general rule of thumb is to work on plants, animals, or relationships in the natural world that are important to people and places. Lab members are now working on projects related to mountain goats, sea otters, culturally-modified trees, and environmental assessment processes.

The next generation of conservation scientists

One way that our work is magnified is by helping create the next generation of applied conservation scientists. In 2019, several of our long-term students graduated and are now applying their abundant skills and passion. Newly minted MSc Bryant DeRoy is now working in collaboration with the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Stewardship Authority on developing new biocultural spatial models to support environmental decision making in the Territory. Similarly, the aforementioned Dr. Service serves as Research Coordinator with the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation; in part to apply the results of her PhD research. Dr. Megan Adams is continuing applied research on relationships among wildlife, salmon, and people of coastal BC as a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Conservation Decisions Lab at the University of British Columbia. To these and other recent graduates, we pass on our best wishes!

One scientist, Megan Adams, wearing blue gloves on her hands uses a pair of scissors to cut bear hair trapped in barbed wire into her collection envelope, while another scientist, Grant Callegari in a black jacket notes something down on with a pen. They are in the Great Bear rainforest.
Photo by Grant Callegari via Hakai Magazine.

Royal Society of Canada honours Chris Darimont

In 2019, Raincoast Chair Dr. Chris Darimont was elected to the Royal Society of Canada. This 137-year old council of distinguished scholars and leaders is recognized as the country’s foremost academic honour. This is well-deserved recognition of Darimont’s rigorous scholarship, passion for applied research, deep curiosity about the natural world, community impact, and inspirational leadership.

Read the rest of our annual report.

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