Like other Raincoasters, members of the ACS lab at the University of Victoria have made creative and productive COVID-19 pivots. Although field seasons were cancelled or modified, we capitalized on unprecedented opportunity to focus on analyses, policy, and digital outreach. We have also reflected on the relationship between planetary and human health, reminding us of the myriad benefits of applied conservation science.
Our team is also grieving the loss of a dear friend and mentor. Chester “Lone Wolf” Starr, of Bella Bella, Heiltsuk Territory, touched many lives and quietly shaped the direction of Raincoast’s work. In honour of his influence and with permission of his family, we share a portion of his eulogy by Johanna (Yoey) Gordon-Walker.
Chester began working with Raincoast Conservation in the spring of 2000. Larry Jorgenson connected him with Chris Darimont, who at that time was a graduate student and was planning a wolf research project in Haíɫzaqv territory. Chester was not only knowledgeable about the territory and the animals living there, but was an incomparable mentor for the whole crew. He had an amazing eye for spotting wildlife along the shore or in the forest, and he shared the knowledge that was passed down to him about how to observe the animals and everything around him. He could howl just like a wolf, and would often howl to see if the wolves were nearby; sometimes a wolf pack responded. The wolf research project ran for a number of years, during which Chester made many strong connections, including his especially close friend Chris Darimont and Johanna Gordon-Walker, whom he began calling his daughter in 2003. In 2004 the International Fund for Animal Welfare recognized Chester, along with Chris, with a Compassion in Science Award for their research that treated wolves with respect and compassion. Raincoast began a number of other projects in Heiltsuk territory over the years, and although Chester retired from fieldwork, he made friends with the new researchers and field assistants, attending dinners and the occasional boat ride. He and Denise became close with Kyle Artelle and Diana Chan, who made Bella Bella their home. Chester also loved his visits to Koeye during Raincoast’s week at Koeye Camp. He took lots of pride in all the work he had been a part of and loved to watch and share the numerous films made about the wolf project by organizations such as National Geographic.
We will miss you, Lone Wolf. Your lessons will stay with us.