Theses (Environmental Studies)

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Theses from the School of Environmental Studies.

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    Whose Values on Whose Lands? An Exploration of Perspectives on Indigenous Conservation Financing in Canada
    (2024) Popa, Audrey Maria; Peredo , Ana María
    While Indigenous knowledge is increasingly recognized as crucial in addressing the global environmental crisis, the application of Indigenous knowledge(s) in environmental management realms remains underfunded globally, posing significant challenges to the effective stewardship of lands and waters. Conservation finance, defined as mechanisms that generate, manage, and deploy financial resources for environmental conservation, has recently emerged as an alternative to traditional grant funding for conservation activities. However, little research has documented conservation finance in practice, specifically, the emerging mechanisms which support Indigenous stewardship and conservation in Canada, and their impacts. This research asks: 1) What is the current landscape of Indigenous conservation finance in Canada? And 2) What are the key perceptions of peoples involved in these conservation finance initiatives? A Postcolonial Critical Realism methodological approach, a theoretical literature review, a landscape analysis, and semi-structured interviews were conducted to answer both these research questions. The landscape overview found that Indigenous conservation finance in Canada is diverse in mechanism type, size, and location and is evolving as Indigenous Peoples imbed local values in mechanisms and financing processes. Perspectives on these mechanisms varied; nonetheless, two key characteristics of the sector emerged: firstly, its association with extractive industries, and secondly, the role of conservation finance mechanisms in either reinforcing colonial values or resisting them. How values were enmeshed in these mechanisms greatly impacted the outcomes of initiatives, and power was demonstrated in ways in which communities could influence what was financed and how it was financed. This research contributes to the field of scholarship on conservation finance, mainly as it explores how financial mechanisms can support or subvert Indigenous values through their design.
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    Catalyzing Local Climate Action: Can Regional Collaboration Support Transformative Change?
    (2024) Pearce, Katherine Rebecca; Shaw, Karena
    The urgent threat of climate change demands an unprecedented scale of transformation, calling for new ways of thinking about how institutions can address the challenge. A multiplicity of responses at various scales have emerged, including the burgeoning role of local governments, which have a key role to play in effective climate policy and implementation, yet also face barriers that can constrain climate action. As well as lack of capacity and resources, political will, and institutional challenges, local governments are constrained by geographical scales and tiers of governance, as climate action and impacts frequently extend beyond jurisdictional boundaries. This study sought to address a critical gap in knowledge related to regionally coordinated climate action in Canada, integrating insights from an interdisciplinary set of literature and building upon O’Brien’s (2018) three spheres of transformation framework in order to draw out the potential for regional collaboration to support transformative climate action. Specifically, the study aimed to identify the primary barriers to advancing climate action in the Vancouver Island and Coastal region of British Columbia from the perspective of local government staff and elected officials, and to explore whether and how these barriers could be more effectively navigated through regional scale collaboration. Data were collected through 15 semi-structured interviews and thematically analyzed to identify climate action barriers and enablers. The study revealed key barriers in three thematic categories – resistance, capacity, and governance, with barriers related to resistance and governance being more deeply entrenched but also offering greater opportunities to leverage transformational change. Mapping these barriers onto O’Brien’s three spheres suggests a need to move beyond behavioural changes and technologies to target deeper leverage points related to systems, structures, and the personal sphere in order to achieve the transformational change required to respond to climate change. The study illuminated potential actions at various scales of governance to address resistance, capacity, and governance challenges. Collaboration, a significant enabler at the regional scale, offers the opportunity to address barriers to climate action through supporting horizontal and vertical alignment on policy and communications, sharing resources, building capacity and using existing capacity more effectively, supporting personal and collective resilience, and advocating collectively for needs. These findings indicate strong potential for catalyzing action through greater coordination at multiple governance scales, including the regional scale, providing hope that a collaborative approach might help to unlock necessary transformative change.
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    Feeding Our Spirit: Connecting Plants, Health, Place and Identity. Renewing Ethnobotanical Knowledge in the Skwxwú7mesh First Nation
    (2024) Joseph, Leigh; Mathews, Darcy; Cuerrier, Alain
    In a time of Indigenous Resurgence, interrelationships with culturally important plants are key to the health and well-being of Canadian Indigenous Peoples. I work with my home community of Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) First Nations in British Columbia. My research is conducted within the context of the Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) crisis in Indigenous communities across Canada. Type 2 Diabetes is five times higher than the general population and diagnosis is happening at younger ages. Drawing on theoretical and methodological approaches in ethnobotany, ethnobiology, and Indigenous Studies— and framing health and wellness from a Skwxwú7mesh perspective that considers physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health—I answer four interrelated questions: How might developing an indigenizing and decolonizing approach to ethnobotany move the field forward to the benefit of the communities we work with, and situate the discipline as a positive contributor to Indigenous cultural-political resurgence in Canada? How can culturally important plants help connect a person’s sense of health (physical, spiritual, and emotional) to place? What do the connections between plants, health and place mean to the participants themselves? What role do culturally important plants play in developing approaches to addressing T2D from an Indigenous conceptualization of health viewpoint? These questions emerge from overarching themes and priorities that have Skwxwú7mesh expressed in initial discussions and consultation. The results of this study will inform the Skwxwú7mesh First Nations practices on culturally rooted approaches to health through rebuilding Indigenous plant relationships. The results of this work also provide a framework for other Indigenous communities interested in reconnecting with their traditional plant practices and addressing Type 2 Diabetes in a culturally relevant way.
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    Using remote camera traps to monitor population demographics and community ecology of divii (Dall’s sheep): Part of a community-based monitoring program in the Northern Richardson Mountains, NT
    (2024) Goward, Sydney Lee; Fisher, Jason Thomas; Lantz, Trevor Charles
    The warming Arctic is undergoing rapid ecological change, influencing wildlife populations, mammal community interactions, and ultimately, the persistence of many species. Collecting the species monitoring data required for sound stewardship decisions in these remote areas is a major challenge. Remote wildlife cameras, facilitated through community-based monitoring programs, offer a solution to provide these critical data. In this thesis, I employed novel methods in remote camera trapping as part of a community-based monitoring program to investigate Dall’s sheep population demography and predator-prey dynamics with grizzly bears. In Chapter 2, I explored the ability of remote wildlife cameras to estimate population demographics (lamb:nursery, ram:nursery, and ram classification proportions), as compared to currently standardized aerial surveys. These metrics are imperative to assessing population status and predicting population trends. I found that camera data, accumulated sufficiently through time and discretized in appropriate biological seasons produced reliable lamb:nursery, ram:nursery, and ram classification proportions comparable to those obtained from aerial surveys, and produced similar population status trends between the two methods. To my knowledge, this is the first study employing remote cameras to estimate productivity (lamb:nursery ratio) and adult sex ratios in a wild, un-marked sheep population, and marks a significant advancement in wildlife monitoring with remote cameras. In Chapter 3, I examined the temporal coexistence of Dall’s sheep and grizzly bears, in a core habitat area, at different times of the year. I used remote camera data to derive a time-to-event model investigating if and how grizzly bears are tracking nursery groups and ram bands. I also evaluated the differences and similarities in diel activity patterns between the species to estimate temporal niche partitioning. I found clear temporal segregation of nursery groups and grizzly bears, and showed that grizzly bears were more closely tracking nursery groups than ram bands, especially early in the spring when lambs are most vulnerable to predation. The results indicate that camera traps can yield fine-resolution insights into predator-prey relationships. This study provides a new method to monitor Dall’s sheep population demography, as well as new information on Dall’s sheep and grizzly bear relationships. Incorporating a remote camera system into wildlife monitoring programs allows for a more comprehensive examination of demography, while fostering an opportunity to explore further questions related to community-based monitoring and management.
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    Evaluating the impacts of anthropogenic development on large mammals across protected and industrialized landscapes in Western Canada
    (2024) Smith, Rebecca M; Fisher, Jason T; Shackelford, Nancy
    Anthropogenic landscape development leads to substantial habitat loss and fragmentation, with large mammals among the most strongly impacted. In this thesis, I used wildlife camera traps across landscapes in Western Canada to investigate two landscape-level management actions for development. First, protected areas (PAs) control development within their boundaries, so they provide refuge to wildlife from many anthropogenic disturbances. Despite their prevalence, many PAs fall short of protecting species and habitats. Since PAs are intrinsically linked to their surrounding lands, pressures outside of PAs can be sources of mortality for mammals using habitat that spans boundaries. To improve our understanding, Chapter Two of this thesis examined the relative impacts of landscape development inside and outside of PAs on large mammals. Species occurrences were best predicted by models that comprised both inside- and outside-PA development, demonstrating that PAs do not offer the full protection they are mandated to. Most of the land on earth, however, remains unprotected, so conservation relies on species persistence in unprotected regions with active development. The composition and configuration of habitat resulting from development has been found to influence species distributions, but configuration is often disregarded as influential in landscapes with less than 70% total habitat loss. Chapter Three examines the relative influences of landscape composition and configuration on large mammal species distributions across a petroleum extraction region. Both configuration and composition were revealed as important, and the specific measures of configuration that explained species occurrence showed that resulting landscape configuration from development restructures the ecological mechanics of ecosystems. Together these results can be used to inform landscape management practices across North America to conserve large mammal species.
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    Framing reciprocal contributions across Indigenous and artisanal fisheries: Exploring cases, conflicts, and future pathways
    (2024-02-14) Ojeda, Jaime; Ban, Natalie
    Throughout human history, Indigenous and local communities have been stewards of nature. Their practices often embody the value of reciprocity, fostering positive contributions of humans with other components of nature. Yet, during colonization, and more specifically with the rise of neoliberal policies and the dominance of market worldviews, we have become distanced from this nature-people reciprocity. Concepts like "ecosystem services" provide a framework for comprehending the vital functions that ecosystems play in many facets of human existence. However, they also inadvertently narrow the discourse to a unidirectional relationship: nature serving people. This perspective can obscure our responsibilities to care for and sustain the environment. In this dissertation, I unpack the nature-people reciprocity, exploring its theoretical and practical relevance for social-ecological systems. I frame this work in one of the oldest biocultural interactions: marine fishing practices. This dissertation has five chapters. In the introductory Chapter, I outline the rationale and objectives of the study, highlighting the gaps in current understandings of nature-people reciprocity. In the second Chapter, I introduce the concept of “reciprocal contributions,” which encompasses actions, interactions, and experiences between people and other components of nature that result in positive contributions and feedbacks that accrue to both directly or indirectly across different dimensions and levels (Chapter 2). Following this conceptual chapter, I draw on two case studies to understand how reciprocal contributions can emerge with a bi-hemispherical approach in diverse fishing settings. First, in Haida Gwaii (North America), I partnered with the Council of Haida Nation, Haida Fisheries, to research the ancestral relationships between Haidas and abalone, examining their reciprocal contributions. Here, I interviewed Haida knowledge holders who have lived through the tragedy of the commercial abalone fishing boom and subsequent decline. In this chapter, I discuss the harms of overfishing on reciprocal contributions to review the past and rethink future abalone management strategies (Chapter 3). Second, working with artisanal fishers in Patagonia (South America), I investigated the reciprocal contributions between these individuals and marine life, especially seabirds. Employing both ethnographic and ecological methodologies, I explore the intricate relationships between fishers and seabirds and discuss how these reciprocal contributions can serve as tools for studying the complex interactions between humans and nature within an ecosystem-based management framework (Chapter 4). In the concluding Chapter, I reflect on the theoretical and practical implications of reciprocal contributions through the themes of nature-people relationships and fisheries management. Ultimately, I hope that this dissertation serves as work to resituate the importance of reciprocity.
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    Think Inside the Box: The Role of Sustainable Packaging in Environmentally Conscientious Shopping
    (2024-01-05) Tottman, Walker; Peredo, Ana Maria
    Based on public opinion, addressing plastic pollution is as imperative as solving climate change and biodiversity loss. One emerging market trend to solve plastic pollution is the shift towards plastic-free ‘sustainable packaging.’ However, pro-environmental solutions are not without risk of negative consequences. Previous research highlights how waste-reduction mechanisms – which sustainable packaging ostensibly represents – can alter consumer behaviours, reduce guilt, and increase overall consumption. Similarly, research suggests that sustainable packaging erroneously influences perceptions of a product’s and brand’s attributes favourably. While these data allude to a risk of compromising consumers' conscientiousness, the relation between sustainable packaging and environmentally conscientious shopping remains unknown. In this research, we ask: What is the relation between sustainable packaging and purchase intent, package and product evaluations, and pro-environmental behaviours? And second: What are the implications of sustainable packaging on the environmental conscientiousness of consumer habits? Using a mixed-method qualitative and quantitative survey from a sample of 156 Canadians, the results suggest: 1. A package's perceived level of sustainability positively influenced perceptions of the product's sustainability; 2. The footprint of a sustainable package was viewed disproportionately more favourable when it is on a conventional product; 3. Products with sustainable packaging received a higher purchase intent, regardless of whether the product itself is sustainable; 4. Sustainable packaging elicited more emotionally-positive, plastic-specific comments, without a concomitant increase in non-plastic-based environmental or negative comments; and 5. Consumers preferred pro-environmental behaviours that focus on plastic and packaging rather than product-focused pro-environmental behaviours. By influencing consumers’ perceptions and capitalizing on consumers’ focus on plastic packaging, we argue that sustainable packaging represents a new stage of greenwashing that corporations may co-opt as a market strategy.
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    Revegetation as a method for dust mitigation along reservoir drawdown zones
    (2024-01-03) May, Micah; Shackelford, Nancy
    Large-scale industrial development, such as construction of hydroelectric dams and reservoirs, can have long-lasting environmental and social impacts on communities and surrounding ecosystems. Williston Reservoir, located in northern British Columbia, is one example where intense wind erosion and fugitive dust impacts the local community of Tsay Keh Dene and surrounding area. To try and address the dust impacts, BC Hydro, the public utility that operates the reservoir, and Tsay Keh Dene Nation, have established the Williston Dust Mitigation program with the goal of reducing fugitive dust emissions along the reservoir. Dust mitigation trials have been implemented for over three decades, but efforts have struggled to scale due to factors like remoteness, challenging reservoir environment conditions, cost, and the capacity to scale mitigation solutions. To help inform the WDMP’s efforts, I investigated how vegetation may be used to mitigate dust at the necessary scale to address the issue. My first study involved conducting greenhouse and field experiments to select plant species suitable for revegetation efforts, which found cover crop species, like Secale cereale and Avena sativa, to be best suited for annual seeding in regions of the drawdown zone that flood every year, while some native grasses like Elymus trachycaulus and Elymus lanceolatus may be good candidates for higher elevation regions that do not flood every year. The second study investigated seeding rates and the application of fertilizer, along with measuring dust emissions across a 120-hectare beach to determine how varying treatments influenced total vegetation cover, and how vegetation cover impacted fugitive dust emissions. Vegetation cover was found to significantly reduce fugitive dust emissions and the application of fertilizer significantly increased vegetation cover. This suggests that fertilizer should be applied in moderation with cover crop planting to bolster early plant growth, but that the application be properly calculated so that excess nutrients do not leach to into the reservoir environment and costs are reduced. Overall, using cover crops in annually flooded areas of Williston Reservoir appears to be the most cost-effective dust mitigation treatment, while restoration efforts in higher drawdown zone areas using native plants should be explored further.
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    Westward Ho! Evidence of Longitudinal Migration in Silver-haired Bats from Hydrogen, Carbon, and Nitrogen Stable Isotopes
    (2024-01-03) Nelson, Kyle; Starzomski, Brian
    Migration is an energetically demanding process and North America’s migratory bats are facing the additional pressure of mortality from rapidly expanding wind energy facilities. Knowledge of bat migrations can be used to identify critical habitat and direct siting and mitigation measures to reduce the impact of wind turbines, but methods to study these movements remain limited. Silver-haired bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans) are a widely distributed bat species in North America that undergoes substantial migrations between their summer and winter locations. Studying these movements has long been a challenge, but technological advances such as the application of stable isotopes to animal migration studies make this more feasible. To date, the majority of the research conducted on silver-haired bat migrations has been focused on their movements east of the Continental Divide. Coastal influences and complex topography have been an impediment to the utilization of stable isotopes in bat migration studies west of this divide. To overcome this challenge, I systematically sampled silver-haired bats for multiple stable isotopes, hydrogen (δ2H), carbon (δ13C), and nitrogen (δ15), across a broad range of geography representative of western North America. Using Generalized Additive Models, I found geographical and climatological correlates of δ2H, δ13C, and δ15N distributions and used these to create the first species-specific stable isotope distribution maps (isoscapes) for silver-haired bats in western North America. I applied these isoscapes in a continuous-surface assignment framework to determine the most-probable migratory origins of silver-haired bats overwintering in coastal regions of southern British Columbia and western Washington State. The stable isotope signatures of these individuals indicated that the majority of them had spent their summers across a broad area further to the east, providing the first empirical evidence of longitudinal migration in silver-haired bats and indicating that coastal areas of British Columbia and Washington State are important overwintering habitat for this species. This work proves that with careful selection of both the samples and stable isotopes used, along with thoughtful consideration of the underlying geographic and climatological processes that drive their ratio distributions, stable isotopes can be used to track seasonal movements of animals in regions of complex topography. These results also emphasize the importance of coastal areas to overwintering silver-haired bats, and the need for strict regulation of wind turbines sited along likely migratory corridors connecting these coastal areas to interior summer habitat.
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    A freshwater invasive in a salty pond: Investigating the germination of invasive Yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus) in saline conditions and risk of invasion in coastal marine habitats
    (2023-12-20) Thomson, Hanna M.; Shackelford, Nancy; Gerwing, Travis G.
    Numerous generalities have been derived to explain how and why species become invasive. However, species may demonstrate niche shifts, differing phenotypic plasticity, or seemingly able to persist in novel conditions or interactions in disparate portions of their invaded range. As such, regionally tailored, species-specific understanding of invasive species ecology may be fundamental to deriving effective and efficient early detection monitoring and rapid-response control efforts. Yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus L.) is a typically freshwater invasive aquatic plant that is sufficiently tolerant of saltwater to disperse through, establish in, and reach sexual and asexual maturity in coastal habitats characterized by full marine salinity (~33 practical salinity units [PSU]). Emerging research suggests that I. pseudacorus may display diverse responses to saline environments in different portions of its invaded range. As such, this thesis aims to clarify the germination response of I. pseudacorus seeds exposed to seawater and identify the risk of coastal invasion in southern British Columbia (BC, Canada) to inform where efficient early detection and rapid response management actions are best maximized. The germination response of I. pseudacorus seeds exposed to saline conditions was evaluated. Seeds were collected from freshwater and coastal marine populations (two experimental source populations) and were immersed in fresh (0 PSU), brackish (13-15 PSU), or marine salinity (33-35 PSU) for 15, 30, 60, or 90 days before recovering in freshwater or remaining in saline conditions for the germination phase. The viability of ungerminated seeds and population-level seed traits (dried weight and testa thickness) were assessed. Gemination was fully inhibited by immersion in salinity unless seeds recovered in freshwater. The freshwater population of seeds consistently achieved higher germination than the coastal population, regardless of immersion salinity or duration. Remarkably high tissue viability among ungerminated seeds and population differences in mean seed coat thickness suggest that population germination differences may arise from dormancy mechanisms rather than seed fitness. A Maxent species distribution model (SDM) was developed to explore the drivers of I. pseudacorus’s coastal habitat suitability and identify regions most at risk of invasion in southern BC to catalyze early detection monitoring and rapid response management efforts. Precipitation during the driest season (40.6% contribution to model prediction) and proximity to urban landscapes (24.9% contribution) were the strongest determinants of coastal habitat suitability. Habitats near perennial freshwater sources were found suitable, though proximity to these features was not essential (distance to freshwater 7% contribution). More generally, south-facing slopes (aspect 6.2% contribution) at or above the mean high tide extent (elevation 7.9% contribution) will likely facilitate the establishment of I. pseudacorus. Regional invasion hotspots are expected near Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island’s west coast, the southern Gulf Islands and southern Vancouver Island, and in the backshore of the Fraser River delta. My research identifies the germination response of saline-exposed I. pseudacorus and key drivers and locations of coastal habitat suitability in southern British Columbia. These insights can inform the efficient execution of early detection and rapid response coastal monitoring and management strategies targeted at the emerging threat of coastal invasion by I. pseudacorus. While the invasion risk for the southern BC coast was derived, I. pseudacorus has a near-global invaded distribution. As such, understandings gleaned here can more broadly inform invasion dynamics of aquatic invasive plants and the invasive potential of other species with similar life history traits.
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    Leading with Indigenous Principles: Ecological Watershed Governance in British Columbia, Canada
    (2023-11-16) Ball, Murray; Curran, Deborah
    Both Indigenous and state governments grapple with drivers of ecological decline in colonial states. Ecological drivers such as resource extraction and climate warming meet in the realm of shared land and water governance. Shared governance at the watershed scale must face the challenge of bridging the governance approaches of nation states and Indigenous peoples with distinct legal and governance traditions. I approach that challenge with a case study of the Cowichan Watershed in British Columbia, Canada. I draw on 12 years of shared Indigenous and regional (state) governance experience at the watershed scale. I ask what the Cowichan experience reveals about how a Provincial level state government can enable the full expression of Indigenous governance principles in ecological watershed governance. I adopt a research framework of watershed governance functions and Hul’qumi’num governance principles to investigate how governance works in practice, the influence of Indigenous governance principles, and the roles of government in enabling and impeding those principles. I find that Hul’qumi’num principles are the key driver of success in setting aspirational targets for ecological conditions of the Watershed, in improving decision-making affecting watershed ecology, and in aligning responsibility with authority. The governance of river flow improved greatly over the study period, but the governance of forestry, where there was no opportunity to apply Hul’qumi’num principles, did not. The well-being of salmon improved greatly over the study period, but the well-being of the forest, as measured by old growth retention and recruitment, did not. The contrasts bear witness to the influence of Hul’qumi’num governance principles and to the essential role of Cowichan Tribes leadership. Cowichan Tribes led ecological governance initiatives by applying the principles in accordance with the Hul’qumi’num legal tradition, and by teaching others how to apply the principles. The implications for the Province of British Columbia are that it must change its legislation respecting land and water management, particularly with respect to forestry on large private land holdings, and it must co-create and fund watershed-scale governance entities with Indigenous peoples to enable the application and reap the benefits of Indigenous governance principles.
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    Green Afterlives: Green Burial as an Environmental Land Use in Settler-Colonial British Columbia
    (2023-09-25) Gawron, Gillian; Rowe, James K
    “Green burial” is a form of death care in which cemeteries are made to restore a “natural” ecosystem, rather than a lawn-style landscape. While it has grown in popularity in recent years, the implications of green burial as a philosophy and a land use have not been explored in the British Columbian context. To address this gap, I brought together anthropological death scholarship with terror management theory, which locates a key cause of anthropocentric behaviour in a suppressed fear and subsequent denial of death, and applied these frameworks to four case studies of BC’s green burial grounds. I pursued three research questions. (1) Does green burial encourage an ecological view of the self? I found that green burial can promote the idea that humans are “part of nature,” but can still leave some anthropocentric assumptions intact. (2) Is green burial a death denying practice? While I saw that natural restoration in cemeteries can disguise the presence of death, such death denial serves, rather than harms, non-human beings. (3) What are the implications of green burial as a land use within the settler colonial context of BC? I found that in settler-run graveyards a “return to nature” can reinforce, rather than unsettle, the erasure of Indigenous people and traditions from this land. Ultimately, I found that green burial has an important role in alleviating the damaging environmental effects of conventional burial practices. However, a closer look at how green burial is actually being practiced in BC serves to complicate the often uncritical narratives present in the literature, and expose the tension that comes from treating damaging settler-nature relationships as a problem that can be solved in isolation from decolonial movements.
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    Taking Care of Ts’aay’imts: Multi-level Governance of Eelgrass as a Blue Carbon Ecosystem
    (2023-09-11) Woodbury, Lilly; Curran, Deborah
    Governance is consistently cited as one of the major challenges to achieving conservation objectives. This observation applies to the current regulatory and policy landscape in British Columbia (BC) for blue carbon ecosystems (BCEs) composed of eelgrass meadows, kelp forests and salt marshes. Despite their profound ecological productivity and cultural importance to coastal First Nations, they are among the most rapidly disappearing environments on the planet. Their destruction is directly caused by industrial activities and associated externalities, colonial urban development, as well as the absence of strong state coastal regulations and policies. I address the health of BCEs and their communities by examining Indigenous governance for eelgrass using a multi-level governance (MLG) framework. Applying qualitative methods, I worked with the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation (Tla-o-qui-aht) as a research partner to understand how to fortify their authority in the marine environment of their Tribal Parks. Using a community-based participatory approach, including interviews, policy and document analysis, I found that strengthening Indigenous governance is a prerequisite to seeking an MLG arrangement for improved social-cultural-ecological outcomes like eelgrass protection. The research identified four interrelated strategies that Tla-o-qui-aht can use to enhance their authority: first, Tla-o-qui-aht can incorporate BCEs into their Allies Program; second, they can push for state government legislation recognizing Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas as protected areas; third, they can establish government-to-government agreements for the marine environment and/or BCEs specifically, and fourth; they can establish an Aquatic Working Group that will serve as a collaborative mechanism for marine planning and achieving blue carbon objectives. The implications of this research are two-fold: first, it identifies pathways, considerations and technical actions that Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation leadership can take to revitalize eelgrass, continue scaling their Tribal Parks and continue growing a conservation economy on the central west coast of Vancouver Island; and second: it contributes a territorial focus and intergenerational inclusion to the theory of MLG.
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    Evaluating Viticulture Manipulations Effects on Glycoside Abundance and Diversity in Vancouver Island Pinot Gris
    (2023-09-07) Watts, Andrew; Volpe, John
    Common techniques to modify growing conditions of wine grapes such as leaf removal, kaolin application and cluster thinning are assumed to improve grape quality. Abundance and diversity of appropriate aroma compounds are key markers of wine grape quality. Grape varietal and location specific responses to these common vineyard management techniques have not been explored on Vancouver Island. To evaluate the response of Pinot gris to common vineyard management techniques a stratified random block design encompassing three management strategies in two Vancouver Island vineyards, both growing Pinot gris over the 2018 and 2019 growing seasons was conducted. Vines were manipulated with seven treatment combinations that included reference, heavy leaf removal, kaolin application on fruit and cluster thinning. Vine physiology metrics were monitored during the growing season, while mature grapes were evaluated at harvest for total soluble solids (TSS), titratable acidity (TA), and (pH). Further, gas chromatography and mass spectrometry were used to quantify glycoside aroma compounds abundance and diversity across the treatments and vineyards. Results show heavy leaf removal decreased incidence of botrytis bunch rot and affected aroma compound abundance over the two growing seasons. Cluster thinning yielded consistent increased TSS and decreased TA at both vineyards. Kaolin did not significantly affect grape quality metrics. These results suggest heavy leaf removal and/or cluster thinning may yield significant benefit in the form of reduced botrytis pressure and improved grape quality in Vancouver Island grown Pinot Gris.
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    Camas (Camassia leichtlinii (Baker) S. Watson, C. quamash (Pursh) Greene) functional trait responses to urban pressures in Greater Victoria
    (2023-08-31) Rolleman, Erin; Shackelford, Nancy
    Coastal oak meadows are fragmented across an increasingly urbanized landscape in Greater Victoria with implications for great and common camas (qʷɫəɫ/KȽO,EL/Camassia leichtlinii and C. quamash) success. Both camas species are ecologically and culturally important across this region. Research into plant response to urbanization has largely examined how urban pressures shape plant community composition and structure, but how these pressures influence individual plant fitness remains unclear. To improve our understanding, Chapter Two of this thesis examined the response of common camas growth and reproduction to urban pressures in oak meadows across Greater Victoria. An urban-rural gradient was defined across the landscape and environmental conditions and camas growth and reproductive traits were measured. Urbanization was associated with increased trampling and soil compaction, and decreased soil depth, canopy cover, and soil phosphorus and reduced common camas growth and reproduction. Chapter Three examined the capacity of great camas (a slow-growing geophyte) to express phenotypic plasticity in response to three urban pressures (soil compaction, canopy cover, and grazing) within a single growing season in a greenhouse experiment and examined how these pressures affected resource allocation back into the bulbs. Great camas bulbs were divided into a cross-treatment design and growth and storage organ traits were measured. Great camas exhibited a limited capacity to respond to pressures within a single growing season with growth most strongly correlated to pre-season bulb mass. Bulb resources were not affected by urban pressures, but nearly all bulbs lost mass over the season. The shortened growing season and abnormally warm temperatures during the spring growth phase were highlighted as important drivers impacting great camas growth, reproduction, and development. These results can inform local and regional planning to support more successful urban camas populations into the future.
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    Can you taste sustainability?: Connecting product source and soil health to organoleptic performance
    (2023-05-31) de Jongh, Alexa; Volpe, John
    Taste and price tend to have a greater influence on food choices than extrinsic motivations such as nutrition and environmental performance. The connection between the taste of agricultural products and production methods has proven difficult in past research due to farming practices being treated as factors in such experiments without the use of specific farm operations or environmental conditions. Therefore, if consumers prefer the organoleptic properties of more ecologically friendly products, then consumer self-interest can be utilized to drive the market towards more eco-friendly food production methods. To explore this, I asked the question: do farm type, physio-chemical attributes, and/or soil health parameters and fertilization methods affect the organoleptic properties of different agricultural products? The first chapter examined if different farm types with different operations and localities influence the organoleptic perception of four different products (cherry tomato, table tomatoes, lettuce, and garlic) using three different farm types (small, local, large, local, and conventional). The second chapter assessed if fertilization method and soil health indicators influenced the organoleptic properties of three products (kale, carrots, and string beans) of two different fertilizer treatments (synthetic and compost) from a restoration agriculture project. The first chapter indicated that the more ecologically friendly farms had the more preferred products. The second experiment indicated that in an immature production system, the type of fertilizer used did not have a significant effect on the organoleptic properties of the products. Carrots were the only product where an effect was found, as the synthetic fertilized carrots were more preferred than the compost treatment. However, in neither case were the participants willing to pay a premium price for the more preferred products. Therefore, consumers can discriminate superior products but are not willing to pay a higher price for them. Self-interest (i.e. better-tasting products) has the potential to affect market share in favor of environment-responsive producers.
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    The relative impacts of recreational activity and landscape protection on a Rocky Mountain mammal community
    (2023-05-31) Eliuk, Laura; Higgs, Eric; Fisher, Jason Thomas
    Modern human expansion and landscape development has substantially restructured natural landscapes with cascading impacts on biodiversity, resulting in population declines and range contractions in many North American large mammal species. While conservation efforts through the establishment of protected areas (PA) mitigate stressors to wildlife by preventing further landscape disturbance, mammals are still impacted by high human use within PA, and ongoing landscape development outside PA boundaries. Comprised of a network of PA and unprotected areas, Canada’s Rocky Mountains provide important habitat to a rich mammal community. The Rocky Mountains also support a range of human uses, including industrial development creating ongoing landscape disturbance, and recreational use of landscape features such as trails and roads. The relative importance of PAs in supporting mammal populations, as well as the impacts of recreational landscape use to mammals, are not well understood. In this thesis, I used wildlife camera arrays to investigate the relative impacts of recreation and landscape protection on a Rocky Mountain mammal community, assessing distributions of six species: wolves, grizzly bears, coyote, black bears, white-tailed deer, and mule deer. I chose to assess multiple species as species are expected to respond differently to disturbance, with wolves and grizzly bears being disturbance-sensitive while coyotes and white-tailed deer are more disturbance-tolerant. In my second chapter, within an unprotected region, I investigated whether motorized recreation influenced mammal distributions, weighing its importance against landscape disturbance, and natural landscape features. I found that wolves avoided areas of high motorized use; coyote, white-tailed deer, and grizzly bears were better explained by landscape disturbance features, and black bears and mule deer were best explained by natural landscape features. Recreational use can cause spatial displacement of wildlife, with the effect being constrained to more disturbance-sensitive species such as wolves. These results have important implications in managing habitat for disturbance sensitive species, but also emphasize the importance of minimizing and restoring ongoing landscape disturbance, as disturbance facilitates recreational use, and ultimately has a larger impact on the greater mammal community. In my third chapter, I investigated whether protected areas outweigh natural or anthropogenic landscape features in explaining species occurrence, across a range of PA and unprotected areas in the Rocky Mountains. I found that PAs best explained the occurrence of four out of six species: wolves, grizzly bears, coyote, and mule deer. Wolves, grizzly bears, and mule deer had positive associations with PAs, while coyotes had negative associations. Black bears, white-tailed deer, and mammal diversity were best explained by anthropogenic landscape disturbance. These results underscore the importance of PAs in providing habitat for disturbance-sensitive predators, and demonstrate that anthropogenic landscape management and alteration are driving factors in determining species distributions. This research has important implications for future landscape management. For disturbance-sensitive species, such as wolves, limiting the extent of motorized recreation is important; on a broader scale, the establishment of PAs is important for providing habitat for disturbance-sensitive top predator species, and ultimately reducing ongoing landscape alteration and restoring habitat is essential to mitigate ongoing impacts to mammal communities.
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    The ecological effects of storm surges on Arctic bird and vegetation communities in the outer Mackenzie Delta, Northwest Territories
    (2023-05-01) Shipman, Frances Nicola Angus; Lantz, Trevor Charles
    Coastlines in the Western Canadian Arctic are predicted to experience increases in the frequency and intensity of storm surges as rapid climate change continues to alter weather and biophysical factors of this land-sea connection. Although storm surges have the potential to cause widespread and persistent vegetation loss, little information is available about the influence of decreasing disturbance intervals (between storms), expected timelines of recovery for vegetation, and how this dramatic vegetation change alters habitat availability and/or quality for local wildlife populations. In my MSc research, I investigated how Arctic bird diversity is affected by heterogeneous vegetation recovery post-storm and characterized ecological recovery of vegetation from repeated disturbance. In the first part of my thesis (Chapter 2), I used a combination of Landsat & Sentinel satellite imagery (1984-2019) and measured post-storm soil & vegetation attributes to characterize vegetation loss and recovery in areas of the outer Mackenzie Delta (NWT) affected by storm surges in 1999 and 2016. My observations of areas affected by the 1999 storm indicate that sites farther from the river channel lacked vegetation re-establishment and had higher soil salinity. Furthermore, our analyses suggest that sites affected by the 1999 storm that were re- inundated by the 2016 storm differed in response depending on whether sites had previously revegetated or not; more vegetation re-established at the previously unvegetated sites, whereas there were decreases in the diversity of the plant community re-establishing at the previously revegetated sites. In the second part of my thesis (Chapter 3), I employed field survey protocols from the Program for Regional and International Shorebird Monitoring (PRISM) to investigate how avian community assemblage is affected by heterogeneous re-vegetation 20 years following the 1999 storm. Comparisons of my bird survey data with vegetation and habitat factors showed that the drier, post-storm vegetation barrens were preferred by ground-nesters or species that use open habitats such as lapland longspur and semipalmated plover; whereas the wetter, mostly ponded, revegetated habitats were frequented by species of ducks, red-necked phalarope, and savannah sparrow. Taken together, my research shows that areas that have revegetated after the 1999 storm can be considered as functionally recovered in comparison to our Reference (i.e., unaffected) sites in terms of vegetation and bird communities, but that areas still exist ~20 years post-storm that do not show any characteristics of recovery.
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    Examining spatial biases in the community science platform, iNaturalist, using British Columbia, Canada, as a case study
    (2023-04-28) Geurts, Ellyne; Starzomski, Brian M.
    The ever-growing interest in community science platforms like iNaturalist and eBird is ushering in a new era of biodiversity and ecology research where researchers are overflowing with data across large geographical and temporal scales. However, these big and often unstructured data come with a cost, biases. These biases include temporal, spatial, and taxonomic biases in opportunistically collected community science datasets like the popular biodiversity platform, iNaturalist. There is a need to improve our knowledge of the biases on these platforms, so that the data can be used effectively. My thesis tackles this gap by examining spatial biases on the iNaturalist platform. My first study uses Maxent to model broad-scale spatial bias in iNaturalist observations in British Columbia, Canada. I ask: Where are iNaturalist users primarily observing? and What landscape features best explain the spatial bias? I find that distance to roads is the most important landscape variable explaining spatial bias. In my second chapter, I experimentally tested whether fine-scale spatial biases of trails affected taxonomic richness estimates on iNaturalist using paired timed transects with a team of iNaturalist observers. I found greater taxonomic richness on trails compared to away from trails and no difference in rare species observations between on and off trails, suggesting there is no loss of information by primarily surveying along trails. Overall, this research shows important variables to include to control for spatial bias when using iNaturalist data and provides reassuring evidence that fine-scale bias does not impede biodiversity surveying from community scientists.
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    Commercial fishing gear loss in Canada's Pacific Ocean: answering the why, where, and how with a mixed methods, transdisciplinary approach
    (2023-04-28) Frenkel, Caitlin; Ban, Natalie Corinna
    Derelict fishing gear comprises a large portion of the world’s marine plastic pollution, causing damage to marine habitats, wildlife, and fishing industries globally. To mitigate these issues, managers and marine stakeholders must understand the reasons for, and areas of, fishing gear loss specific to their region. Additionally, regional case studies are important to add to the global literature on derelict gear research. I conducted a global review of reasons for commercial gear loss, and used the findings to design a commercial fisher questionnaire in Canada’s Pacific region as a case study. I carried out these dockside and on-line questionnaires to record commercial fishers’ experiences with lost gear. Additionally, I used a species distribution model approach to identify variables associated with presence of derelict gear. Lost gear presence data for the model came from both the questionnaire and existing data for the region, and results from the previous literature review and questionnaire informed which environmental and fishing variables to include. I then used results from the model to predict areas with high probability of derelict gear occurrence. The global review highlighted that the most common reasons for gear loss were interactions with other fishing vessels and their gear, marine weather, and snagging on submerged features. Questionnaire results with 29 fishers indicated that snagging gear on rough substrate was the most important reason for loss across all gear categories, and that Hecate Strait, Clayoquot Sound, and the Strait of Georgia were prevalent areas of gear loss. Through the questionnaire, fishers indicated various ways to reduce gear loss including: using high quality gear that is well maintained, knowledge sharing amongst the fleet, preventing overcrowding in fishing areas, and keeping static and active gear types away from each other. The species distribution model approach indicated that bathymetry, fishing effort, and wind were the most important variables in derelict gear occurrence and predicted the highest probability of gear loss in similar areas as the survey. These results can support removal efforts and management decisions to mitigate issues caused by derelict gear by increasing the scientific understanding of the topic in Canada’s Pacific region.