ES 481A: Community-based Research in
Clayoquot Sound (British Columbia)

ES 481A students and instructors
Instructor: Kelly Bannister

Course theme and purpose:
What role does academic research play in resolving, or assisting communities to resolve, environmental and social problems? What contextual understandings are necessary for researchers to address community issues? What specific challenges are involved in collaborative research between universities and communities?

Community-based Research in Clayoquot Sound is a unique field course offered by the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria that was created to explore these questions and enable students to develop a situated understanding of the issues underlying both theory and practice of "community-based research" in the Clayoquot Sound region of western Vancouver Island. The focus is on social, cultural and environmental activities in the Clayoquot Sound region, with emphasis on problems arising in the process of community transformation from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based society.

The course is an activity sponsored in part by the Clayoquot Alliance for Research, Education and Training (CLARET). It is designed as a partnership between the University of Victoria (UVic) and the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust (CBT). It has been developed under the guidance of Dr. Rod Dobell (Professor Emeritus, UVic Public Administration), Mr. Stan Boychuk (Executive Director, CBT) and Dr. Barb Beasley (Ucluelet). The course is a collaborative effort, made possible by several individuals, non-profit organisations and First Nations groups from the university and the communities of Clayoquot and Northern Barkley Sound.

Summer 2005:
Activities of the field component include learning, service and research. These vary each year, depending on interest, availability and priorities of the community partners. For example, in summer 2005, sixteen students (fourteen undergraduate and two graduate) had the opportunity to participate in three CBR projects at the request of community partners. These included:

  • A salamander survey for Peter Buckland at the Boat Basin Field Study Centre run by the Boat Basin Foundation in Stewardson Inlet to find out the diversity in resident salamander populations. Students learned about basic salamander identification and how to set up transects in rather treacherous amphibian habitat, before undertaking night-time surveys.
  • Visual mapping of an ancient fish weir located on the sandy shores of Iusuk in the territory of the Hesquiaht First Nation for Elders Stephen and Karen Charleson. Students learned about traditional fisheries management regimes and then assisted with a GIS (Global Information Systems) mapping exercise to try to map the position of individual cedar stakes of the traditional fish weir, which is only visible at low tides.
  • Photo-point monitoring and a shoreline vegetative survey of the Tofino Mudflats Wildlife Management Area to help create an ecological baseline for conserving the delicate mudflat area, which is one of the top ten most critical wetlands for migratory waterfowl on Canada's west coast. Students tested data collection methods developed by community volunteer scientists (Caron Olive and Barb Beasley) that will be used in producing a brochure on what people can do and not do to help protect the area.

Students who took the course learned about many issues and opportunities in community-based participatory research and they were able to contribute in a small way to important community research projects in Clayoquot Sound.

We thank the following people for contributing to ES 481A (summer 2005): Mr. Daniel Arbour (Boat Basin Foundation), Dr. Barbara Beasley (Ucluelet), Mr. Stan Boychuk (Clayoquot Biosphere Trust), Mr. Peter Buckland (Boat Basin Foundation), Ms. Karen Charleson (Hesquiaht First Nation), Mr. Stephen Charleson (Hesquiaht First Nation), Dr. Rod Dobell (UVic), Mr. Leif Johansen (Ahousaht Cultural Centre Society), Mr. Jack Little (Ahousaht First Nation, CBT), Dr. Caron Olive (Ucluelet), Mr. George Patterson (Tofino Botanical Gardens), Ms. Jen Pukonen (Raincoast Interpretive Centre), Dr. Derek Shaw (Tofino), Ms. Justine Townsend (UVic), Ms. Glenys Verhulst (UVic), and Mr. Warren Warttig (Interfor).We also thank the organizations listed on the links page, and the Central Region Nuu-Chah-Nulth First Nations for having us on their territory.

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Photo courtesy of Kelly Bannister ©2005
Website Design by Lindsay Humber 2005. Last Updated: December 2005