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Maleea Acker

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Focus Magazine Nov/Dec 2016

Sept/Oct 2016.2

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Everything posted by Maleea Acker

  1. July 2017 Monterey Middle School’s nature-focused program nurtures a sense of place and a caretaking ethic. AUNALEIGH MACLUCAS AND SIDNEY HURST started taking sketching trips to Bowker Creek last fall with their middle school class. During each of several expeditions, they spent time drawing their surroundings from the point of view of one of the creek’s resident creatures—a dragonfly, a salmon, a raccoon. “It’s quite eye-opening, actually,” MacLucas tells me. “It makes you realize what a salmon might think of this area and what they would see.” These two passionate 13-ye
  2. May 2017 A century ago, Robert Butchart’s cement works used the inlet as a dump; help is finally on the way. TWO YEARS AGO, Alice Meyers had just arrived in Victoria to complete research for a PhD focusing on revitalization of the Sencoten language. On advice from Judith Arney, ethnoecologist for SeaChange Marine Conservation Society, she went out on a rainy Saturday and got drenched to the bone, working to remove invasive plants from the shores of an emerald inlet in Saanich. She lights up at the memory of sloshing around in the mud and the cold. “It was the best time,” she t
  3. March 2017 Preserving the flora of the Garry oak meadow ecosystem in the face of development. WHILE COMPLETING A PhD IN WILDLIFE BIOLOGY between 1970 and 1985, Louise Goulet worked in some of British Columbia’s most beautiful and remote areas—including the Stikine, the Kechika and the Liard River valleys. She often travelled by helicopter or even by horse. Pilots would ask her and her female colleague if they were sure they wanted to be dropped in the middle of a remote BC valley, by themselves. “We’re sure!” she would chirp. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Goulet completed
  4. January 2017 Dorothy Field explains her passion for Rock Bay Creek, which once flowed from Fernwood to the Inner Harbour. STEPPING INSIDE DOROTHY FIELD'S HOUSE is like taking a voyage through a sunlit, tapestried, foreign country. Every object feels lovingly curated and the enormous kitchen skylights give way to backyard gardens, fir and oak trees. Fernwood has never seemed wilder, and if Field had her way, the whole neighbourhood would fit her aesthetic. “Even if it’s just a moment, anything that reminds people of the underlying land is really important,” she tells me. For Fi
  5. November 2016 Adolf and Oluna Ceska’s fungi and the coastal ecosystems they nurture. IN THE WORLD OF MUSHROOMS, Adolf and Oluna Ceska aren’t just well known; they’re heralded. They’re also incredibly modest. When I first contacted them they demurred. “We are just preparing a talk to the Pacific Northwest Key Council on our (basically Oluna’s) work on Observatory Hill,” Adolf told me by email, and then passed me a dozen links that had more to do with fellow mycologists’ work than with their own achievements. Both Ceskas are members of the Natural History Society and the S
  6. September 2016 Metchosin uses citizens and volunteer scientists to create a low-cost but impressive inventory of species. FIVE YEARS AGO, a group of naturalists in the Capital Region realized there was no comprehensive list of species that inhabited the varied ecosystems in their rural district of Metchosin. Despite containing rare ecosystems like coastal bluffs, Garry oak meadows, and Douglas-fir forests, naturalists Kem Luther, along with Moralea Milne and Andy McKinnon (the latter two now serving on Metchosin’s council) decided to see who they might be sharing their communi
  7. July 2016 Habitat Acquisition Trust volunteers help to save local frogs, salamanders and other amphibians. ONE NIGHT LAST SPRING, when John Potter and Joan Hendrick were out scanning a kilometre of dark, rainy road by their house in the Highlands, a woman stopped her car to ask if they were looking for something. “Yes,” replied Hendrick, “dead amphibians.” She laughs as she tells the story, but she can’t picture a rural road on a warm, wet night these days without thinking of the casualties likely happening around the region. “I didn’t understand,” she says, “until I started w
  8. May 2016 James Clowater's urban arboreal vision. IN THE WORLD OF West Coast restoration ecology, native species usually hold a pinnacle place of importance in the minds of decisions makers, scientists, and the public at large. Trees such as Douglas-fir, big-leaf maple and Garry oak support a host of native birds, insects, mammals and mosses. Restorationists push the importance of wildlife corridors made of native shrubs in urban areas. Botanists cherish lands unmarked by development—where native species can thrive unmolested—and often wave their hands in dismissal at horticult
  9. March 2016 Nurturing native species, young farmers and the land. OFF THE PAT BAY HIGHWAY, on Saanich’s Haliburton Farm, James Miskelly points to a clump of lime green leaves poking out of the rich earth. “That’s sea blush,” he tells me, proudly. The small-leafed annual, usually a rare sight in Garry oak upland meadows in mid spring, smatters the soil like a groundcover. The more I look, the more I see. Kristen Miskelly, James’ wife, wades through the wetlands at the western edge of their plot while telling me about the area’s tree frog song in spring. “It’s deafening!” she say
  10. February 2016 Knowing our fellow creatures inspires Ann Nightingale's passion WHEN LIFELONG Vancouver Island resident Ann Nightingale started birding in the 1990s, she had in her head American naturalist Ken Kauffman’s words. If people could name 50 plants and animals in their own area, said Kauffman, it would fundamentally change how they fit into the world. A chance opportunity with a co-worker took Nightingale out to Skirt Mountain (now Bear Mountain) on her first birding trip. “It knocked my socks off,” she tells me. Within a year of studying, she could identify most of th
  11. January 2016 Cheryl Bryce's Community Tool Shed. LAST NOVEMBER a group of volunteers, spearheaded by Songhees Band member Cheryl Bryce, gathered at Beacon Hill’s Petting Zoo parking lot. As usual for these monthly gatherings, someone brought tools, including shovels, gloves, loppers and a tarp. Others brought tea. There were geography students, Sierra Club members, and ardent restorationists. All were looking to make a difference to a south coast ecosystem that used to supply food to entire nations of indigenous peoples before the arrival of European colonists. When I jo
  12. December 2015 Nurturing herring would allow other species to rebound in the Salish Sea area. BY DECEMBER, rain and the darkness of winter blankets the Capital Region. Berries hang like rubies from the darkening limbs of the arbutus. Storms shawl the coast with salt spray. Songbirds have migrated to their southern homes. But as the days shrink to their shortest and the Salish Sea takes on its jade-green clarity, a dark pulse of fish are gathering in the deeper waters of our coast, waiting for spring. Biologist Jacques Sirois would like to see these fish—Pacific herring—re
  13. November 2015 Carmel and Woody Thomson show how love of place can keep it safe. BACK IN THE LATE 1990s I learned of a legendary property in West Saanich that a few lucky UVic students lived on each September through April. On tiny Maltby Lake, there was a large house for communal living and a smaller off-the-grid cottage for a couple. When I finally visited one fall, the students renting from caretakers and part-owners Woody and Carmel Thomson were playing banjo on the lake’s dock, stoking the woodstove and exploring the hand-cut trails that circle the lake and fan out through
  14. October 2015 Thanks in part to volunteers like Dorothy Chambers, coho salmon are thriving in Colquitz River—but for how long? A WALK ALONG THE GORGE WATERWAY in the months of October and November usually yields the occasional splash of a salmon. Last fall those splashes, amidst the smooth currents of the waterway, became a leaping river, as mature coho salmon returned from the open sea to their natal spawning streams. “It felt so amazing, exciting and satisfying” to see the high returns, Dorothy Chambers tells me. “Close to 4000 passed under the Admirals Bridge.” Chamber
  15. September 2015 Malcom Rodin volunteers his time to nurture native songbirds. ESQUIMALT RESIDENT Malcolm Rodin has a passion for native songbirds. It began with summers on his grandfather’s farm in southern Saskatchewan. Each summer, he tells me, “Barn swallows would nest in all the outbuildings. I just got this love of them. You could climb up and look in the nests and really enjoy them.” Rodin, tall and modest, eventually moved to Vancouver Island, working at CFB Esquimalt for 21 years before retirement. But it wasn’t until the store For Wild Birds and Gardeners closed
  16. April 2013 Victoria was described as a "perfect Eden" by Sir James Douglas. But then the sweet song of bluebirds disappeared. THIS SPRING AFTER DARKNESS DESCENDS, thousands of songbirds will navigate up the Pacific Flyway, travelling north to their summer breeding territories. Migrating from Central America, Central Mexico and the Southwestern United States, it’s possible to see their slight forms against the moon, or even hear their furious wing beats as they traverse the Olympic Peninsula, Juan de Fuca Strait, the San Juan and Gulf Islands, and up the reaches of Vancouver Is
  17. May 15, 2020 Photo: An unusually empty sidewalk in the author's neighbourhood. Consider the silence and the space that saying “no” creates, and what you would be willing to give up to keep that quiet in your head, in the world. Go to story
  18. ...and the space that saying “no” creates, and what you would be willing to give up to keep that quiet in your head, in the world. IN THESE LAST DAYS (for now) of BC’s version of a full lockdown (few stores open other than essentials, most people laid off or working from home, no tourism, no going out to eat), consider the silence. The silence of the streets. At night, I walk my dog around the block: up Regina, up to Wascana, down Lurline, and back along Seaton. Usually, in pre-COVID-19 times, as I crest the hill at Lurline, the blanket of traffic noise from Burnside Road, Til
  19. November 2019 A plea for action on this column’s fourth anniversary. I TEACH A GEOGRAPHY COURSE at the University of Victoria called Landscapes of the Heart. In it, I take my students out into local landscapes—Mount Tolmie, Mary Lake, Tod Inlet—with the goal of opening their eyes and hearts to this region’s species and ecosystems. We paint and draw in the field. We look at how poets, visual artists, philosophers and geographers are trying to connect us to place. Students spend the fall immersed in landscape, producing some of the most thoughtful, emotionally engaged work I’ve
  20. Posted May 1, 2020 Photo: Painted Lady butterfly Pollinator gardens on Victoria’s Lang Street help native plants and bees. Go to story
  21. Pollinator gardens on Victoria’s Lang Street help native plants and bees MY NEIGHBOUR CUT DOWN HIS HERITAGE APPLE this spring (which used to support the bees every spring and feed us every fall). At our shared fence, I tried to convince him otherwise: food security; habitat for wildlife; the tree was a perch for the Anna’s hummingbird that nests in my yard; wildness; beauty. “It’s ugly. I don’t want to look at it,” he responded. He replaced it with cedar hedging, one of the thirstiest plants in the region. You can spot them by looking for the brittle brown skeletons edging peo
  22. Posted April 8, 2020 Photo: Vegetables can be grown on a City of Victoria boulevard. A pandemic is a good time to start sowing food seeds, whether in your yard or a nearby boulevard. Go to story
  23. Vegetables and flowers in a City of Victoria boulevard (Photo courtesy City of Victoria) THE COVID-19 pandemic has seen a surge of press about victory gardens recently. The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and Australia’s Broadcasting Corporation are all talking about the vegetable gardens planted during the First and Second World Wars, when governments encouraged residents to grow food as a way of freeing up national production and shipping capacity, raising local food production and increasing food security. As COVID-19 tracks a course around the world, many are askin
  24. Two UVic librarians volunteering for Surfrider are leading the battle against industrial plastic on our beaches. DANIEL BRENDLE-MOCZUK takes a small jar from his office shelf and shakes it, his eyebrows knitting together. “This is from one site, one collection, ten litres of sand.” He hands me the 192 millilitres of small plastic pellets, about the size and shape of a Baby Aspirin. They are various colours of white, beige, pale yellow, and grey. They darken as they absorb contaminants from the ocean, he tells me. Brendle-Moczuk’s colleague, David Boudinot, walked into his off
  25. A Fernwood well brings history lessons, community, and precious water together. AFTER A CAPITAL REGION SUMMER of near-normal precipitation and one of the wettest Octobers on record (though one of the driest Novembers), it’s easy to forget the troubles much of the world has with limited water supplies. California’s groundwater supply is dwindling; Cape Town is running dry; even Tofino has run out in the past. Climate change promises to bring water insecurity to much of the world. So when a water source is dedicated by the Hudson’s Bay Company to the people of Victoria for all eterni
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