Youth Community Partnership Training Program

In early 2021 the Gorge Waterway Action Society (GWAS) employed 14 emerging biologists, ecologists, and nature interpreters under the Youth Community Partnership Training Program.

The program took place in Victoria, BC, in Esquimalt Gorge Park and at Gorge Creek, using the Esquimalt Gorge Waterway Nature House as a headquarters. There were three program streams: Restoration, Biology, and Nature Interpreter. Participants gained hands-on, practical experience and guided training in their stream, along with experience working within a small non-profit organization.

Douglas Van Ek

Restoration Stream

Douglas has a B.A in Environmental Studies and Political Science from the University of Victoria and is currently studying Environmental Restoration through the Restoration of Natural Systems Diploma at the University of Victoria. Being raised primarily on Vancouver Island, Douglas is drawn to the riparian ecosystems. During his work term with the Gorge Waterway Action Society, his main goal was to reduce invasive species and promote biodiversity within the riparian zone by planting an edible native species assemblage for all species to enjoy.

Aniesha Schencks

Restoration Stream

Aniesha is a recent graduate from the University of Victoria, BC, where she completed a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and Oceanography. During her time as a GWAS Restoration Technician, she collected and analyzed baseline data sets (i.e. riparian vegetative biophysical inventories and water analyses) in pre- and post-restoration sites along the Gorge Waterway and Colquitz River, two heavily urbanized waterways. She took part in various volunteer workshops (e.g. removal of invasive plant species and planting of native species with Esquimalt Parks; surveying for forage fish eggs with Peninsula Streams), webinars and collaborated on various projects with fellow GWAS technicians.
 

Vanessa Brownlee

Restoration Stream

Vanessa graduated with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Sociology from the University of Victoria (UVic) and is currently working toward a Restoration of Natural Systems Diploma at UVic. During her placement in the YCP program’s Restoration stream, her work focused on developing a monitoring plan for the Pollinator Meadow in Esquimalt Gorge Park. She was also able to work on other projects involving beach seining, invasive species removal, transplanting, and native plant propagation.

Katrice Baur

Restoration Stream

Katrice earned her Bachelor of science with Honours in Ecological Restoration from Trent University and has a strong passion for wildlife conservation and habitat stewardship. Throughout her placement with the Gorge Waterway Action Society, she has spearheaded her own restoration project of a Garry oak meadow plot to increase native biodiversity within Esquimalt Gorge Park. She further assisted in riparian invasive species removal, bird count surveys, conducted a baseline inventory of Garry oak trees, planted native plants and shrubs, as well as completed a biophysical inventory of the pollinator meadow.

Bryn Armstrong

Restoration Stream

Bryn Armstrong is a recent graduate from the University of Victoria, earning a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Her area of expertise is terrestrial ecology, with a preference for birds. During her work term with the Gorge Waterway Action Society, she has been working on a variety of projects as a restoration technician, including riparian habitat restoration and monitoring to increase Purple Martin habitat, native plant propagation, and invasive species removal.

Emily Wharin

Interpreter Stream

Emily is a recent graduate from the University of Victoria, earning her BSc Double Major in Biology and Environmental Studies. She has a strong passion for conservation biology and wildlife photography and is a big fan of all living creatures, especially birds and marine invertebrates. During her time with GWAS, Emily helped create an iNaturalist project for Esquimalt Gorge Park, started a Pollinator Meadow bird point count survey, designed educational colouring sheets for the Nature House, and took many bird photos that she used to create educational content.

Alexa Desautels

Interpreter Stream

Alexa is a University of Victoria graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology (Concentration: Marine Biology). A marine and aquatic enthusiast, she brought forward this background as well as other biological and environmental topics through the creation and presentation of 5 ecologically-focused public webinars (e.g. watersheds, restoration), produced in collaboration with Jamie. Alexa also worked closely with the growth of social media projects within the Interpreter team (e.g. video series), expanded GWAS’ online terrestrial plant information and worked closely with colleagues for the commencement of an accessible online method of presenting the Nature House to the public.

Jamie Peacock

Interpreter Stream

Jamie is a recent graduate from the University of Victoria with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, and a concentration in Neurobiology. Jamie and their co-creator Alexa developed and ran a five-part webinar series throughout the course of the program, focused on pertinent ecological education for all ages. They also focused their efforts on adding some important and often overlooked insects, invertebrates, and fungi to the GWAS species gallery. 

Emily Perkovic

Interpreter Stream

Emily is graduating from the University of Victoria in May 2021 with a B.S in Biology with a concentration in Marine Biology. During her time with the Gorge Waterway Action Society, Emily worked on establishing an iNaturalist project for the park, creating the virtual specimen gallery and creating lots of social media content, including creature features and videos about native plants. When not busy with work, Emily enjoys diving, kayaking, beach combing or any other activity that gets her close to the ocean!

Lena Munro

Biology Stream

Lena Munro was a member of the YCP Biology team, bringing her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Royal Roads University and Forest and Natural Area Management Diploma from BCIT. During the YCP program she conducted an individual project monitoring traps in the shallow waters of the Gorge Waterway for crabs. Along with her individual project, she collected baseline water quality data along the Gorge Creek in collaboration with the entire Biology team.

Michelle Thompson

Biology Stream

Michelle has a B.ES from the University of Waterloo and has an MSc from Albert Ludwig University and a MF from the University of Alberta. As a biological technician her work focused on collecting vegetation and water data at both Esquimalt Gorge Park and Cuthbert Holmes Park. She also assisted with other projects including; invasive species removal, native planting propagation, beach seining and forage fish egg sampling.

Molly Duncan

Biology Stream

Molly is a graduate from the University of Guelph where she received her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Biology. At university, she discovered her deep passion for aquatic ecology and investigated the effect of pesticides on the feeding rate of zooplankton for her undergraduate thesis. During her work term with the Gorge Waterway Action Society, she contributed to analyzing the water quality of Gorge Creek as well as completed an individual project where she assessed beaches for suitability and performed forage fish spawning surveys on beaches along the Gorge Waterway. 

Taylor Ball

Biology Stream

Taylor holds a bachelor of arts in geography and a masters in environment and sustainability both from Western University (London, ON) where she is originally from before moving to the Island in 2019. Her research specialised in creating pollinator gardens for seed cultivation, pesticide impacts on bumble bee abundance and wastewater effluents impact on stream metabolism. Taylor joined the biology project team in 2021 where she assists in the water quality monitoring project for the Gorge Creek and conducts beach seines along the Gorge Creek to identify aquatic species that reside in the Gorge Waterway. Taylor works as a wildlife biologist with a private consulting company conducting field work related to birds, amphibians, bears and snails. 

Alex Newall

Biology Stream

Alex graduated with a BSc. at the University of British Columbia last spring and joined onto the Gorge Waterway Nature Society in the new year. As a biological technician his work focused on the aquatic features in the Gorge Park, and his main research centered on monitoring sediment transport and deposition within the creek. In addition to his research he has worked on a variety of projects from beach seining to water quality monitoring to forage fish egg sampling.