Hornby Island Natural History Centre

Summer Employment Opportunity

Summer Job Opportunity
with the Hornby Island Natural History Centre
for an Environmental Program Coordinator
This position is funded by a Canada Summer Jobs federal grant.

Job Details:
Dates – June 27 to August 26, 2023
30 hours per week from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm
5 days per week / Sundays and Mondays off
Wage $22 per hour + MERCS
Job training and mentoring provided

Main Responsibilities:
include welcoming visitors and introducing them to our exhibits which have an environmental education and conservation focus.

  • engaging people, answering their questions and encouraging a deeper awareness and appreciation of the biodiversity and various natural environments of Hornby 
  • working collaboratively with the NHC team offering summer programs such as our Speaker Series, nature walks, and workshops
  • interacting with families & children, facilitating hands-on activities
  • demonstrating how to research & identify items people bring in
  • assessing & making suggestions for improving future programming
  • maintaining the exhibition space & equipment in a clean & orderly state
  • attendance and financial record keeping


We are looking for someone who is between 17 and 30 and who genuinely enjoys interacting with the public and children, has a strong work ethic, and is a team player.

  • must be a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant with a valid Social Insurance number
  • suitable for someone aged 18 to 30 who has studied or has interest in  Environmental Studies, Education, Geography, Biology or related fields
  • knowledge of and a keen interest in our local environment
  • excellent communication skills
  • basic computer skills
  • accommodation on Hornby essential

To Apply:

Please send a cover letter, resume, and name & contact info of one reference to the NHC committee at hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com

Deadline: June 5, 2023

For questions or assistance email hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com

Taylor’s Checkerspot Larval Release

Team Checkerspot met to release larval on the Helliwell Park bluffs in March.

This May, be on the lookout for the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly flitting about on the Park’s bluffs.

Checkerspots are an extremely rare endangered species which has been Red-listed by the Canadian government. Once common in coastal Garry Oak ecosystems from Hornby Island to Oregon, First Nations people referred to the butterflies as Whulge, meaning a connection with the land, and it also is their name for the Salish Sea. Salish people successfully managed coastal ecosystems for millennia until colonialism arrived in force in the 1800’s with little understanding of the delicate balance in nature.

This is part of a multi-year project to restore habitat including providing essential host and nectar plants through propagation and planting out twice per year. Since 2016 many thousands of native plants have been planted by project staff and local volunteers.

Larval release photos by barb biagi.

Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly by Gerry Ambury.

Natural History Garden

Plans are in the works to enhance the garden space outside the Natural History Centre. Phase one of this project will focus on drought tolerant and pollinator friendly gardening. We will prepare edging and soil, while mulching and weeding the area. We will also create a small water catchment system, followed by planting next fall. 

Much appreciation to the First Credit Union for granting us $350 for supplies for this project.

Photo by barb biagi: Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly in Sweet Rocket.

Fossil Fair Photos

The Fossil Fair was an enjoyable time for all. Special thanks to Dan Bowen and Betty Franklin of the Vancouver Island Paleontological Society for sharing their knowledge, Bronny McLeod for having the idea to hold a fossil fair, as well as all the volunteers and those who shared their treasures. 

Bird Song ID Walks

Registration is open for two Bird Song ID walks with ornithologist, Art Martell.

Wednesday, May 31st and Sunday, June 25th, time TBA

Art will lead a slow walk through the forest focusing on birdsong identification. Please note the walk may be cancelled, or rescheduled, if the weather is too poor for birding (e.g., rain, high winds).

Dr. Art Martell is retired in the Comox Valley and is the Volunteer Caretaker for the K’omoks Important Bird Area. Before retirement, Art worked as a wildlife research scientist and manager with Canadian Wildlife Service and Environment Canada.  He has had a cabin on Hornby for over 30 years.

Cost: $10 for adults. Children free. Pre-registration is essential as space is limited. Email hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com to register.

Pictured above: A song sparrow by barb biagi. Song sparrows have a colourful repertoire of songs. Their crisp and clear songs usually begin with three short, sharp notes, followed by a varied trill.

Fossil Fair – this Saturday!

Join us for a fossil fair this Saturday, May 13th, on the deck outside the Natural History Centre. The fair goes from 11:30 – 2:00. Enjoy hands-on activities for kids and local fossil displays!

Fossil Fair

Save the date for our Fossil Fair on Saturday, May 13th!

Millions of years ago, the ancient seas and forests of Hornby Island and the parts of the east coast of Vancouver Island were inhabited by ancient creatures and plants. From ammonites to Tylosaurus, and from sharks to seabirds, fossils are a record of this life. Come learn about these creatures and explore a variety of fossils from the Late Cretaceous epoch at the Hornby Island Natural History Centre’s Fossil Fair. 

On May 13th, drop in between 11:30 am – 2:00 pm on the deck of the Centre at 2100 B Sollans Rd. Paleontologists and community members will share their fossil discoveries. Bring your own fossils for identification. Kids can participate in fun-hands on activities. All ages are welcome. 

Special guests from the Vancouver Island Paleontological Society will share displays and storyboards and help identify fossils. You can also see the star of our exhibit: a fossil of a large marine reptile called a Tylosaurus which could be 40 feet, as long as a school bus.

Plants in the Forest Nature Walk

Registration is open for Plants in the Forest, a forest walk with Jenna Rudolph on Sunday, April 16th at 11:00 am. 

During this forest walk, participants will learn about plant families through pattern recognition. Jenna will also introduce a variety of edible and medicinal plants. Time together will be a mix of walking, talking and nature games for all ages. Jenna Rudolph is the founder of Soaring Eagle Nature School. She is a certified wildlife tracker, herbalist, botanist, birder and maker of hand-crafted tools and fibre.

Cost: $10 for adults. Children attend free. Children 7 and older are welcome with an adult. Please email hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com to register. Participants will meet on the deck outside the Natural History Centre at 2100 B Sollans Rd. 

Photo: Chocolate lily by Paula Courteau

Weekend Opening

The Natural History Centre will be open on Saturday, April 8th from 10 am to 2 pm. Come learn about natural world through an exploration of exhibits organized around rocks and fossils, the sea, the air, and the land. 

Witnessing Wild Life on Hornby Island

“Witnessing Wild Life on Hornby Island” – Invite to submit to virtual photo exhibition.

Our small yet richly diverse island is a wildlife haven. Whenever you visit the bluffs, the beach, the mountain, or the forests, an abundance of wild marine or terrestrial life can be witnessed.

You are invited to participate in a virtual exhibition that celebrates the beauty of our wild neighbors. This exhibition will showcase encounters with other living beings in the wilds of Hornby. Both hobbyists and professional photographers are welcome to participate.

Please submit an image that captures the theme “Witnessing Wild Life on Hornby Island” and include a caption of one or two sentences that describes the subject matter and/or (optionally) reflects what such encounters in the wilds of this island mean to you.

The exhibition will be posted on our website in spring 2023. Please email your entry to hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com

Photo by Paula Courteau. Canada Goose and an ocean of camas.

Open for Herring Fest!

The Natural History Centre will be open on Saturday, March 4th from 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm during Conservancy Hornby Island’s Herring Fest weekend. Come check out our herring life cycle display which demonstrates the deep interrelationship between herring and other west coast wildlife.

A herald of spring, the March herring spawn around Hornby and Denman Islands is anticipated by both wildlife and humans. This ecologically significant event attracts salmon, pinnipeds, whales, and thousands of marine birds. As the ocean turns a milky turquoise, eagles soar from trees to fish for herring, while sea lions fill up on the feast. Gulls remain at the shoreline for days after the spawn, eating herring eggs off seaweed.

Herring return to spawn every year of their adult lifespans. New generations of herring will feed many species up and down the coast, including whales and larger fish. Herring comprise approximately 60% of the diet of Chinook and Coho salmon, species that directly support larger predators like the endangered southern resident killer whale.

Unfortunately, the herring population is now on the brink of collapse. The annual spawn in these waters is the last of six large herring spawns on Canada’s West Coast due to overfishing. We must protect this keystone species, which links microorganisms and animals both on land and in the sea.

Day of Drawing in the Centre

In February, join us for a day of drawing! We invite the community to drop in to the Centre on Saturday, February 18th between 1:30 – 4:30. Bring your sketch pad and pencils to draw the birds, creatures, or artifacts in the exhibit.

Local artist and master potter Wayne Ngan paints, in classic Chinese brush style, some of the creatures in the exhibit.

Spring Programs Coming Soon

We are currently planning an exciting spring event lineup. Programming will include bird song ID walks, a plant identification walk, a fossil fair, student education projects, and a virtual exhibition on local wildlife photography. Please stay tuned!

New Nature Resources in the Centre

The Natural History Centre has new resources for all-ages to enjoy when visiting the Centre, which support our commitment to fostering a deeper personal connection with the natural world. These include nature books, drawing materials, a digital microscope, iPads loaded with natural history related apps, playing blocks for children featuring local wildlife, plant identification cards, and beautiful panels telling the story of the animals, sea, forest, waters, and ancient life of this island.

Video: Mount Geoffrey Icicles

Enjoy this magical footage of snowy Hornby Island taken by Julian Laffin of Big Tree Productions.

Nature Activities for Kids

A young naturalist is someone who loves exploring and learning about nature. Sound like you? Then read on!

Whether you are in the woodlands or the urban environment, wildlife can always be found. To be a young naturalist means that you desire to know more about your surroundings and the plants and creatures that share them. In fact, you are never too young or too old to explore the natural world. All you need to be a young naturalist is a keen interest in nature, and perhaps, for the very young naturalist, someone to guide you in the beginning. Below are a few activities to help you get started, from keeping a nature journal to helping animals have a safe habitat. 

1. Keep a Nature Journal

A nature journal is a wonderful tool for beginning your young naturalist career. All you need is a notebook, a pen, and some pencil crayons if you like to colour. In your notebook, record interesting sightings and interactions you have with plants and animals. When you go for a walk in the park, the beach, the mountains, or the forest, observe and sketch plant or animal life. Jot down rough notes or interesting facts you learn from signs or gathered from trusted sources like wildlife experts or books. Later, beneath your sketches, write captions or journal entries listing observed details and your own impressions.

Nature Journal Activity: Wild Neighbors
What kind of animals live in your neighborhood? Do you see these animals in the spring, in the fall, or all year round? Do they migrate? How do these animals find shelter, what do they eat, and where do they have their babies?

2. Identify Nature

Deepen your connection to nature by becoming inspired to learn more. If you find an animal, plant, or fossil that you’d like to identify, write down a description, take a photo, or make a sketch in your notebook, and then do some further research. If you bring it to the Natural History Centre, we’ll do our best to help you identify it. Get help from our identification guides or email us a description and photograph of your item for feedback from an expert. While exploring, tread lightly on the Earth by practicing the three L’s: look, learn, and leave is the best policy to protect our environment for future generations. You may wish to check out these Nature Identification Resources: Biodiversity of the Central Coast, Bird ID, Insect ID, Plant ID, Vancouver Island Frogs ID Guide, Vancouver Island Snake ID Guide, Vancouver Island Salamander ID Guide.

3. Become a Fossil Hunter

Fossils are clues to life in the past. Fossils are like a photograph of an animal at a particular point in the history of the Earth. They also help us understand what kinds of environments existed millions of year ago. When fossil hunting, look for concretions–rounded rocks embedded in layers of stone in sedimentary rocks. These nodules often house fossils. (Concretions with horizontal cracks are the most promising.) They can be found on the beach, especially at low tide along the water line or trapped in tide pools. Remember, it is important not to hammer into rock faces or cliffs for fossils.

4. Stargaze

A night when the moon isn’t bright and the sky isn’t cloudy is a perfect time for stargazing. Lay down a blanket or set up some comfortable chairs, and look up at the giant puzzle that is the night sky. Amidst the countless stars, you can look for constellations like the Big Dipper, individual stars like the North Star, or planets like Venus or Jupiter. Remember to bring some stargazing tools such as a good star map, binoculars or a telescope, a notebook to sketch and record your sightings, and a light to help you see everything!

To see what planets are currently visible in the night sky, go to: Timeanddate.com’s Interactive Night Sky Map.
To see what constellations are in the sky for the current month, check out NASA’s Printable Star Maps Activity.
For your own personal planetarium, use an astronomy App such as Night Sky.

5. Harvest Wild Edibles

Get excited about plants as herbal medicine and food. Having a day of edible harvest is a great way to become curious about the wild plants in your environment. Find a plant expert or refer to a book such as Pacific Northwest Medicinal Plants to help you examine plants closely and learn more about them. Pay attention to different types of leaves, as well as flowers and branch patterns. It may also be interesting to compare the different habitats of the plants. Which plants grow in open fields, and which grow under the forest canopy? After you have collected some wild edibles, enjoy the fruits of your labour with a foraged feast! Remember to wear gloves and be careful not to touch the plants if you plan on collecting stinging nettles. The Natural History Centre offers forest walks–you may want to check and see when the next one on native plants is being offered.

6. Wander and Explore

With an accessible landscape and some curiosity, you can enjoy nature but setting out on a wandering adventure. Dedicate a day to allowing yourself to follow your curiosity and explore the landscape. Be prepared to discover and follow new paths that are still a mystery to you. Once you return home, you may want to record the highlights of your journey in your nature journal. Draw a map using landmarks such as big trees, boulders, or creeks that you discovered.

7. Go Birdwatching

Birding at a young age might spark a lifelong hobby. There is something awe-inspiring about watching birds. It allows you to explore your surrounding environment while being attuned and respectful of the creatures that life there. Get up early and go for a walk in your neighborhood or local park. You may wish to start by closing your eyes and listening: what birdsong can you hear, and where is it coming from? Learn some mnemonics for common birdsong here. Staying close to the water is a good practice to spot many species of birds, whether herons, ducks, geese, oystercatchers, loons, surf scoters, buffleheads, kingfisher . . . and bald eagles! You may wish to bring a birding book and some binoculars. Conservancy Hornby Island offers a nice outline of what animals you can spot during the four seasons on and around Hornby Island.

8. Plant a Wildlife Garden

Due to global warming, deforestation, and extinction, many animals today can use a hand with creating or maintaining a safe habitat. You can help with animals’ habitats by creating a wildlife garden. One of the greatest pleasures of a wildlife garden is getting to observe the various species that are drawn to it. Leaving out a pile of logs will make a hideaway for insects which in turn attract birds and other animals. Include trees, hedgerows, long grass, and a range of shrubs to improve nesting spaces, provide essential cover, and invite a diversity of various critters in your garden. When you leave parts of your garden untouched, you create a safe area for wildlife to visit or make their home. Plus, digging in the dirt is fun!

9. Keep the Environment Clean

To help wildlife of all kinds, be sure to clean up after picnics and recycle your newspapers, aluminum cans, glass, and plastic. Beware of Plastic! Sea mammals can swallow plastic bags, but they cannot digest them, so this could cause animals to die. Dispose properly of plastic six-pack holders so that animals like ducks don’t get their necks caught in them and be careful of items like balloons. Don’t let them go. Some animals might think the balloon is food and try to eat it. You can also gather a few friends or family members and comb the beaches for debris, collecting and disposing of it safely. Once you start looking, it’s amazing how much garbage ends up on the shorelines. Remember to use eco-friendly alternatives such as stainless steel, glass, bamboo, natural fiber cloth and ceramic as much as possible.

10. Install a Bat House or Build a Bee Home

Bat houses offer a safe home for bats and are a fun, educational project. Building a bat house is also one of the most effective and environmentally friendly ways to reduce the mosquito population near your home. In fact, little brown bats are voracious consumers of insects eating up to 50% of their body weight a night.  Since many of their preferred meals are insects with an aquatic life stage, they prefer to roost near water. This plan to build a bat “rocket house” suitable to our area is certified by Bat Conservation International. Download Home for Bats.

A “bee house” provides an important shelter for young bees. They are simple and fun to make. Since many native bee species are wood dwelling, yet unable to make their own nesting holes, caring humans can provide bee boxes for our neighbourhood pollinators to lay their eggs. We can also ensure that our yards offer nesting materials: dead wood, leaves, and undisturbed soil. The Lifecycles Bee Project offers detailed instructions and pictures on helping bees and making a bee home. Download Home for Bees.

The Steward’s Winter 2022 Update 

Dear Hornby Island Natural History Centre supporters,

As the year draws to a close, this holiday season is the perfect time to reflect on our accomplishments, give thanks for the support of our community, and plan for the year ahead. The Hornby Island Natural History Centre re-opened on July 1, 2022, in our new space on the corner of Sollans and Central. We are thrilled to finally have a new home. This past year has been filled with a flurry of activity beginning with reimagining our space as a place where visitors can learn about the complexity of relationships in the natural world through an exploration of exhibits filled with objects and information loosely organized around rocks and fossils, the sea, the air, and the land. Our new resource area is filled with books and activities for everyone, especially children and families. 

Highlights from this past year include:

– In July and August, hosting visitors in our new Centre, accompanied by summer programming that reintroduced our successful nature walks and talks and launched Forest Family Circles, a new outdoor family program led by an Indigenous educator, each week focusing on something special in the exhibition, exploring it through storytelling, art, science, and movement.

– All the Hornby Island Community School students and children from the Hornby Island Daycare toured the Centre this fall and generated ideas for how they would like to use the exhibition throughout the year as a resource to enhance and extend their curriculum. Recently the senior class were drawing birds of their choice with great observation skills and focus.

– Ongoing research in partnership with the Hakai Institute and the Sentinels of Change Project studying the Dungeness crab in Ford’s Cove, with elementary school students participating, has provided valuable data about our changing climate.

– More citizen science, again with student participation which we facilitate, and in partnership with BC Parks and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Science, encouraging the propagation of the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly by growing and then planting native grasses in Helliwell Provincial Park, introducing and tracking larvae and the new butterflies as the season unfolds.

Your generous contributions enable us to be open to visitors and offer insightful programs about our interconnectedness with the natural world. More than ever, we count on your donations to care for our collection and to be available to the community throughout the year. Currently our limited budget does not allow us to expand the programs we offer to the community. We are keeping our school programs going by volunteering as usual.  We’ve got ideas on hold for Saturday openings and programs for adults and children. Your generosity can change that. Thank you for your continued support.

There are several ways to donate to Natural History:

– Via the HIES Canada Helps Donate Page: Click Here for the page. Under “Fund” you can select the Natural History Centre from the drop-down options. 

– By cheque: Address cheques to HIES / Hornby Natural History Centre and mail to: HIES / Natural History, 2100 B Sollans Road, Hornby Island, BC, V0R 1Z0. 

– By e-transfer: Send e-transfer to hiesboard@gmail.com and indicate that you are donating to the Natural History Centre.You will receive a tax receipt for all donations over $25. 

With warm wishes for the holiday season and high hopes and dreams for the New Year,

The stewards of the Hornby Island Natural History Centre

The students at Hornby Island Community School partnering with The Natural History Centre and Hornby Island Diving on the Sentinels of Change Project studying Dungeness Crab in the Salish Sea.
Jenna Rudolph of Soaring Eagle Nature School leads forest walk participants in identifying plant families. Jenna introduced us to a variety of edible and medicinal plants.

Exhibits and Gift Shop Open During Winter Studio Tour

Have you made your holiday list yet? The Hornby Island Natural History Centre will be open on the same day as the Winter Studio Tour with our gift shop and exhibits. Come visit us across the street from the Community Hall on November 26 from 10-3!

Fresh Water on Hornby Island – What Everyone Needs to Know

August 11th from 1:30 – 2:30pm at New Horizons, 1765 Sollans Road

Dr. John Cox and has been conducting water-related research on the island since 2015, as a member of Hornby Water Stewardship. He will share his research offering an in-depth analysis of the sources and sensitivities of our fresh water and an exploration of what steps we might take to safeguard this essential resource.

An ‘almost retired’ geology professor from Mount Royal University in Calgary, John has spent as much time as possible on Hornby over the last ten years.

Cost: Sliding scale $5 – $10 for adults.

Protecting Herring Habitat in Baynes Sound and Lambert Channel

July 21 from 1:30 – 2:30pm at New Horizons 1765 Sollans Road

The shellfish aquaculture industry operates in areas that include critical spawning and rearing habitat for the herring stock which returns to Denman and Hornby Islands each year. Recently publicized plans to expand and apply for new shellfish growing tenures could threaten the survival of this stock, and ADIMS chair, Dorrie Woodward will share her group’s initiatives to stop these developments and protect critical herring habitat. She will also bring a Parliamentary Petition on these issues, for people to sign, if they wish.

Dorrie Woodward is currently chair of the Association for Denman Island Marine Stewards, (ADIMS). She has worked with others for greater environmental protections for Denman Island’s land and marine ecosystems for many years. ADIMS is a close ally of Conservancy Hornby Island and has supported the moratorium on commercial fishing of herring since it was first organized.

Cost: Sliding scale $5 – $10 for adults. Free for children.