Hornby Island Natural History Centre

Wild Wanderings – Nature Course for Adults

Please join Jenna Rudolph of Soaring Eagle Nature School and Philippa Joly of Salix School for a monthly adult class in deep nature connection on Denman Island. 

We will gather one Saturday a month from October until June with a break over the winter months to delve into the world around us. From Plant ID and medicine making to hand skills like fire making and cordage, from animal tracking, and ecology to bird song and language! We will also engage the inner landscape as we explore storytelling, dreams and decolonization. 

Cost is sliding scale $450-$750 for the course. 

Please feel free to pass this along to others who might be interested.

For more info or to register email or call 250-650-9171

Closed for 2022

The Natural History Centre is now closed for 2022. Visitor response throughout the summer was fantastic and many commented on the beauty of the new space. Thanks to all those who visited!

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.

New Program: Forest Family Circles

Join us for this summer’s Forest Family Circles! Heather Royal-Brant is an exceptional teacher and has a wonderful way with storytelling, art, and capturing children’s imaginations.

Summer 2022 Calendar

We are pleased to announce that the Summer 2022 Natural History Events Calendar is now available!

To learn more about our summer programs see:



Family Forest Circles (New!)

Thank You to Our Supporters

A big heartfelt thank you to everyone who has assisted the Natural History Centre in various ways since the fire at the School in August 2018. If you have been inadvertently left off this list, please accept our apologies and get in touch with us so your name can be included.

Daniel Arbour

Chris Armstrong

Alf Bangert

Jan Bevan

barb biagi

Laurel Bohart

Dan Bowen

Kendrick Brown

Dan Bruiger

Bev Bullen              

Lauren Buttle

Susan Cain

Al Cannon

Doug Chinnery

Rachelle Chinnery

Gyda M. Chud

Sarat Colling

Joseph Connors 

John Cox

Shelley Creelman

Helene Cregheur and Syzygy

Sarah Davidson 

Al Dickie

Bonnie Dickie

Matt Dickie

Philinda Dunne

Tom Demeyo

Daniel Donnecke

Alan Douglas

Karen Etheridge         

Nate Evans

Shannon Evans

Alan Fletcher and AFC Construction

Jennifer Fletcher

Ruth Fortune

Betty Franklin

Adele Gardner

Martha Gerow

Verlie Gilligan

Julie Glover

Indika Gnanaratna

Dick Goldman

Heather Goldman

Ruth Goldsmith

Pam Gordon

Jac Graham

Anthony Gregson of the Grapevine

Kathryn Gretsinger

Bill Hamilton

Veronika Hebbard

Ian Heselgrave

David Henderson

Emi Honda

Dan Hoppenfeld

Susan Hoppenfeld

Cathie Howard

John Howard

Nym Hughes

Teri Ingram

Joy Jeffries

Francka Jenzer

Roger Jenzer

Gord Johns

George Johnson

Leslie Johnson           

Philippa Joly

Mark Jones

Stevi Kittleson

Julian Laffin

Judith Lawrence

Kasey Lee

Charmaine Logan

Phoebe Long

Steve MacDonald

Sheila MacDonnell

Mary Mackenzie

Florette MacLean

Sheila Macpherson

Geoff Manning

Giff Marshall

Art Martell

Cheryl Milner

Randy Milner

Pamela Mitchell

Sally Moore

Willson Moore

Alan Morinis

Kathy Mukai

Goya Ngan

Jon Page

Diane Proc

Alissa Pratt

The Quilters

Jeff Rabena

Ellie Race

Anna Rambow

Oakley Rankin

Shae Rankin

Dave Raworth

Rebecca Raworth

Don Reimer

Wendy Reimer

Chief Nicole Rempel

Leslee Richards

Karin Ristau

Sharon Rogalsky

Karen Ross

Heather Royal-Brant

Jenna Rudolph

Aurin Savoie

Elaine Savoie

Jasper Savoie

Mary Savoie

Service Masters Restorers

April Shopland

Lynn Smith

Kristin Sonstebo

Bev Spring  

Pyx Sutherland

Isaac Thau

Judy Thau

Nadeane Trowse

Ric Vernon

Rosemary Vernon

Tina Wai

Wayne Wai

Cedar Wallace

Braea Walmsley

Eben Walmsley

Chris Weixelbaumer

Michelle Willard

Neil Wilson

Norma Wilson

Dorrie Woodward

Mette Wullum

Shirley Wyndham

Linda Young

Kihan Yoon-Henderson

Jin-me Yoon           

Amanda Zielinski

Rob Zielinksi

Studying Dungeness Crab in the Salish Sea

The students at Hornby Island Community School have been partnering with The Natural History Centre and Hornby Island Diving on the Sentinels of Change Project studying Dungeness Crab in the Salish Sea.

Like many marine invertebrate species, crabs go through several life stages before becoming the adult versions that we know them as. This includes starting life as free-swimming ocean creatures in the open sea as part of the “sea soup” of wonderfully ornate and captivating small organisms known as plankton. The study will track Dungeness crab megalopae, the last larval crab stage before the crabs stop swimming and start crawling on the seafloor.

The project requires using a light trap prepared by the Hakai Institute deployed off the dock off Ford Cove. The trap does not harm the crab larvae and will estimate the amount of crab larvae predicting the abundance of Dungeness crabs four years in the future.

Facilitated by Hornby Island Diving, students from the community school and volunteers from The Natural History Centre are assisting the monitoring of the traps, playing a key role in bettering our understanding of change in the Salish Sea.

Summer Employment Opportunity

Environmental Program Coordinator

Are you under 30 and interested in being an integral part of the reopening of the Hornby Island Natural History Centre this summer?

We are looking for an energetic, enthusiastic, person to join us for 30 hours a week, for 12 weeks, beginning mid-June 2022.

Tasks include working with the Natural History stewards and staff to open the Centre for July 1, 2022, greeting visitors and offering tours of the new exhibition, assisting with summer program events such as our nature walks and speaker series, tracking retail sales and donations and working with the technology in the Centre.

Assets include experience and comfort with public speaking, basic computer skills, a history of being dedicated, responsible and reliable, a keen interest in anything related to the natural world and confirmed accommodation on Hornby Island.

Salary: Minimum wage of $15.65 – $21. an hour depending on education and experience.

Application closing date: April 29, 2022.

Please email a cover letter and your resume to hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com

Please share this posting with anyone you know who may be interested.

Releasing Caterpillars of Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterflies

On March 9, members of the Hornby Island Natural History Centre, Conservancy Hornby Island, Hornby Island Provincial Parks Committee, Comox First Nation and local volunteers joined personnel from BC Parks, BC Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Science Section, BC Conservation Foundation, Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team and several biologists to release caterpillars of Taylor’s Checkerspot butterflies.

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, including enthusiastic Hornby Island Community School learners and staff.

Helliwell Park visitors should be on the lookout for the tiny black one inch caterpillars on the trails through the Park’s bluffs. The week of March 7, 5000 of them, raised in captivity for release in the Garry Oak meadows,  will hopefully become a self-sustainable  population of adult Checkerspots which once flourished there. Park degradation and forest encroachment has resulted in the loss of many species of insects and wildflowers that once thrived on the bluffs and are remembered by islanders. This is the third year of larval releases and the numbers have increased exponentially from 800 in 2020, to 1300 in 2021 and now 5000. The biologists responsible for rearing the larvae through many phases of development called instars have been on a learning curve with ever-improving results.

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.

If you visit Helliwell this spring or any time, please do your bit to help the restoration project by staying on marked trails and keeping dogs leashed. If you are on the bluffs in April, watch for the caterpillars, and in May watch for the beautiful adults flitting about. Take a photo with GPS and a timestamp if possible and send it to project manager Jennifer Heron at: Jennifer.Heron@gov.bc.ca. Any information will be helpful and much appreciated.

The Stewards Winter Update

Dear Friends of Natural History,

Our beloved Natural History collection has not travelled very far since the school fire forced it into storage in August 2018, but it has moved multiple times. Back and forth, in and out of containers, into the community school for storage and then out again. No fewer than ten shuffles were made, with volunteers carefully carrying the taxidermy eagle, the seagull, and the owl in parade-like processions, once through a snowy winter day and later through one of the hottest days of the summer.

We are happy to let you know that everything has now been safely moved into our new home on the corner of Central and Sollans. On September 1st, a ribbon cutting with bubbly apple juice marked the day the stewards were given the keys. Thanks to the generosity of School District 71, we now have a 5-year lease for the use of this marvelous modular space, and the adjacent large open porch.

How best can we imagine reinstalling our collection given the changes in thinking about natural history centres over the last decade? How can we display the fascinating objects that we hold in trust for the community and at the same time talk about our colonial past and our urgent need to address our broken relationship with the natural world?

Planning sessions with consultants, Michelle Willard, and Claire Guiot of Mighty Museum, coupled with all the information we gathered from our first community survey gave us lots to think about as we began in earnest to plan for our July 2022 reopening.

This past summer, our presence selling Forest Backpacks for families at the Farmer’s Market, Beulah Creek Nursery, and the Co-op Ringside gave us plenty of opportunity to talk with people about their wishes and dreams for the new Hornby Island Natural History Centre. Complete with field guide and over two dozen activities, these backpacks became a catalyst for conversations about how to introduce children to the natural world on Hornby Island.

Kihan Yoon-Henderson returned for her fourth year, first as a summer student and now as intern until March of 2022. Her interviews with a number of community members have given us great insight into some of the environmental changes that have occurred on Hornby over time and into some of the valuable research happening here, collecting and analyzing data as a way to bring needed conversations into the public light.

And we’re thrilled to have installation designer and artist, Emi Honda join us this fall. She has created a lovely flow to the space. You can find her in our new home constructing new displays and sprucing up others.

With so many programs on hold due to Covid-19 and our lack of exhibition space, it was a pleasure to join the senior class of the Hornby Island Community School this October for the 6th year of the Helliwell Park Restoration Project, planting a variety of native grasses, with the ongoing project of reintroducing the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly into the park. We look forward to engaging with more students this spring as we continue to work in our new space figuring out where things will go and what stories they will tell.

Planning for a new summer workshop and speaker series is gently underway as we continue to navigate our world with masks on and windows open.

May the forest and fields around you and all the creatures who call those places home inspire you to spend more time outside building relationships with the natural world.

All the best for a happy and healthy New Year,~ The Natural History Stewards
Natural History Centre Request for Support
 With your help, we can create a new space that not only reflects a commitment to deepening our relationships with the natural world but makes visible our growing understanding of changes in thinking about natural history centres in light of our colonial past, our present climate extremes, and our desire to work to ensure a future filled with hope for our children.  

For those of you whose relationship with The Hornby Island Natural History Centre is new, you might not know that we were originally housed in the community school before a fire in August 2018 forced us to close. With our collection stored safely in two large containers, we secured a long-term lease with School District 71 for one of the portable modules on the corner of Central and Sollans.  

Please consider making a generous donation to the Hornby Island Natural History Centre before the end of the year. Tax receipts will be issued for donations of 25 dollars or more. 

You are welcome to direct your gift to a particular aspect of the new space or request that we allocate it to our general reopening efforts. 
– children’s books, puzzles, and games for playful exploration $25
– resource books for researching $50
– touch tables for experiential learning $100
– comfy chairs for reading $250- table and stools for drawing $300
– new displays for herring, birds, and fossils $500
– outdoor signage for wayfinding $700
– labels and interpretive panels for context $800

You can donate to Natural History online 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. 

Or please address cheques to HIES / Hornby Natural History Centre and mail to: HIES / Natural History, 2100 B Sollans Road, Hornby Island, BC, V0R 1Z0. 

Cheques may also be left at the Natural History box at the Free Post.  Our new space recently got a fresh coat of white paint, the cabinets and display cases have been moved in, and the eagle, the owl and the vulture are being mounted from the ceiling to help give us an idea of where our other displays might go.  

Wishing you the best of the holiday season, All the stewards, staff, and volunteers of the Hornby Island Natural History Centre

Students and Scientists Work Together on the Helliwell Park Restoration Project

Nineteen students from Hornby Island’s Community School participated for the sixth consecutive year in the Garry Oak Ecosystem Restoration Project in Helliwell Provincial Park. On October 13th these volunteers were joined by school staff and parents, Hornby Island Natural History Centre stewards, and a team of biologists from BC Parks and the BC Conservancy Foundation.

This laser-focused group dug out invasive Hairy Cat’s Ear weeds and filled the holes with one of several species of native plants 900 times! These plants once proliferated on the park’s bluffs and provided food and habitat for wildlife. Decades of farming and trampling however have reduced biodiversity within the park to the point that many species of plants and insects have been severely reduced in number or even extirpated. Invasive weeds still dominate, and the mainly Douglas Fir forest slowly and relentlessly continues to encroach on the open grassy meadows. BC Parks has been limbing some trees and removing some of the younger ones since 2015 to preserve and restore space for the meadows to survive. Observant park users may be noticing increased numbers of wildflowers and pollinators because of these efforts by so many concerned amateur and professional naturalists.

Our community as a whole has contributed to the restoration by walking only on delineated pathways, keeping dogs leashed, and providing essential support services. We hope that visitors will still enjoy and appreciate the beauty of Helliwell without loving it to death.

Over the first six years involved in the project, hundreds of Hornby’s students have removed thousands of weeds and planted thousands of native plants propagated and grown by the Natural History Centre’s stewards.

Watch in May and you may see beautiful and extremely rare Taylor’s Checkerspot butterflies flitting about in the grasses. Each year in March the project releases Checkerspot larvae into the park and each year the number of sightings rise. The success that this data demonstrates speaks to the ongoing efforts of so many.

Thank you Hornby School and staff and all concerned!

Youth Employment Opportunity

The Hornby Island Natural History Centre is looking for an intern to be part of a team working to reopen our Centre. This position is funded by Young Canada Works at Building Careers in Heritage through the Canadian Museum Association.

YCW Candidate Eligibility Criteria: In order to apply for the position, candidates must be:

  • be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident, or have refugee status in Canada;
  • be legally entitled to work in Canada;
  • be between 18 and 30 years of age at the start of employment;
  • be registered in the YCW online candidate inventory;
  • be willing to commit to the full duration of the work assignment; and
  • not have another full-time job during the YCW work assignment.

Graduates in an internship program must also:

  • be a graduate from college or university;
  • be unemployed or underemployed; and
  • not be receiving Employment Insurance (EI) benefits while employed in a YCW work assignment.


Graduate with a degree in Environmental Studies, Geography, Education, Museum Studies or Fine Arts-Researcher with excellent written communication, organizational, and computer skills-Experience in writing for the public, display design, layout, and installation 

Job details:
Start date – Sept 7, 2021 with end date of no later than March 31, 2022

30 hours per week

Wage $20 + MERCS Flexible hours, working online as well as on site

To Apply:
If interested in more information and to see the complete job poster
Register online in the YCW website online candidate inventory. Deadline: August 29, 2021

For details, questions or assistance, please visit our website at hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com

Forest Backpacks for Families Photos from Lev and Zeva

This summer is the launch of our new Forest Backpacks for Families program and we have invited participants to share their experiences. Check out these finds by young naturalists Lev and Zeva! Thanks so much for sharing your photos with us!

A Tiger Swallowtail rests on a leaf of Salal.
Old “empty” bird nest.

Nature Backpacks Available – New!

We have Forest Backpacks available! Find Kihan selling them at the Farmer’s Market on Wednesday and Saturday and in the Beulah Creek Nursery Garden on Thursday and Friday from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm for $30. Each pack contains two booklets. It’s also stuffed with all the supplies you need to do the activities, including magnifying glasses, clipboards, paper, and coloured pencils. Explore the world of Hornby Island’s forests together with your family.

We’re looking forward to hearing about your time in the forest! Email us photos of your work, your questions and comments, and we’ll post them on our blog. hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com

Re-Imagining the NHC 2021 Survey Synopsis

In anticipation of the Natural History Centre’s reopening, we invited the community to help imagine our new Centre. We heard from eighty people in response. Below is a summary of some of your thoughts and ideas. In response to the question about your ideas for the new NHC, and the types of stories you’d like to see shared, there was a strong response of interest in First Nations history (told by First Nations People) and environmental advocacy. A big thanks to everyone who participated.

It has been three years since our exhibit space was open. What was your overall impression/experience of the Centre?

87 percent of respondents rated the Natural History Centre between “very good” and “outstanding”.

What did you value most about the Natural History Centre?

Our original collection of local fossils, marine life, insects, birds, bones, geology and hands-on activities was used as a resource to learn about the natural environment for fifteen years. Please indicate your top two favourite exhibits.

What kind of programming would you like to see in our new Natural History Centre?

When might you visit the new Natural History Centre or take part in a program?

Here are a few of the many comments we received:

“The programming has been excellent providing education and fostering a respect for the natural world:
I.e. Stressing human relations within nature (community) and the wonder of interconnectedness (found
in nature) alongside more pragmatic stewardship. How we humans can learn from nature. How
indigenous cultures were keepers of the land and sea, long before settlers arrived on Hornby, is
something that is necessary to understand and communicate related to the above.”

“I think it would important to see Indigenous histories of Hornby featured, and to situate the Centre on
whose traditional territories we occupy. Hopefully this could be through collaboration with local host
nations such as the K’ómoks First Nation. As well, I think it would be really interesting to feature the
ways that living sustainably has long been part of the ethos of the Hornby community (from different
forms of water collection, to building materials, to growing food, composting toilets, to stewardship
initiatives, to the recycling depot, to community celebrations etc.). How has an appreciation for the
natural world formed the Hornby community? Why do we all find it so special to be on Hornby? Could
there be an oral history project with elders on the Island to document these very special parts of
Hornby? How has the natural world influenced the artists of the Island, and informed their material
practices? I would love to learn more about native plants as well within the exhibit (although, now I
remember this has long been a component of the ethno-botanical garden, so it is already covered!). I
love the Centre because it has given me a richer sense of the landscape we are in, and who else lives
here (trees, birds, ocean creatures, plants, etc.). Very excited to see this continued in so many ways.”

“Accurate information of those who were here before settlers FROM those whose ancestors were here
before us. Impacts of climate change and emergency we face to change our relationship to the planet.”

“The history of fossils and the understanding of past life on earth. And the new fossil species discoveries
that are being made every year.”

“Role of herring in marine ecosystems. Advocacy for marine conservation in and around Hornby. Effects
of climate change on sea levels, forest evolution and summer droughts.”

“I think that it is very important that the school kids continue to be able to have our natural history centre as a resource for learning. It will be wonderful to have it going once again.”

“Liked the drawing table — used by adults as well as kids! It gave people a chance to give a creative
response to the displays, rather than just passively absorbing information.”

“How about a day each month of spring – summer to hold a festival showcasing some aspect of natural life on Hornby: e.g., Slug Fest, Kept Caper, Owl Hootenay, Cedar Carnival, Amphibian Antics, Raven Rave, Possum
Slow Dance, etc., etc.”

“Thank you to all those that are involved! It’s so inspiring to witness the care for the natural world on Hornby and how thoughtfully all is being considered in order to share this care with the community and visitors.”

Citizen Science: Spot and Record Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Larvae

BC Parks has put a call out for volunteers to spot and record butterfly larvae at Helliwell Park on Hornby Island. In particular, the little black Taylor’s checkerspot larvae on the plantain plants that they love to feed on. If interested, you can walk along the trails during the warm sunny days of March and April. Start at the trailhead, do a loop, and take a picture if you spot the larvae within one meter of the trail. Please note the time you start, and the time you finish the observation. Observations can be sent to Jennifer Heron at Jennifer.Heron@gov.bc.ca

Backyard Feeders Linked to Deadly Salmonella Outbreak in Small Birds

This year we have seen an irruption of pine siskins and other wintering birds feasting in flocks.

Read more about this phenomenon here: “This Winter Marks an Incredible ‘Superflight’ of Hungry Winter Finches”.

Unfortunately, a large number of the tiny birds are dying from salmonella poisoning that is passed on at backyard bird feeders, including here on the island.

This article explains why a BC wildlife organization is calling on people to remove their backyard feeders to stop the deadly outbreak: “Tiny B.C. birds are dying from salmonella outbreak linked to backyard feeders”.

Please consider removing your bird feeders to avoid spreading salmonella. At the very least, clean them with a 10% bleach solution regularly. However, keep in mind merely cleaning doesn’t prevent sick birds who hang out at the feeder from passing it to other birds.

Cats and other animals can also get salmonella if they catch the birds: the SPCA website sells a special collar aimed to prevent them from catching birds (and prevent them from getting sick as a result). It can be purchased here.

Featured photo: A pine siskin collects dog fur for nesting material. Photo by barb biagi.

Season’s Greetings from the NHC✨

Students Aid in Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project

On October 27 2020, 19 students from Hornby Island Community School spent a windy afternoon in Helliwell Provincial Park planting native plants on the bluffs. Along with them were the stewards from the Hornby Island Natural History Centre, school staff, parent volunteers, and science staff from BC Parks and the Ministry of the Environment. These 30 people were taking part in the ongoing restoration project of our island’s rare Garry Oak Ecosystem, one of the last in Canada.

It took the work crew less than two hours to pull 900 weeds and fill the holes with 700 plugs of California Brome, a native grass which is a host plant for endangered species of insects that are important to the health of the ecosystem. One of these species is the beautiful Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly which was extirpated from Hornby in the early 1990’s due to park degradation. Eight-hundred of their larvae were reintroduced in March of 2020 after years of preparation. Native plants provide food and habitat that are essential to the survival of these insects, so after 5 years of weeding and planting the bluff’s meadows, butterflies were again flitting about Helliwell this past May.

Taking part in this project is an integral component of the NHC’s mandate to actively educate the public on the workings of nature. Visitors to the park can do their part to help heal the ecosystem by staying on the marked pathways and keeping dogs leashed to minimize damage to sensitive plants and insects.

Volunteers practiced covid-19 safety protocols while planting.

One of the first Taylor’s Checkerspot butterflies seen in Helliwell Provincial Park in more than 25 years. Photo by J. Heron.

Featured photo of students planting at Helliwell by barb biagi.