Hornby Island Natural History Centre

Christmas Fair this Weekend!

The Hornby Island Christmas Fair is coming up this weekend and we are looking forward to share our fundraising items with everyone! This year, we are featuring some old favourites – rum balls and wildlife photo cards – along with some new delights – locally designed tote bags and art cards.

Many thanks to Stevi Kittleson for her fantastic tote bag, card, and advertising designs, as well as printing the cards; Rowan Helliwell for tote bag printing assistance; Mette Wullum for rumball guidance; and Verlie Gilligan for making barb’s gorgeous photos into cards!

Warm wishes for the holiday season!

price list for 2018 x--mas

tote bagsstevi photo cardsbarb photo cardsbarb photo cards2

Posters by Stevi Kittleson. 

Vote for the Vancouver Island Elasmosaur!

Exciting news from the Courtenay and District Museum and Palaeontology Centre! Their elasmosaur, which was discovered in Courtenay, has been shortlisted in a competition to become an official provincial symbol.

Click to Here Vote. The voting period will close November 23, 2018.


Thank you to the Quilters

We love our new banner! This summer the quilting group created this beautiful banner for the Natural History Centre. Our heartfelt appreciation to everyone who put it together including Eleanora Laffin, Una Keziere, Gayle Loban, and Christine Tamburri.

Exhibit Restoration Fundraising Campaign

Since the recent fire at the school, many people from on and off-island have expressed their concern about the Natural History Collection. Many thanks to our community for your kind offers of support and caring.

Initially, the Natural History room appeared visually intact. Unfortunately, upon closer examination, we discovered that the entire collection suffered smoke and soot damage.


As of January 2019, supporters have generously donated a total of $15,000 towards restoring and reestablishing the Natural History Collection. Thanks so much for all of your caring and generosity! We are closing the GoFundMe site but will continue informing our community of supporters through this website.

Also, keep your eye out for an article in the February First Edition entitled “Thoughts on the genesis of the natural history collection born in and of the Hornby Island Community School” by the founder of the Natural History Centre, Joy Jeffries.

Much appreciation for your continued support as we move forward!

The Natural History Stewards

This Northwestern crow is part of the Hornby Island Natural History collection that requires restoration after suffering smoke and soot damage during a fire.

Summer 2018 Photos

Check out this cool footage from Dr. Archer’s presentation of a young glass sponge reef taken just east of Hornby Island!

Thank you to the speakers and nature walk leaders for sharing their knowledge and supporting the Natural History Centre: Stephanie Archer, Dan Bowen, John Cox, Betty Franklin, Art Martell, Jessica Shultz, Adam Taylor, Eileen Van der Flier-Keller, and Kihan Yoon-Henderson. And thanks to everyone who came out and participated in the nature talks and activities!

Update from Natural History on Recent School Fire

As many of you have heard, there was a fire at the Hornby Island Community School early Sunday morning. The fire department and janitor were called by the school’s automatic alarm system at 3 am. Firefighters from Hornby and Denman worked through the night to put out the fire. A third of the building was burnt and the rest was damaged by smoke and water.

There was no water damage to the collection. The collection has smoke and soot damage and we are beginning a restoration and maintenance project. We will do everything we can to maintain and continue making it available to the public in the future.

We are very grateful to the Hornby Fire Department and Denman Fire Department who worked for hours to contain and put out the fire. Thank you to the community for your support and the offers of help. Our thoughts are with the staff and students of the school who are deeply affected by this tragedy. We will keep people posted on the details once we know our next steps.

Hornby Island Natural History Centre Committee

UPDATE: The collection is now being held in storage after professional cleaning.

Links: CBC, Times Colonist, School Renewal Fund


Important Groundwater Research on Hornby

Hornby Water Stewardship is looking for volunteers from across all parts of Hornby to take part in a groundwater research project to be conducted by Dr. John Cox (Kirk Road, Hornby and Mount Royal University, Calgary). Samples will be collected during the period September 11-19, 2018.

One sample of water (less than a litre) will be needed from each well for analysis.

This research is a follow on to research done in the past. As such, it will provide data for comparison of water quality over time. Areas of Hornby may be identified in the project report, not individual well results.

Please contact either of the following people if you are interested in donating a water sample for the project.

John Cox jcox@mtroyal.ca                   Ellen Leslie ellenleslie@telus.net

250 335 0430 until August 28th

403 440 6160 after August 28th

Speaker Series: “Canada’s Glass Sponge Reefs”

Thursday, August 23rd, 2 pm – 3 pm, with Stephanie Archer, marine biologist.

This presentation is part of the Expert Speaker Series. Admission is $5.00 per person. Youth 18 and under attend for free. Please enter through the Natural History Centre door at the Hornby Island Community School.

Glass sponge reefs are an ecosystem unique to the coastal and shelf waters of the US and Canada’s Pacific coast. Since the late 1980’s, when the first glass sponge reefs were discovered in Hecate Strait, researchers at Natural Resources Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada have discovered and surveyed many reefs along BC’s coast- including one just East of Hornby Island. I will introduce you to this amazing ecosystem, the sponges that build the reefs, the animals that call the reefs home, and our research aimed at conserving this ecosystem for future generations.

Stephanie has a PhD from North Carolina State University where she worked in the Layman Lab studying how sponges alter community composition and ecosystem function in tropical and subtropical nearshore marine ecosystems. She is now an NSERC Visiting Fellow with Fisheries and Oceans Canada where she studies species interactions and ecosystem function of Glass Sponge Reefs.

Marine Biodiversity 2 (2).jpeg

This is the final event of our summer programming.

Nature Field Trip: “Walking with Trees”

Exploring the Forests of Hornby with Kihan Yoon-Henderson, Natural History Centre Coordinator.

Friday, August 17th, 10:30 am – 11:30 am, Helliwell Park.

We will meet at the head of the trail at 10:25 am, right next to the parking lot. This walk is part of the Nature Field Trip Series. Admission is $10.00 per person. Youth 18 and under attend for free.

Pre-registration is eseential as space is limited to 12 participants. For inquiries or to register, please email hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com, call 250-335-1021 during NHC’s open hours, or come to the Centre.

To view the full summer nature walk schedule, visit Nature Field Trips.

Speaker Series: “Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery”

Thursday, August 16th with Adam Taylor, conservationist 

Learn about the natural history of the Vancouver Island Marmot and efforts to recover this critically endangered species from the brink of extinction. Once, this marmot numbered fewer than 30 individuals in the wild. Today, the population has recovered to over 150 animals, but challenges remain before this Canadian endemic has secured its place in the wild.

Adam Taylor is the Executive Director of the Marmot Recovery Foundation. He has worked in conservation for over 20 years, including work with other endangered species, such as Western Painted Turtles, Little Brown Bats, and Blue-grey Taildropper slugs.

This presentation is part of the Expert Speaker Series. Admission is $5.00 per person. Youth 18 and under attend for free. The talk begins at 2:00 pm in the Hornby Island Community School Library. Please enter through the Natural History Centre door.

Click here to view the entire Summer 2018 Speaker Series Schedule.

New Specimen Acceptance Policy

The Natural History Centre is now only accepting seabirds for taxidermy in the collection. Specifically, we will take any seabird specimens in suitable condition* EXCEPT the following (which we already have): Glaucous-Winged Gull, Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron and Western Grebe. (We do have a Pigeon Guillemot, but it is an immature and we could use an adult example.)

*Procedure: We only accept animals who died of natural causes (e.g., were not hunted or shot) to the collection. Animals should only have been dead within one hour. They should be double bagged and put in the freezer immediately.

Exception – Student Education

One exception is that we will still accept found specimens from children, at least temporarily, for educational opportunities.

What to do When…

You find a dead animal? We recommend digging a hole and respectfully burying the animal.

You find a bird nest? Leave bird nests in place as the species might re-use them. We do not need any more bird nests at the Natural History Centre.

You find a wasp or bee nest? If they are empty, wasps and bees do not reuse their nests. We do not need any more wasp or bee nests at the Natural History Centre.

Thank you!

Heritage Potato Observation Study

At a recent talk on climate change and adaptation, Richard Hebda, former curator of Earth History and Botany at the Royal BC Museum, gave out heritage potatoes for audience members to plant in their gardens. The two varieties distributed were Ozette (known as a highly prolific and resilient variety of heritage potato) and Likely.

If you were one of the recipients and would like to help Dr. Hebda with his research, you can fill out the observation form below. This study will provide insight into the potatoes you are growing.

Download the potato observation link Here. (From the website: www.heritagepotato.ca)

Learn more about the Richard Hebda’s talk at the Community Hall Here.

Speaker Series: “Counting on Every Species: An introduction to marine biodiversity and why it matters”

Thursday, August 9th, with Jessica Shultz, marine biologist.

We value biodiversity for its beauty, ecological importance and the benefits it provides to people.  British Columbia is home to some of the most productive and diverse waters on the planet.  In this talk, you’ll learn about local marine biodiversity, and how biodiversity is related to the way ecosystems work.  We’ll talk about specific examples from underwater habitats, such as sea star food webs, kelp forests and glass sponge reefs.  In addition, you’ll learn some basic techniques to help you identify the fish and invertebrates you see in tide pools, underwater and on the beach.

Jessica Schultz is the Manager of the Howe Sound Research and Conservation program at the Vancouver Aquarium (Ocean Wise), where she and her team investigate coastal ecology, marine biodiversity and climate change.  Jessica is a professional diver-turned-marine ecologist, as well as a PhD student at the University of Guelph.  Her current research explores how DNA-based technology can be used to measure biodiversity and improve conservation management.

This presentation is part of the Expert Speaker Series. Admission is $5.00 per person. Youth 18 and under attend for free. The talk begins at 2:00 pm in the Hornby Island Community School Library. Please enter through the Natural History Centre door.

Click here to view the entire Summer 2018 Speaker Series Schedule.

Nature Walk: “Walking with Trees”

Exploring the Forests of Hornby with Kihan Yoon-Henderson, Natural History Centre Coordinator.

Friday, August 3rd, 10:30 am – 11:30 am, Helliwell Park.

We will meet at the head of the trail at 10:25 am, right next to the parking lot. This walk is part of the Nature Field Trip Series. Admission is $10.00 per person. Youth 18 and under attend for free. For inquiries or to register, please email hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com, call 250-335-1021 during NHC’s open hours, or come to the Centre.

To view the full summer nature walk schedule, visit Nature Field Trips.

“A Walk in Helliwell Park to See, Hear, and Appreciate Birds”

Both the Summer Nature Walks with Art Martell are now full. 

We will meet at the head of the trail at 7:55 am, right next to the parking lot. The walk will be about 3 km and take about 2 hours. We will listen to and identify bird songs and try to see any birds that might cooperate. Art will provide information on local birds and answer questions. Bring binoculars if you have them. No dogs please. Please note, this walk will be cancelled if it rains. Space is limited to 10 participants.

Art Martell is retired in the Comox Valley and has had a cabin on Hornby Island for over 25 years. He is the Volunteer Caretaker for the K’omoks Important Bird Area and is active in the Comox Valley Birders Group, BC Field Ornithologists, and Bird Studies Canada. Art was also a Regional Coordinator for the BC Breeding Bird Atlas. Before retirement, Art worked as a wildlife research scientist and manager with Canadian Wildlife Service and was the first Canadian National Coordinator for the North American Bird Conservation Initiative.  Art is a keen birder who enjoys birding locally, nationally and internationally.

This walk is part of the Nature Field Trip Series. Admission is $10.00 per person. Youth 18 and under attend for free. Pre-registration is essential as space is limited. For inquiries or to register, email hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com. After Tuesday, July 13th, email hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com, call 250-335-1021, or come to the Centre. This walk is now full.

Click here for the full Summer 2018 Nature Field Trip Series.

Speaker Series: “Exploring Pebbles, Rocks, and the Stories they Tell”

Thursday, July 19th with Eileen Van der Flier-Keller, geologist

In this interactive presentation, Eileen will identify pebbles and rocks and explore the stories they tell.

Dr. Eileen Van der Flier-Keller is a geologist and Teaching Professor in Earth Sciences at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver British Columbia.  She is passionate about public awareness of science and empowering teachers to engage their students with Earth science. Eileen has been cited for her work in promoting geoscience outreach and awareness to teachers through EdGEO, for disseminating geoscience knowledge to the public via publications and talks and especially in reaching the hearts and minds of the next generation of Canadian Earth scientists.  Eileen was named the 2009 recipient of the Geological Association of Canada Neale Medal. This honour is awarded to an individual for their outstanding efforts in sharing earth science with Canadians. She was awarded the UVic Faculty of Science Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2015. At SFU Eileen is also Special Advisor to the Dean of Science on Public Education and Outreach.

This presentation is part of the Expert Speaker Series. Admission is $5.00 per person. Youth 18 and under attend for free. The talk begins at 2:00 pm in the Hornby Island Community School Library. Please enter through the Natural History Centre door.

Click here to view the entire Summer 2018 Speaker Series Schedule.

Richard Hebda Speaks on Climate Change and Adaptation

What measures can we take here on Hornby Island to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change? Climate change is here and evidence shows that the Earth is nearing a tipping point. For instance, as Dr. Richard Hedba stated, one of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide exceeded 412 parts per million (ppm) in 2017 and 2018 for first time in 800,000 years and has risen by about 30 percent in last 12 years.

Dr. Hebda, former curator of Earth History and Botany at the Royal BC Museum, recently gave an engaging, informative, and useful presentation at the Community Hall on climate change, ecosystems, and the future of Hornby Island. He discussed scientific studies on climate change, including his own research which involves examining plant fossils to understand climate impacts and changes, and offered practical suggestions for adapting to what will become a very different environment than we have today. Several key points about climate change that he made include:

  • Ecosystems and processes are more sensitive than model predictions.
  • We should expect transformative events, such as droughts and disease.
  • Changes will vary from place to place on a small scale.
  • There will be increasing disturbances of all kinds.
  • The responses of individual species are challenging to predict.
  • With climate change, new ecosystems will arise.
  • The atmospheric CO2 concentrations are lagging.

Given the unfortunate reality of rising temperatures, Dr. Hebda offered some practical suggestions that would help Hornby Islanders. While we must do everything to mitigate climate change, undoubtedly adaptation will be necessary. Dr. Hebda discussed four adaptation measures we can take.

First, adaptation includes Conservation and Native Plant Cultivation. We can propagate native plant species by planting them in gardens and parks, restoring them to degraded sites, and encouraging them along roadsides.* It is also important to identify and protect dry sites by planting dry habitat species such as oak, Douglas-fir, and arbutus. Keep in mind that shorelines will change. One species that thrives along shorelines and was only identified in recent years is the shoreline juniper tree.

sea blush

The presence of sea blush indicates a possible future meadow and Garry oak friendly area.

A second adaptation strategy is Assisted Migration of Plants which takes into consideration region, site, and species. This is because plants won’t be able to disperse at the rate of climate change. Beginning with the most sensitive species and sites, they will need help sustaining natural populations as sources and require assisted relocation. Garry oak trees will have continued and increasing importance in our ecosystem and require assisted migration. One indication of a future meadow and Garry oak friendly site is the occurrence of sea blush. So keep your eyes open for this slender stemmed plant with clusters of pink flowers in late spring. However, it is important to also avoid drastic transformations, and be sure to monitor the sites!

The third adaptation is Water Conservation, specifically the conservation of wetlands and planting drought resistant plants.

The fourth adaptation is Carbon Stewardship. Key points here are to restore carbon sinks and removal processes, only remove trees for ecological purposes, and end ecosystems degradation.

The fourth adaptation is Food Security. One experiment Dr. Hebda described on food security and climate change examined the yields of Heritage potatoes across sites. The results were ordered from highest to lowest identified yield: Ozette-Nootka, Russett Burbank, Chieftain, Mrs. Moehrle’s Yellow, Banana, Yukon Gold, Sieglinde, Russian Blue, Kennebec, Corne de MoutonIrish Cobbler, Likely


Food security research shows that the ozette potato is a highly prolific and resilient variety of heritage potato.

Dr. Hebda urged us to consider the following:

Be prepared for surprises and extremes. With climate change comes flood, drought, and pest outbreaks.

Undertake bold experiments and be sure to take action!

Click Here for an article by Anthony Gregson on the talk from the Islands Grapevine.

*The Natural History Centre has an information binder on our native plant species as well as an ethnobotanical native plant demonstration garden – come take a look!

Photo of Richard Hebda at the Hornby Island Community Hall by barb biagi.

BIOCRACY: Hornby Island and Climate Change

By Anthony Gregson
The Islands Grapevine, June 7, 2018

Where climate change is concerned, it’s not news that we’re all in for it. Yet, somewhat shamefacedly, I came away from Dr. Richard Hebda’s lecture on Hornby Island and climate change, last Friday, sponsored by the Natural History Centre, with a rather cheerful anticipation. Garry Oak meadows all up the East Coast of Vancouver Island? Fields of beautiful blue camas? Lemon trees and oranges, maybe even avocados and sugarcane in the garden? The wines will be terrific. Look forward to Chateau St. John or Domaine Prince George. What’s not to like?

Hebda, who is based in the Royal British Columbia Museum, left us in no doubt about the reality of global warning. He pointed out that the world’s temperature, which normally moves in lock step with carbon dioxide levels, is now way out of wack, far below where carbon dioxide levels have soared. There is no doubt that temperature will catch up. We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Obviously, we must find a way to live in harmony with Nature. Hebda used a somewhat stronger term, biocracy, which might be taken to mean the regulation of society in the interests of harmony with Nature. He said that, for him, what were Gaian beliefs in the eighties have been replaced by facts. For example, all communities of perennial plants are connected through fungal mycorrhizal relationships. (The Gaia Hypothesis proposes that the biosphere forms a complex system that interacts with inorganic surroundings, such as global temperature, to maintain life.)

Read More

Summer 2018 Events Calendar

We are pleased to announce that the Summer 2018 Natural History Events Calendar is now available! Join us in learning with experts passionate in the areas of marine biology, paleontology, geology, conservation, and ornithology.

The Exhibit’s Summer hours of operation begin Tuesday, July 3rd. 

2018_Natural_History_Poster_edit (2)

Our Thursday Expert Speakers Series is held in the Community School Library (entrance through the Natural History Exhibit door). Admission to each presentation is $5.00 per adult. Free for youth 18 and under.

The Nature Field Trips on Fridays are an excellent opportunity to discover shoreline and forest ecosystems as well as Hornby’s unique geology.  These field trips are great fun for the whole family and will enhance your visit to our beautiful island.  Pre-registration is essential as space is limited.  For inquiries or to register, please email hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com. After the Centre opens on July 3rd, you can email hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com, call 250-335-1021, or come to the Centre during open hours to register. $10 per person; free for children 18 and under.

Photo by barb biagi.

Welcome Back Summer Coordinator and Host – Kihan Yoon Henderson!

We are delighted to welcome Kihan Yoon-Henderson back to the Natural History Centre for her third year as the Summer Coordinator! Kihan has strong environmental, cultural, and social awareness combined with a powerful ability to communicate and inspire people. Kihan will begin when the Centre opens full-time in July. See her message below.

“I’m looking forward to seeing both new and familiar faces at the Natural History Centre again this summer, and to be involved in the Hornby community for another season. I am currently completing my undergraduate studies in Human Geography at the University of British Columbia, and am passionate about environmental sustainability, social justice and community based organizing. In addition to this, this past year I was fortunate to go on exchange for a semester to Yonsei University in South Korea, as well as to travel and learn in other regions of Asia. As I have been coming to the Island since I was born, this position and the community involved means a great deal to me. It excites me to have the chance to explore Hornby’s incredible and rich natural history with all of you. See you in July!”

Kihan will also be leading two nature field trips called “Walking with Trees” at Helliwell Park.