Hornby Island Natural History Centre

Student Activity: Planting Bulbs

The Hornby School students planted 210 bulbs of various types of narcissus on the bank along Sollans Road and in the plot in front of the school. Each student marked the area they planted with wooden sticks Alissa provided with their names. Then they spontaneously began putting little rocks around their planting sites. After patting the soil down, a design of  various size of circles appeared in the little landscaped plot in front of the school. Hopefully it’ll be a lovely sight next spring. This was Natural History’s first activity together with the students as part of the school’s theme on changing seasons. On October 22nd, we’ll be heading to Helliwell Park to plant native plants with the students.

Nature Walk – Hornby Rocks!

August 13 – John Cox, “Hornby Rocks! Exploring Hornby’s Unique Geology.” Sandpiper Beach. 

This walk is part of the Nature Field Trip Series. Admission is $10.00 per adult. Youth 18 and under attend for free. Pre-registration is essential. Space is limited to 50 participants. To register or inquire, email hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com

We will meet at the entrance to the beach at 10:20 am. Please Note, make sure to bring water and appropriate footwear. The walk occurs on the beach and over rocks and not on a trail. The sun can be very hot and a hat and sun protection measures are recommended. The walk lasts about 1 1/2 hours (with an option to leave earlier after 1 hour).

Speaker Series – “Changing Wildfire Regimes” with Kendrick Brown

Join us Thursday, August 1st for a talk with Kendrick Brown, paleoecologist, on Changing Wildfire Regimes. Dr. Brown will look at changing wildfire regimes in British Columbia and beyond in response to changes in climate, vegetation, and human activity. New Horizons Centre, 2:00 pm. $5 per adult. Free for youth 18 years and younger.

Speaker Series – The Geology and Paleontology of Hornby Island

Join us on July 25th for a talk about the Geology and Paleontology of Hornby Island! Dan Bowen and Betty Franklin of the Vancouver Island Paleontological Society – VIPS will discuss the fossil story of marine life in our ancient ocean. New Horizons Centre, 12:30. $5 per adult. Free for youth 18 years and younger.

VIPS talk


Speaker Series – Microplastics in our Local Waters

On July 10th, join us in learning about what is happening with plankton and microplastics in our local waters. Dorrie Woodward, a Denman Island based marine conservationist, will present at Hornby Island’s New Horizons Centre, 2 pm.

Microplastic in our local waters (1)

Summer 2019 Calendar

We are pleased to announce that the Summer 2019 Natural History Events Calendar is now available!

Please note: Although we have speakers and nature walks, the Natural History Centre is closed for summer 2019. You can read about why here.

Our Expert Speakers Series will be held at New Horizons. Admission to each presentation is $5.00 per adult. Free for youth 18 and under.

The Nature Field Trips 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. $10 per person; free for youth 18 and under. The 2 birding walks and July 25 fossil walk are now full.

Helliwell Park Photo: John Brears

Barred Owl Photo: barb biagi

Join Us for Hornby Wild! Nature Weekend

Mark your calendars for the Hornby Wild! Nature Weekend – May 31st & June 1st. This year’s event features birding presentations and walks by Art Martell and Daniel Donnecke, and a collaborative presentation on local nature photography with Don Peterson and Phil Ives.

The evening talks will be at the Hall. Tickets go on sale at the gas bar mid-May.

The morning birding walks are by registration only (space is limited). To sign up for one of the Nature Walks, please email hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com

Refreshments will be available for sale at the evening talks, including all organic vegan-friendly baked goods.

A Labour of Love – Natural History Collection Gets Careful Decontamination and Cleaning

After months of preparation a dedicated team met for three days to clean the Natural History collection that had sustained soot damage from the school fire.

In the week leading up to the much-anticipated cleaning event, the group spent a few hours each day prepping. This process involved moving the collection from the containers into the area of the school that had not sustained fire damage and was now smoke damage free, where it would be cleaned. Upon Alan Fletcher’s suggestion, a small area was tented in the old Music Room, the spot closest to the storage container by the window. Heat and lights were set up inside the cleaning area. Ruth provided snacks for the group.

Then the big day arrived. Over time, eighteen people worked carefully and systematically, making their way through the birds, mammals, fossils, bones, photos, files, and more. The taxidermied specimens required the most attention: a careful procedure with special vacuums, brushes, and sponges was followed. To the surprise of all, and thanks to the diligent cleaning efforts, the collection was shining in only three days.

As each specimen was placed back in their temporary (and decontaminated) container home, we marveled that they looked “better than ever,” with eyes sparkling, feathers and fur fluffed. As well as being beautiful and educational, they serve as a reminder to protect and preserve the living natural world and its inhabitants. It felt good to have them back to a pristine condition.

Thanks to everyone on the team!

  • Conservators from the Royal BC Museum in Victoria: Kasey Lee (Senior Conservator) and Lauren Buttle (Paper Conservator).
  • Community Volunteers: Susan Cain, Rachelle Chinnery, Diane Proc, Elaine Savoie, Mary Savoie, and Wayne Wai.
  • Restorers and Cleaners from Service Masters Restorers, Vancouver Island: Gwen, Heather, and Valerie (paid for by insurance).
  • The Natural History Stewards: Barb Biagi, Ruth Goldsmith, Bill Hamilton, Susan Hoppenfeld, Tina Wai, Neil Wilson, and Norma Wilson.
  • Judith Lawrence for providing accommodation for the Conservators.

We’d also like to thank all those who volunteered to help, but never had a chance because the job finished sooner than anticipated.

As one volunteer described, it was truly a labour of love.

In the video below, Neil Wilson of the Natural History Centre explains part of the cleaning process while cleaning the kingfisher.

Natural History Landscapes

Last summer it was exciting to see the chocolate lilies blooming and spreading profusely along with the blue camas in the Ethnobotanical garden adjacent the school. The alpine strawberries with their small white flowers were taking over the paths, as were seedlings of the bright orange columbines, and yellow tiger lilies. They were thriving happily under red flowering current, while the  shrubs were reaching massive sizes.

Despite valiant efforts to protect and save it, Natural History’s Ethnobotanical garden was in a sorry state after the school fire and now is no longer. On Friday, February 1st, 2019, the stewards liberated the surviving plants from their narrow confines and fences, returning them to the forest. Our sadness at the loss of our Ethnobotanical garden was transformed however by seeing the splendor of the big plants in the forest setting. I found it satisfying to be able to finally do something, to salvage the plants, give them a chance, and help restore an area that had been damaged to put in the new power lines for the school on Sollans Rd. This move would not have happened without Alan Fletcher of AFC Construction offering his help, suggesting the new site, and with skillful maneuvering of his machinery, digging up the huge Nootka rose, the enormous mahonia, and 14 other plants. Alan Fletcher and Al Cannon, the site supervisor, have been unfailingly helpful to Natural History. We really appreciate their ongoing support and assistance. The rest of the team, that got so much work done in three amazing hours with their shovels that morning, were Norma Wilson, Neil Wilson, Bill Hamilton, Elaine Savoie, Ruth Goldsmith, and Tina Wai. At the end, Ruth came up with the brilliant idea to help the school children plant daffodil bulbs along the bank next fall. Hopefully, they too may experience the feeling that we had of doing something to beautify the land around their school.

– Tina Wai

Update from the Stewards

Hi everyone!

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

Artist Wayne Ngan in the Exhibit

From the archives: Local artist and master potter Wayne Ngan spent time painting, in classic Chinese brush style, some of the creatures in the exhibit. In conjunction, he offered a painting demonstration to the students and kindly donated some of the pieces for fundraising.

Christmas Fair

This year’s holiday fair was a great success. The diligent work of the natural history stewards and volunteers paid off – our table raised over $1,500 after expenses! We are fundraising for the care, cleaning, and restoration of the Natural History exhibition that was damaged in the school fire this past August. We appreciate the donations made for the restoration. Thanks so much to everyone for your support!

A special 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; Mette Wullum for rumball guidance; Verlie Gilligan for making barb biagi’s gorgeous photos into cards; and Quality Foods for donating groceries for the rum balls.

Warm wishes for the holiday season!

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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.