Live from Vancouver Island…

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Marine ecologists, ecosystem managers and policymakers are gathering in Victoria, British Columbia this weekend for the second International Marine Conservation Congress. We’re here following the Natural Capital Project, which will conduct a workshop and training on its Marine InVEST tool Friday morning.

Victoria, on Vancouver Island, is a fitting place for the Natural Capital folks to explain their new marine ecosystem modeling tool. A short drive up the coast from Victoria lie Barkley and Clayoquot Sounds, two beautiful but sensitive environments. NatCap is working with the locally based, inter-agency resource management team West Coast Aquatic to help local groups weigh decisions about how to balance preservation with a healthy economy.

The sounds are part of just under 300 miles of inlets, fjords and sounds that compose Vancouver Island’s west coast, often described as one of the most beautiful places on the continent. Temperate rainforests further inland feed rivers that course to the ocean, creating an ecosystem rich in birds, fish and verdant flora. In addition to being a spectacular conservation area and tourist destination, these riches sustain the small, diverse communities built around them.

These communities now face major challenges. Salmon populations have plummeted in recent years. Logging and aquaculture are dramatically impacting the ecosystem. Toxic chemicals are accumulating in marine life. Communities are considering harnessing wave power for energy, but concerned about the possible impacts on the environment. Fishermen, tribes, loggers, industrialists and the tourism industry are struggling to agree on solutions.

NatCap thinks its new ecosystem modeling program, Marine InVEST — still under development and intended to help communities make complicated decisions about how to manage marine and coastal environments — could be a great tool for West Vancouver Island and is  testing many facets of the program here for the first time.

Julia and I are on the island now, having shed layers of academia and city living to embrace big waters and snowy mountain peaks glowing above the early morning fog.  We’re looking forward to reporting on how Marine InVEST is working and how scientists and community managers receive it tomorrow.  Stay tuned, and let us know what you’d like to learn about Marine InVEST, the island’s conservation efforts and the conference.

Who is Science, Upstream?
JAMIE HANSEN has written for Sierra Magazine, the High Country News, and Birders’ World. She’s pursuing a master’s degree in journalism at Stanford, hoping to tie together two passions: a keen interest in the natural world and communicating with broad audiences. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Oberlin College, but fell in love with biology during her last semester.

JULIA JAMES is a master’s candidate in Journalism at Stanford University. She often writes about issues relating to human and environmental health. When not chained to a computer, she likes to climb rocks and chase Frisbees. She holds a B.S. in geological and environmental sciences (also from Stanford) and lives in Palo Alto with six housemates and five chickens.

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