Category Archives: Society

Citizen Science vs Social Media Speculation

I am a strong proponent of citizen science. I think the observations amateurs make, share, and get verified on places like iNaturalist are crucial to understanding what is going on in the natural world.

But sometimes things get crazy on social media.

The other day I posted a photo of a heron scarfing a large salmonid about 30-35cm long.

By a quick ‘n dirty count of responses, several Registered Professional Biologists, several hatchery managers and staff, and a few folks from the Department of Fisheries agree it was a coho.

Yet the debate on my original post continues to grow days later with “no, that’s a Chinook” or “no, that’s a Steelhead” or “No. . . whatever. . . ” comments piling up.

I have not responded to those posts in that thread, and I won’t, because that would likely just pour fuel on the speculative fire.

Without actually getting hands on with the fish to look at teeth and gums and scales and spots and whatever, there is no point to arguing.

But I’ll go with the pros, eh?

And, oh yeah, that citizen science. In over 20 years of streamkeeping on the creek we have never seen chinook or steelhead. Only chum and coho use this creek to spawn. Just once in those years have we trapped a chinook smolt, and that  was near the  mouth, where it was likely taking a break while heading out to the ocean from somewhere up the Fraser.

Covid Fatigue Evident at Deer Lake Park in Burnaby

I had a four-hour photography ramble around and up and down Deer Lake Park in #Burnaby.

In over 20 years of walking the trails there, I have never seen as many people as I have since Covid.

On the one hand, it’s great that people are getting out into this beautiful park, but on the other hand, Covid fatigue has definitely set in, and people are being less mindful than they ought to be.

There were several large groups of over ten people doing the circuit. Unfortunately they were oblivious to other park users. Faster walkers and joggers had to stop and plead with people to give some space. In many stretches the boardwalk and trails are just a bit over a meter wide.

I’d guess that about two-thirds of the “One Direction Only” and “Maintain 2-Meter Spacing” signs had been torn down, with many tossed into the bush, and four or five tossed into the lake.

Too many people are not being Kind or Safe, leading to it becoming more difficult for others to be Calm, eh?

Going Back to School with Some Trepidation

Schools are reopening in British Columbia, and I know many parents, teachers, and staff are nervous, even with various new protocols in place.

My PT job teaching a watershed-based environmental education program shut down in March. We’re starting back up again toward the end of September with stringent sanitization protocols and revised methods of program delivery.

I have to admit that I’ve had concerns, but the Stream of Dreams Murals Society team has thought things through carefully, so I’ve agreed to work a few days and see how it goes.

It’s going to be a new ball game. . .

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Storage Vandalized in SE Burnaby

Unfortunately our Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society storage container in the spawning habitat in Burnaby, BC, was broken into recently.

Aside from a gas-powered pump there was little of resalable value in the container. Just gear that volunteers use for public events, and to count aquatic bugs, trap and ID juvenile fish, and educational materials. We’re making a list of what was taken.

The gate to the habitat was also bashed in, lock still in place but gate broken.

Sigh. I reported to the RCMP and City of #Burnaby. A very nice officer was there within half an hour of my call and we went over the site together. And a City crew installed heavy chains across the entrance gate that had been rammed open.

Now we have to figure out what needs to be replaced so that volunteers can continue their streamkeeping and educational activities.

It’s dispiriting that vandals would do this when maybe they’ll get ten cents on a dollar, or a few hundred bucks, for their break and enter.

Yet our group is likely looking at well over a thousand dollars to replace what was taken. A thousand dollars is our total annual budget, eh?

Yes, we rely 90% on sweat equity in our volunteer work.

I don’t know what’s wrong with some people.

vandalized storage container byrne creek burnaby


Some Byrne Creek History in SE Burnaby

I was contacted recently by someone wanting to know about the nature interpretive sign installed at Griffith’s Pond on Byrne Creek near Edmonds Skytrain Station in SE Burnaby, BC.

In particular the person was curious about who put the sign up, and why there was no mention of First Nations. Here’s a response that I put together:

Hi there, thank you for your interest. I don’t know all the answers to your questions, but I’ll give it a shot.

The signs were installed by the City decades ago. Yes, I agree it would be excellent to have them updated with the addition of information about local First Nations.

You can see simply by wandering/driving around Burnaby, or any other municipality around here that most names reflect settler names, places, and origins.

For example, in our ‘hood we have Nelson, Victory, Royal Oak, Imperial. . . Burnaby itself, and Burnaby Lake and Burnaby Mountain are named after a Brit who actually spent little time here, though he was active in Victoria (hey, there’s another name, eh?) for several years.

As for Byrne Creek, I have no idea how it was referred to by First Nations. Byrne rerouted and channeled the lower portion of the creek in 1893, likely for logging- and farming-related reasons.

As far as I know, there is no historical record of where Byrne Creek entered the river in its original unaltered state. It likely just dissipated into the vast wetlands and bogs that used to be on the south slope flats.

There is some information on the City of Burnaby’s website and some historical maps:

I know that over the last several years the Burnaby Village Museum has been making efforts to incorporate more First Nations history and knowledge into its displays and activities. From what I’ve read, it appears that First Nations did not have permanent settlements in south Burnaby, but regularly used the area for fishing, hunting, berry picking, etc.

As for the impact of diverting the creek, it basically destroyed it as a fish-bearing system for decades, at least for anadromous fish like salmon that move between fresh and saltwater over their life cycle. The bottom end of the diked ditch passed through a pump that did not allow fish passage.

The City of Burnaby rerouted the ditch some 35-40 years ago and installed flap gates at the mouth that allow fish passage. Volunteers from fish and game clubs, in concert with the DFO and the City, began restocking the creek starting in the late 1980s. It was basically a handful of older white guys who initiated cleaning up Byrne Creek and working with the various levels of government to get fish back.

There was a massive fish kill in 1998 that wiped out the entire creek when someone dumped a toxin down a street drain. That galvanized the community to form a streamkeeper group to help care for the creek.


Reflections on the A-Bomb Anniversary

There’s been a lot of chat about the anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I have visited Hiroshima several times and Nagasaki once. I have read many accounts of the horrors. I lived in Japan for 14 years and loved it.

But I always was uncomfortable with Japanese denial of any horrors that they perpetrated in the war.

There was never any mention of Japan’s imperialistic invasions of east and south Asia. Or the thousands of so-called “comfort women” of several Asian countries forced into servicing the Japanese army every place it invaded.

Any call for such recognition was met with threats of violence from right-wing Japanese groups, and that continues to this day.

While accurate numbers are hard to establish, the Japanese Imperial Army likely raped, tortured, and killed more civilians in the Nanjing Massacre alone than combined civilian deaths at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The conventional battles of the Pacific at places like Okinawa were also horrific, with a pervasive “fight to the last man” blindness by the Japanese army and marines. The Japanese military pressed local civilians into service, and it’s documented that civilians were forced to commit mass suicide by the Japanese military instead of being allowed to give up.

History is complex and complicated. Times and attitudes are always changing. Is there any point in debating the degree of horror of this massacre, to that genocide, to this bombing, to that. . .

I don’t know. But I believe that mass amnesia and denial is a slippery slope.

Japan has never had a Willy Brandt moment. . .

Rambling Steveston Boardwalk, Visiting Obachan’s Garden

I had an errand to run in Richmond, BC, today, so I tacked on a couple of hours at Steveston wandering the boardwalk, and old cannery and boat-building structures. There are endless photo opportunities here amidst this blending of First Nations, European, Japanese, and Chinese cultures.

I also like to visit Obachan’s Garden. It looked in fine fettle, a bit wild but beautiful. You can find Linda Ohama’s film on the NFB website here.

steveston bc obachan's garden heritage buildings