Restoring Natural Habitat on the Trial Islands

Restoring Natural Habitat on the Trial Islands

By: Liam Guy

Sunshine, Water, and…Ivy? An unlikely combination to be sure, but one that can be found in abundance on the Trial Islands. Located off of the south-eastern tip of Vancouver Island, this small island group was the site of an invasive woody plant removal [M1]effort spearheaded by biologist Matt Fairbarns. A rare-plant expert and experienced biologist, Matt has been the lead on invasive removal efforts on the Trial Islands (Greater and Lesser) for more than a decade and has been a major driving force behind the conservation of the rare native species found there. I received an offer to join Matt and his crew for the day - unsure as to what I was getting myself into, I was pleasantly surprised by the work, the site, and the camaraderie exhibited by Matt and his crew.

One thing that immediately struck me about the Trial Islands was their beauty , both in terms of the sights, sounds and abundance of unique plants. The Trial Islands are home to 20 rare vascular plant species, 11 of which are extremely rare in BC, making it both an island in the literal and ecological sense. One personal highlight was getting a look at the rare Golden Paintbrush. [AV2]Plenty[M3] of animals could be found on site as well; Harlequin Ducks and Harbour[M4] Seals (among many others) all made an appearance at one point or another. Blue skies, a slight breeze, and the gentle, rhythmic swash of the waves upon the shoreline give the island a distinct feeling of peace and quiet; it is strange to think that this small pocket of nature is located so close to Vancouver Island.

Our efforts were focused on a rocky, densely vegetated thicket located within the southern ecological reserve. Greater Trial island, while hosting an Ecological Reserve[M5], is also host to a CFAX owned radio antenna array and a Lighthouse property. The Ecological Reserve is made up of a “northern” and “southern” section, with the CFAX property wedged in between these zones. A thick cover of native roses, snowberry, and other native species made our work difficult and, at times, painful, but also provided distinct feelings of satisfaction when a particularly difficult or long vine was pulled from the site. Matt and his crew were an absolute delight to work with throughout the entire experience. Despite the challenging work, everyone got along, worked hard, and were able to keep conversation with one another. Who knew working neck-deep in rose bushes could be so fun? The resident lighthouse keeper, Meredith and her two dogs Seth and Sky were welcome additions to the cast as well, providing a canine break from our labours.

The Trial Islands are some of BC’s most ecologically valuable places, without a doubt, and definitely needs the time and effort currently bestowed upon them. The work we were there to perform, while not glamorous, created tangible results. In total, we removed about 10-12 cubic metres [M6]of English Ivy, clearing much of the biomass from our work site and setting the table for future crews to come and begin removal of the root mass. It has been a long road to travel but[M7] the finish line is now clearly within sight - I hope to be around to see it for myself!

A big thank you to Matt Fairbarns for his hospitality and willingness to take me on for the day, and to the crew for being so welcoming. We will keep the HAT community up-to-date with any new developments on the Trial Islands.

goldenpaintbrush 1 Nicole Kroeker 2017Trial Island Jordana Herron 2017 3Trial Island Jordana Herron 2017Trial Island Jordana Herron 2017 2

Photos from Left to Right: Golden Paintbrush Castilleja levisecta - Nicole Kroeker (2017); Trial Island Lighthouse - Jordana Herron (2017) ; Trial Island Coastline - Jordana Herron (2017); Volunteers at work - Jordana Herron (2017)


Rhonda Korol Board Biography

RK Photo for HATRhonda Korol; MSc

Co-operative Education Program Coordinator, University of Victoria

Rhonda has a BSc in Geography from University of Toronto and an MSc in Biology from University of Victoria.  She works as a Coordinator in Co-operative Education at UVic.  Rhonda has served as a member of the Advisory Planning Commission and a member of Municipal Council in Central Saanich. She enjoys exploring the unique natural areas of Vancouver Island from her kayak, bike, or hiking boots and gets great satisfaction from participating in broom bashes and ivy pulls.


Pia Archibald Board Biography

Pia Website photoPia Archibald

Director of Community Engagement, Greater Victoria Housing Society

Pia Archibald is a retired wildlife biologist and manager in the BC Ministry of Environment. Pia worked in wildlife research, environmental assessment and environmental policy and planning in BC, Alberta, Yukon and the NWT.


Volunteer Spotlight: Rachael Macdonald

This month the HAT office team would like to shine the volunteer spotlight on:

Rachael Macdonald




Rachael shares a little bit of her Habitat Acquisition Trust volunteering experience with you:

"I first learned about HAT through Jill. As a regular at the coffee shop where I work, I would hear bits and pieces about the things she had been working on and was really intrigued. When I decided to go back to school to study Biology, I began volunteering in the HAT office as a way to get involved and learn about some of the things biologists do. Within the different admin tasks I’ve been doing, I’ve learned about ecological surveys and restoration management plans – things I am very interested in but didn’t think I would see until I started school. I love working with so many women who have accomplished so much in this field; their work and passion inspire me whenever I come in to volunteer."
Our Land Protection guru, Barb, shares her gratitude for Rachael: “[she] is a wonderful volunteer, and her efforts are so helpful to keeping the covenants program information updated and organized.  She shows up consistently and with a smile takes on tasks from small to complex and quickly and efficiently completes them.  Thanks Rachael!”

Our Community and Development Coordinator, Ashlea shares her thanks: "Rachael has been wonderfully helpful in all aspects of her role with us. She tackles any task without trepidation and completes them in a timely efficient manner, always willing to help wherever it is needed most! Thank you Rachael!" 

Executive Director, Jill Robinson shares her gratitude as well: "Rachael has been an excellent addition to our HAT team. She is a hardworking volunteer and a friendly face to have around the office. A huge thank you to Rachel for taking time out of her week to join our team and help with all the behind the scenes, but essential work in our office. Huge thanks!"




Letter of resignation from Jill Robinson, Executive Director

Note from the Board of Directors: 


Dear HAT members and supporters,

The Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) Board of Directors would like to inform you that Jill Robinson will be leaving her position as Executive Director of HAT in July 2018. We thank Jill for her enormous contributions to HAT during the last three and a half years.

Jill has demonstrated her passion for conservation, strong leadership, and an exceptional talent for building collaborative relationships with staff, board members, volunteers and many others from the larger community. Jill’s diligence, positive energy and commitment to organizational excellence leave HAT an even stronger organization than it was when she arrived. Although we are sad to see her go, we wish Jill all the best as she pursues exciting new opportunities.

Moving forward, the Board of Directors will now start the process for hiring a new Executive Director. We look forward to receiving applications for this important role and to finding another talented individual to help shape HAT’s future. With strong support from the board, and with Jill’s assistance, we anticipate a smooth transition into the role for the next Executive Director as HAT continues to advance conservation objectives on south Vancouver Island.


HAT Board of Directors

Note from Jill:

For the last three and a half years at Habitat Acquisition Trust, I have felt incredibly fortunate to be a part of an organization that I care so deeply for. I am passionate about HAT’s mission to conserve nature on south Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands and I am proud of what our group has accomplished. While I have loved my time at HAT and know I will miss it dearly, I have decided to resign from my position to pursue my career as a Biologist.

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with such a passionate, knowledgeable and hardworking team of staff, board members, volunteers, contractors, and supporters – everyone that has helped support HAT in becoming a leader for conservation. I have truly appreciated your kindness, support and commitment to land protection and have loved being a part of a collaborative, strategic approach to conserving our important natural areas. Together, we’ve all worked hard to build upon HAT’s strong foundation and I feel confident moving forward that HAT will continue to thrive and make a positive impact on local conservation. I wish all the best to HAT in the future and look forward to continuing my involvement with this great organization for years to come.


Jill Robinson

 Apply today!

To apply for this great opportunity to join the HAT team, click here. Applications due June 5. 


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