Dec 28, Warden’s Report -Race Rocks Ecological Reserve

I went to Race Rocks today with Val George for the Christmas bird Count.  ( See other reports from  today.) The highlight of course was the discovery of the first record for the Boreal Owl in Southern Vancouver Island . Some other observations from my visit are included here:

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Several 1 metre exclosures for goose grazing have been installed on the grass  areas on Race Rocks. Winter grazing by the Canada geese (introduced to Vancouver Island in the 1980s) has resulted in erosion in some areas of the island, and grass turf cover is prevented.
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Drift Macrocystis at the jetty. This Giant Kelp can grow anchored at great depths but winter storms will lift it up and the  main contribution to energy-flow  in the ecosystem comes from decomposition on the shoreline. Macrocystis grows in areas of high salinity, so not in he brackish estuarine conditions of the Strait of Juan de Fuca , but not at Race Rocks  where it ends up only as drift in the strand line.
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A dead cormorant, (probably Brandt’s ). Interesting webbed foot structure.
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A 1st year juvenile Thayer’s Gull The breast had a hole and internal organs  were eaten. It was probably from an eagle attack.
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This year, the college has finished tilting the solar panels. Increased energy efficiency has been noted. They were originally installed flat since we were concerned that the strength of the wind may damage them. This hasn’t happened. View of the energy building roof from the top of the tower.
2014-12-28johanplaque ..
This fall a plaque has been installed to honour Johan Ashuvud, who as a student at Pearson College, was instrumental in having Race Rocks designated as an ecological reserve in 1980 ..

Other Ecological reserves wardens reports are available here:

Visitors to Race Rocks

Today we were able to make a special trip to Race Rocks Ecological reserve with Tensie Whelan with her father Sidney, and Patsy Whelan.


Patsy, Sidney and Tensie Whelan at the top of the Race Rocks tower


The Whelan’s live in New York and Connecticut and had made a trip to British Columbia to be able to see the place which meant so much to Tensie’s late husband, Johan Ashuvud. Johan had been a student at Race Rocks who in 1979-1980, had worked as a marine science student and a diver leading a group who ended up creating the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve.

Thanks to Chris Blondeau for driving Helen and I and the Whelans out to the reserve.

The Johan Ashuvud Memorial

It is unlikely that the creation of the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve in 1980 would have happened except for the efforts of an 18 year old Pearson College student from Sweden.

johan Johan Ashuvud, a student from 1978-1980, was in the Marine Science class and the Diving Service as part of IB his program at the college.
He devoted a great amount of energy in helping to direct a group of students in an extensive diving and research program in order to demonstrate the need for a Reserve at Race Rocks.

dv1Johan Ashuvud SCUBA diving at Race Rocks 1979




ellisIn the fall of 1979 he helped organize a workshop to investigate the creation of a reserve at Race Rocks involving provincial and university officials. Johan was instrumental in drawing up the draft proposal with staff of the Ecological reserves branch of the Parks Department in the provincial government and even helped in guiding the Deputy Minister of Parks on an underwater tour of the reserve.

sw4mJens Jensen from Denmark,and Johan Asuvud attach a transect line onto the top of the rarely exposed Rosedale Reef, South of Race Rocks at an extreme low tide.  At that point they were standing on the most southerly point in Western Canada!

Jballanac27-1ohan’s underwater photography was the first done by students of the college and was to become very valuable in helping to promote conservation of the beautiful life forms there
A gallery of some of his work is available here.

celeb80When the Ecological Reserve at Race Rocks was declared in 1980 by the provincial government, the group of students who had worked on the proposal made a celebratory trip to Race Rocks to tell the lightkeepers Trev and Flo Anderson of the great news. (Johan is on crutches after returning from a holiday in Mexico where he had had a collision with a bus!)

sw7A few weeks later, Trev and Flo invited the core group back to present the “Order of Race Rocks” for the great work done. Johan (center of photo) and other divers with whom he had worked, were given the special presentation by Trev and Flo Anderson to express their thanks for the work done.
When Johan graduated from Pearson College, he went on to the School of Economics in Stockholm, Sweden, where he obtained his Master’s degree in Environmental Economics. His first job was in Costa Rica with the International Union for the Conservancy of Nature (IUCN). There he continued his interest in getting special places preserved, as he worked to convince officials in Parks Departments of Central American governments to preserve their Natural Heritage.

Almost 10 years after he left Pearson College, on a trip back to Sweden in April of 1988, Johan died in a car accident. Our college community was deeply saddened by this tragic event. Johan left his wife and a soon to be born daughter.
Johan would be the first to urge young people from all countries to never give up with environmental concerns. He proved to us that youth can make a significant impact in the world by getting actively involved in working to preserve such special places as Race Rocks.

In 2000, The family of Johan contributed the Johan Ashuvud Memorial Fund to be administered in Trust by Lester B. Pearson College . The purpose of the fund is to support with the annual proceeds environmental activities, research and projects undertaken by present and former students of Pearson related to the Race Rocks Marine Reserve.

  • In June 2000, Several students with faculty member Garry Fletcher did a week-long series of webcasts from the Ecological reserve for the Johan Ashuvud Week
  • In June 2001, students Damien Guihen and Jean Olivier Dalphond spent several weeks at Race Rocks, doing webcasts, and producing QuickTime Virtual Reality and QuickTime Videos for the archives of
  • In June 2002 four students are doing an educational webcasting program from Race Rocks.
  • Almost every year since 2002, a few students from the college stay behind after others leave at the end of the term in May to go to Race Rocks for a project week which we still call “The Johan Ashuvud Week”

One of the last papers published by Johan on his work for the IUCN in Central America :

Ashuvud, Johan, “Environmental Conservation for Development in Central America” C. Folke and T. Kåberger ed. Linking the Natural Environment and the Economy: Essays from the Eco-Eco Group, (Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991): 253-270.

ASACODE, Asociación San Migueleña para la Conservación y el Desarrollo, tiene un Albergue para la recepción de turismo en una finca dedicada al manejo integral del bosque, que fue donada por UICN y que lleva el nombre de Johan Ashuvud.

*” Talamancan Ecotourism and Conservation (ATEC) Association, provided training Tourism naturalist guides, who work in Talamanca (local communities). ATEC works as tour operator working directly with the community. * ASACODE, San Miguelena Association for Conservation and Development, has a Hostel for receipt of tourism in an area dedicated to integrated forest management, which was donated by IUCN and named Johan Ashuvud. * There are a number of private initiatives to develop tourism hotels which will generate pressure on the resources of the Refuge.”

In December 2014,  a memorial bronze plaque was installed at Race Rocks to commemorate Johan and the work that he did to help in the creation of the Race Rocks Ecological reserve: Click to enlarge.2014-12-28johanplaque

The plaque can be seen from the remote camera 1. It  faces the tower on the rock near the path intersection below the tower.


Johan Ashuvud Project at Race Rocks -2004

During the Johan Ashuvud project 2004, students explored the intertidal with Garry Fletcher. They examined various organisms as well as the artificial tidepool. In this video, we also get a chance to meet all the students taking part in the project.

The Johan Ashuvud Race Rocks 2002 Project- Video by Ben

Ben Dougall (PC yr.28) from Australia has edited this clip demonstrating some of the highlights of his stay with “The Crew” at Race Rocks.They were there for the Johan Ashuvud Race Rocks02 Project in the first two weeks of June 2002 . As well as providing daily webcasts from the mobile camera, they took over the duties of the Ecological reserve  ecoguardians and worked on producing a number of video sequences for the video archives and Race Rocks Taxonomy.

Go to “MEET THE CREW” for the Project.

Webcasting Crew at Race Rocks for the Johan Ashvud RR’02 Project



Michael Kiprop Kenya (PC-2003)



Joe Downham UK (PC-2003)


Ben Dougall Australia (PC-2003)


Ryan Murphy Newfoundland & Labrador (PC-2001)

“We had a great time webcasting live from Race Rocks on Camera 4 during the first two weeks of June for the Johan Ashuvud Race Rocks02 Project”
Three current first year students from Pearson College and Ryan Murphy, who graduated last year stayed at the Marine Science Centre. Ryan is returning to Race Rocks this month to do research for Mt.Allison Univ. on the macroalgal community.

See one video on Pterygophora which was one part of his project here: They conducted daily live and prerecorded webcasts with Garry Fletcher from the intertidal and from underwater using camera 4.


Garry Fletcher Biology/Diving faculty

For one of the webcasts we were joined by Sean LeRoy, Graduate Researcher, Georgia Basin Futures Project Sustainable Development Research Institute, University of British Columbia and Dr.James Tansey also of UBC. They came to participate in the webcast with Garry and Ryan on Marine Protected Areas in new Zealand and Canada with Tim Langlois, Leigh Marine Laboratory University of Auckland, and Anne Saloman, University of Washington, Zoology Department.

On three days we hosted small groups of students from local elementary schools who served as proxies in webcasts done for their classmates.

Support for the Race Rocks 02 Project came from the Johan Ashuvud Race Rocks Memorial Fund
Below are some of the Videos produced by the crew during the week.

benframes kids octopuss
Ben’s movie put together during the week. June 2002 field trip: for a live webcast with the crew, of the grade six students from West-Mont school . One morning we found the body of an octopus washed up in the intertidal zone. An impromptu dissection led to this video.

The Johan Ashuvud Project, 2000


Victor David and Satoshi: For two weeks in May and June of 2000, Lester Pearson College graduating students, Victor Rakou, David Mesiha and Satoshi Kimura, and in the last week, Juan Manuel Alva and Martin Kryl, joined the sea gulls and stayed at Race Rocks running daily programs on a live camera, and broadcasting directly to the web. Faculty member Garry Fletcher worked with them for the daily webcasts from the shore and from underwater. Sponsorship for this week came from the Johan Ashuvud memorial fund.

The first big event was the Swiftsure Race Weekend. A camera was set up along with a supporting G4 computer in the top of the light tower. Two streams were broadcast, one to camera 4 on the website and a special experimental dedicated stream to Shaw Cable. This stream was of TV quality at 1Mbps and 21 FPS.

Our thanks to Kevin Sytsma of LGS for coming out to help setup for this 2 day broadcast and to Ken Dunham ( PC year 9) for reconfiguring the server from Ottawa in order to handle this experiment.

Each day at Low tide we set up in different locations around the island, always being careful to not disturb the nesting seabirds futher up on land. A Sony camera linked by Firewire to a G3 500 Mghz computer was located in the intertidal zone. From here, Audio and Video Signal went by the wireless Macintosh AirPort Link to the Science Centre. From here the signal traveled by Cat.5 cable to the top of the light tower where it was sent by radio to the Telus antenna at Lester Pearson College. From there it was webcast in live streaming video to the internet by a Macintosh G4 500.

Content through the week ranged from adaptations of organisms to the special ecological niches of tidepools and intertidal slopes, to First Nations use of resources and the role of community/ stakeholder participation in the Marine Protected Areas Pilot process.

The airport wireless base station was tried in a number of locations. We relied on David to find the best locations for connectivity. Best wireless transmission was achieved when we hoisted it up to the roof of the science house. The radio waves go through buildings but not through rocks!

Further editing for the video archives took place in the science centre in the evenings.

Video created this week by the team:

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Underwater Invertebrates and Fish On the last day of live webcasting, sea lions visited Glaucous-winged gull behaviour Gull territorial aggression

Chris Blondeau from Lester Pearson College joined us for a session on the care and maintenance of the underwater camera and housing. Chris is in charge of the shore-front at the college and is in charge of the SCUBA Diving program there.

We were also fortunate to have some visitors take part in the intertidal discussions we had on the islands. Dr. Jochen Kuum ( PC year 10) is seen here with Garry and diving with Satoshi and Victor Stephen Haggarty (PC year19) also participated above and below water. This video was made on the last dive


Carol Slater, who along with her husband Mike are the guardians of the MPA joined us to talk about the Black Oyster Catcher. We examined the trays of shells from last years midden of one nest. This parent bird was foraging off to the East of the dock where they hatched two chicks this year

Race Rocks viewed from the South at Rosedale Rocks Buoy.

One of the best parts in staying at Race Rocks overnight while doing these webcasts was the great sunsets. Sometimes you can view these on the remote control camera 1 and camera 5.


History of The Race Rocks Ecological Reserve

n the fall of 1978, a small group of students of Lester B. Pearson College who were in marine science and diving, together with their teachers, Garry Fletcher and Marks McAvity and with the urging of the light keepers at Race Rocks, Trev and Flo Anderson, set about the task of seeking some form of permanent protection for the underwater and above water ecosystem at Race Rocks. The director of Parks for the Province of British Columbia, Tom Lee recommended that our concerns might be met by seeking Ecological Reserve Status for the area. He gave us the name of Dr. Bristol Foster who was then head of the Ecological Reserve Unit of the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing and we invited him to come out to dive with us at Race Rocks. Bristol was as impressed as we were with what he saw underwater and he urged us to set in motion the process that could lead to the creation of a marine ecological reserve for the area. Ecological Reserves had been started in B.C. only a few years earlier. They were created in order to preserve unique or representative ecosystems in the province that could serve for research and education and serve as baselines for monitoring ecological change with the encroachment of humans into natural areas.

Our aim initially was to do as many scuba dives as possible covering the area around Race Rocks and document the life forms there. We also set as a goal the researching of as many aspects of the area as we could. We were able to invite Dr. Paul Breen from the Pacific Biological Station to dive with us and provide a letter of support about the richness of the species diversity at Race Rocks. Our ultimate aim was to host a workshop at Pearson College that would present our information to the B.C. government in order to urge them to get reserve status for the area.

In February of 1979 a highly successful workshop took place, and the officials invited from the Provincial Museum, the University of Victoria, and the Ministry of Parks were all enthusiastic and supportive of our proposal. (The research presented then is included in the Race Rocks Archives at Pearson College Library, as is other information following the process of creating the reserve and the follow-up involvement of the college since that time.) This link details the program of that workshop. Over the next year we worked at the task of formalizing our proposal, presenting it to cabinet and lobbying to get action. Two students in diving and marine science, Johan Ashuvud from Sweden and Jens Jensen from Denmark were especially relentless in their pursuit of our goal. The proposal had to clear 11 agencies in the government bureaucracy and the cabinet before the Reserve could be proclaimed. These two students invited the Deputy Minister of Parks out to dive and then kept following it up with phone calls, even after hours! Their persistence finally paid off when after a year, the shortest time any reserve proposal has ever taken, the Minister of Parks was able to request Prince Charles on his visit to the college as international board president (April 1980) to make the formal announcement proclaiming Race Rocks the 97th Provincial Ecological Reserve.

The role of the college didn’t cease then. We had volunteered to take an active role in the stewardship of the ecological reserve so in the fall of that year a current meter was obtained from The Institute of Ocean Sciences to obtain data that would form the basis of the Race Passage Tables in the Canadian Tides and Currents Book. Garry Fletcher was appointed the Volunteer Warden of the reserve, to be assisted by the students and staff of Pearson College. Dr. Theo Dombrowski , a faculty member of the English Department at Pearson has also been instrumental in helping the students to further their ecological work on the reserve. We assisted Robin Baird of the Biology Department , Simon Fraser University to install a hydrophone for his research on marine mammals, and we installed baseline transect reference pegs in 14 locations around the main island. We continue to add to our data on intertidal and subtidal transects.

In 1986 we started our association with Dr. Anita Brinkmann-Voss, collecting specimens and providing her with transport to the island for her work on hydroids. Her work has resulted in the identification of over 60 species of hydroid in the reserve and the naming of a new species from the reserve, with others pending further work for possible new species status, along with many new records for North America. To date nine extended essays in Biology or Environmental Systems have been done at Race Rocks by Pearson College students. Over 800 students of Biology, Marine Science or Environmental Systems have done field trips to Race Rocks for the study of intertidal transect technique, tidepool study, or synecological studies. One student also put together a herbarium collection of the marine algae from the reserve. We have been able to conduct guided ecology tours for over 150 grade seven students from the local community each year since the mid nineteen eighties. In the spring of most years we also host a tour of the reserve for the Friends of Ecological Reserves from Victoria. In 1990 we were able to secure an added measure of protection for all ground fish in the reserve by petitioning for and being granted a closure on all commercial fishing and sports fishing except for migratory salmon and Halibut. This was the first such closure of any marine reserve area on this coast that has been granted by federal fisheries.

In the fall of 1992 we assisted the Royal British Columbia Museum in the live production of 24 one hour television shows from the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. These involved 13 of our divers as well as several faculty for this first Canadian Underwater Safari production. These ecology programs were broadcast live by satellite to down-link sites in Eastern and Western Canada and in the Eastern US. Since that time they have been re -broadcast by cable stations throughout the country. It has been estimated that they have been seen by at least 2 million viewers.

ertransfer1In 2001, Great Race Rocks was added to the Ecological Reserve.  Only the envelope of land around the tower was excluded as it was now part of a renewed lease with DFO after they had given up the lease for the entire island.





Garry Fletcher, 1996
Lester B. Pearson College
Faculty in Biology, Environmental Systems and SCUBA Diving.