September 2011: We surprised long-time GOERT volunteer Jan Kirkby with her well-deserved Acorn Award at our AGM in September. Jan has been a part of the Conservation Planning and Site Protection Recovery Implementation Group (CPSP RIG) since its inception, and the Chair for the last couple of years. Additionally, she serves in a management capacity on the GOERT Board of Directors and is a member of the Recovery Team. Her work with the Sensitive Ecosystems Inventory (SEI) has been crucial for conservation planning.
Says Jan, “My personal interest in Garry Oak ecosystems began in the early 1980s when I lived on a property in Central Saanich with a 6-acre Garry Oak meadow, and was curious to find out more about both the trees and their associated ecosystems. I learned more about the plants associated with Garry Oak while working with my mentor Adolf Ceska at the Royal BC Museum herbarium (which my children fondly referred to as the ‘plant morgue’).”
Jan’s background is in plant ecology; she holds a M.Sc. in Environment and Management, and is a Registered Professional Biologist. She worked as an ecologist for the BC Conservation Data Centre for 9 years, and has been working for Environment Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service as a landscape ecologist for the past 8 years.
While working at the CDC in the early 90s, she and her colleagues began mapping remaining intact Garry Oak ecosystems as part of the Sensitive Ecosystems Inventory (SEI) for east Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. In the late 90s, the federal/provincial Georgia Basin Ecosystem Initiative (followed by the Georgia Basin Action Plan in 2003) helped further this work through the formation of the Georgia Basin Ecosystem Conservation Partnership (GBECP), which facilitated the creation of comprehensive Site Records for priority conservation sites. The Site Records provided scientifically defensible, consistent site information and ranking that assisted the GBECP in securement efforts for priority Garry Oak ecosystems and other sensitive habitats.
Jan has been working with Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory projects in other parts of BC, most recently in the Okanagan Valley, where SEI mapping is now available for the entire Okanagan Valley from Vernon to Osoyoos. Her ongoing interest is in the practical application of this information in land use planning, so she works actively with local governments to support and encourage the use of all available scientific information through the development tools such as the Green Bylaws Toolkit for Conserving Sensitive Ecosystems and Green Infrastructure, Species at Risk and Local Government: A Primer for Local Government web tool, best management practices documents, and regional biodiversity conservation strategies.
Jan’s friend and colleague Kathy Dunster says, “Jan is a big-picture ecologist; it’s not just the oak ecosystems, it’s wetlands, it’s everything. It’s the broad spectrum. And she is truly a public servant, in the service of the public.”
In recent years, Jan has been working with the multi-agency Wetland Stewardship Partnership to do for wetlands what GOERT does for Garry Oak ecosystems. They have developed a Wetland Action Plan for BC, Wetland Ways: Interim Guidelines for Wetland Protection and Conservation in British Columbia, the above-mentioned Green Bylaws Toolkit, and are currently working to identify and map BC’s priority wetlands.
“I have been living in the Gulf Islands for over 20 years, and have cleverly replaced my 4 fully-fledged children (2 science grads!) with 4 hairy but charming hounds, whose wrestling and racing around makes short work of any efforts I make at native plant gardening. I spend my non-work time hiking, kayaking, and being involved in conservation-related community activities.”
Jan does put in a lot of time volunteering for conservation. One example: she is a member of the Pender Islands Conservancy Association, which has raised over $120,000 to date to support the CRD in the purchase of a stunning coastal Garry Oak property on South Pender Island that connects Brooks Point and Gowlland Point to complete Brooks Point Regional Park.
GOERT Chair Brian Reader says, “The thing that strikes me most about Jan is her ability to do so much while living on a relatively remote island dependent on an intermittent ferry service. She shuttles from Pender Island to Delta and back, and then fits in meetings with GOERT in Victoria and wherever else her work takes her. Jan finds time to undertake science, data management, a full-time job with the Canadian Wildlife Service, commuting, conservation work with the Pender Island Conservancy Association, and all her work with the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team. Jan’s passion has been the scientific assessment of habitat quality and the prioritization of those sites for conservation action with a big focus on Garry oak and associated ecosystems. GOERT is so fortunate to have someone of her calibre leading the Conservation Planning Recovery Implementation Group. Thanks Jan for all your years of service to GOERT! The Acorn Award is but a small token of our appreciation. We think you deserve a vacation as well, so we have asked David Hahn to institute a Frequent Ferry points program. Before you know it you will have enough for a ride to Sointula or perhaps as far as Klemtu!”