Vinca minor, or common periwinkle. Photo © Daniel Jolivet, via flickr and Creative Commons

Vinca minor, or common periwinkle. Photo © Daniel Jolivet, via flickr and Creative Commons

She had moved to the area only the year before, lured by the climate, the year-round greenery, and Victoria’s reputation as a city of flowers. Her new home included a garden, with one rocky section that saw little sun. Moss would thrive there, but she wanted something more dramatic. More »

These image files are intentionally large, so that you can read the text. While you wait for them to load, feel free to read about the project.

The mission: Create an exhibit for less than $5,000 and in less than two months. Use existing trade-show exhibit armatures, and scrounge props and artifacts from researchers’ labs.

An extra challenge: Design and produce the exhibit in such a way that it showcases the capabilities of the large-scale printer that was available for use by researchers at Pacific Forestry Centre and maintains all the design guidelines prescribed for Natural Resources Canada displays and publications. As well, the exhibit had to satisfy requirements of the Official Languages Act, and all interpretive panels had to include text in both English and French. I developed the project plan for Alien Invasives, an exhibit to be installed on the mezzanine level of the Pacific Forestry Centre in time for National Forest Week. I worked with researchers, technicians and managers from Pacific Forestry Centre to develop the interpretive concept and text for the exhibit panels, large and small. Avril Goodall, the Natural Resources Canada graphic designer, determined and executed the design concept.

The Big Idea: Scientists and policy makers at the Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada, were working to protect Canada’s forests, economy and trade from alien invasive insects.

Audience: school teachers and students who visited Pacific Forestry Centre for National Forest Week’s Forest Fair celebration, staff and visitors.

Key Messages: 

  • Invasive alien forest species are non-native organisms that thrive in Canada’s forests.
  • They can be introduced to Canada’s forests both intentionally and inadvertently, through many different pathways.
  • They can seriously alter Canada’s forest ecosystems, causing environmental, economic and social damage that can be irrevocable.
  • The Government of Canada (Natural Resources Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency) is working to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive alien forest species, and to protect Canada’s forests, economies, communities and trade.

Design and Installation: Each of the attached panels was attached to a 3.66 x 2.44-metre trade-show exhibit armature. Two of the backdrop panels were placed side by side in an arc (exhibit area 1), with the third backdrop facing it across the mezzanine (exhibit area 2). The backdrop panels were designed according to departmental common-look-and-feel design specifications, thereby allowing all other panels greater flexibility in design and presentation. Banners (~8 x 2 metres) with giant, high-resolution images of invasive species draped from steel cables framed each display area. In addition to the backdrop panels shown here, displays with interpretive signage in exhibit area 1 included:

  • A vine maple sapling, with holes drilled into the trunk. Life-size models of Asian longhorned beetles were glued into the holes.
  • A wooden spool for transporting cable, with an interpretive panel discussing how wooden packaging materials such as industrial spools and pallets transported many invasive species from other countries to Canada.
  • A display box of various invasive beetle specimens, on loan from the Pacific Forestry Centre entomology collection.

In exhibit area 2, displays with interpretive signage included:

  • A 1/2-metre-long, super-sized model of a mountain pine beetle.
  • A tree cookie and debarked log section showing beetle galleries.
  •  A funnel trap and bag, similar to those used in a recent lab study on how beetles breed and colonize new trees.

In addition, Avril Goodall designed, fabricated and installed a mobile of Asian gypsy moths in the middle of the Pacific Forestry Centre Atrium to complement the exhibit.

European imported fire ant. Photo by Gary Alpert, Harvard University, via

The European imported fire ant is one of many introduced insect species that are getting comfortable in the Victoria area.

In Germany earlier this year, a woman called the police after her doorbell rang repeatedly in the night, terrifying her. The cops apprehended the culprit—an ant nest built tight into the doorbell was tripping the switch.

My friend experienced a similar problem. Her home-security system spontaneously and repeatedly went off over a period of several months. It usually rang during the day, when she was at work. The alarm would signal the alarm company. The alarm company would notify the police. The police would come by and find nothing amiss. Telephone calls and letters from the company to my friend would follow. My friend would—again and again—call in technicians to find the problem.

It turns out the problem had eight legs and a dime-sized body, and liked to hide in crannies….

Read the rest of this editorial in the Victoria Times Colonist….

Spotted Owl, photo by USFWS Pacific


We’ve known for years that British Columbia’s Northern Spotted Owl, known to the pointy-headed science crowd as Strix occidentalis, is in trouble. Provincial wildlife officials estimate that as few as 10 of the birds remain in B.C.’s forestlands, down from about 500 individuals a century ago. The owl’s dire plight led the province to establish a captive-breeding program in Langley in 2007. The program has seen limited success to date.

The biggest threat to the owl’s existence is habitat loss. A century of logging has decimated the old-growth forests the owls depend on.

However, beginning a few decades ago, another threat to the reclusive, dark-eyed owl appeared.

Barred Owls, also known as Eight Hooters, Rain Owls, and Strix varia, arrived west of the Rockies in the 1940s. Aggressive and adaptable, the newcomers compete with Spotted Owls for food and territory. They also hunt and eat Spotted Owls. Occasionally, the two species mate, producing hybrid young called Sparred Owls.

In 2008, wildlife officials quietly began controlling Barred Owl populations near confirmed Spotted Owl sightings. Seventy-three Barred Owls have since been captured and relocated. The province also authorized the shooting of 39 owls that refused to stay relocated.

While this war in B.C.’s woods unfolded, we humans watched as new technologies transformed our own species’ struggles for social change and self-determination. While wildlife officers relocated Barred Owls, Facebook and Twitter enabled popular revolutions in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere.

Now, if owls could use Twitter, what might they be posting during this crisis in B.C.’s Birdland? Perhaps their tweets would read something like the following:


@Svaria What moral right, the featherless 2-legs? We only follow their example, colonizing and squashing indigenous populations, just as they did

@Soccidentalis Appreciate the efforts @Featherless2legs, but where are we to live? Suitable forests are disappearing, and caged enclosures lack appeal

@EightHooter Young couple looking to colonise forest near cutblock. Must have rodents and songbirds. Spotted Owl O.K., too #newintown

@Spotty Spotted Owl Hootenany tonight. Flying squirrel on menu. In the old forest by Chilliwack Lake. See U there #donttellthebarreds

@TrixieStrixoccidentalis @Featherless2legs Bigotted specists. My mate=Barred Owl: our chicks stronger, bolder and handsomer for it. Genetic variation=future survival

@Spotty Young couple looking for nest cavity or platform. Family-friendly + 200-year-old forest with flying squirrels only. NO Barred Owls!

@EyeSpyAtNight Pleased to announce continued survival of our first chick in a large forested cage at Mountain View breeding facility #talonscrossed 

@WhoCooks4U Barred Owl Hootenany tonight. Fresh Spotted Owl on menu. Next to the cutblock by Chilliwack Lake. Listen for the Spotties #canteatjustone

@Spotty Spotted Owl Hootenany tonight cancelled. Regrets #billybobgoteaten

@Spotty Missing: my one true and only love. He has dark eyes, a spotted breast, and appears bigger than he really is. If info, please reply

@WhoCooks4U @Spotty Have seen missing mate. Come to the cutblock by Chilliwack Lake tonight 11 p.m. for information. Bring friends.

@WhoCooks4U Barred Owl Hootenany tonight. Extra helpings extra-fresh Spotted Owl. No pellets this time, I promise


Owls and humans figure prominently in this affair, but other, overlooked creatures are also affected in the struggle to save Spotted Owls.

Imagine the following note, paw-delivered by air late at night:

Dear Furless Two-Leg Mammal-Comrades:

We applaud your decision to finally intervene in the senseless massacre of flying squirrels, deer mice, hares and other small mammals by the invasive Barred Owl, Strix varia.

While we celebrate your decision, we respectfully request that you broaden your intervention to include all owls in the area. These are the Great Horned, Northern Spotted, Northern Saw-whet, Western Screech, Short-eared, and Northern Pygmy owls.

Thousands of our children die daily at the talons of these killers. None of us are safe. We live in terror. What unknown potential among these countless lost generations disappears every year down the murderers’ gullets, with only regurgitated fur and bones providing clues to victims’ identities?

It is time for all mammals to unite in the furred cause: Freedom from fear of predation from above.

Respectfully Yours, in hope that you will hear our pleas and pity our plight,

Rocky G. sabrinus (Northern flying squirrel)

SEWP (Society for the Elimination of Winged Predators)



Thank you, Don Enright, for checking the Twitter syntax and providing hashtags.


Eastern grey squirrel, photo by TexasDarkHorse, flickr

When Nature Boy took down the backyard thicket of Himalayan blackberries, he gave little thought to what would come after.

Thousands of broom and Daphne laureola seeds that had lain dormant for decades sprouted. Ivy and periwinkle quickly spread into the gap.

These plants have no place in the ready-made Garry oak meadow Nature Boy envisioned. Quick to grow and become established, these species handily outcompete native sea blush, camas and ocean spray.

That’s what invasive species do. They reproduce easily and spread in new environments. They alter ecosystems within the new territories in unpredictable ways, often causing harm.

Continue reading….


Sources for this post include:

Saanich invasive species strategy process

Saanich Pulling Together program

Capital Region Invasive Species Partnership

B.C. Barred Owl cull

B.C. Spotted Owl info