Ecology

Supporting community managers to develop inventories, monitoring programs and management plans that combine scientific technical studies and Indigenous knowledge for important animals, plants, and ecosystems.

Our team of ecologists and professional biologists works with Indigenous communities to conduct focused, applied research, baseline inventories, restoration, and monitoring in ecosystems and watersheds. We work collaboratively with our clients to ensure that Indigenous knowledge is a key element of decision-making for community studies, inventories, plans, and assessments.

What We Do

Our work is applied in a range of contexts including environmental assessment and other regulatory processes, policy development, protection of species at risk, management planning and the development of monitoring programs. We focus on training Indigenous co-researchers to integrate Indigenous knowledge and technical ecological studies within these contexts. By working closely with elders and Indigenous knowledge holders, we ensure that their expertise informs ecological studies, plans, and assessments. Our team’s interdisciplinary approach ensures that all studies meet established standards for ecological field work, while relying on social science research methods to respectfully incorporate Indigenous knowledge and to establishing priorities in order  to best focus study efforts. Our work is often done in collaboration with Firelight’s mapping and GIS expertise.

Expertise

Firelight’s Ecology team brings together ecologists, professional biologists, community planners, and social scientists. We have decades of experience related to resource inventory, vegetation mapping, culturally important plant studies, habitat conservation and stewardship planning, and a thorough understanding of how conservation policy decisions are made. Our team has worked across a variety of natural resource management fields, including forestry, oil and gas, hydro-electric projects, sustainable energy projects, and mining, within the full spectrum of ecosystems across Canada, from the tundra to the Okanagan grasslands, from boreal wetlands to the pacific intertidal.

Capacity Building

We provide capacity building (training) for communities to conduct baseline inventories that reflect community values and priorities.  We also support the development of community-led monitoring programs that use values, indicators and thresholds that respect community protocols for looking after the land, water, and animals.

Contact

Carolyn Whittaker
MSc Natural Resource Management
carolyn.whittaker@thefirelightgroup.com
Victoria Office
Phone: (250) 590-9017

We focus on the plant and animal species that are important to communities and their culture. Traditional knowledge holders provide a depth of knowledge that isn’t available through scientific systems. Collaring animals will tell you where they are now, but it won’t tell you where they were a hundred years ago.

Carolyn Whittaker
Ecology team lead

Example Projects

Okanagan Indian Band BC Hydro West Kelowna Transmission Line

Sensitive ecosystem mapping and rare plant survey for West Kelowna Transmission Line with Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) (Summer 2017)

The Firelight ecology team worked for the Okanagan Development Corporation (Okanagan Indian Band) to train teams and conduct terrestrial ecosystem mapping and rare plant surveys within a 70 km swath of land stretching from Westbank to the Merritt substation. Terrestrial ecosystem mapping focused on identifying and characterizing rare, sensitive, and culturally important ecosystems, using a unique approach that combined both technical field mapping and Indigenous knowledge of culturally important plants and ecosystems. Using a selective sampling regime based on available aerial photography, our teams of professional biologists, bioterrain experts, community knowledge holders and elders visited over 250 sites within the corridor, and characterized ecological and cultural values at each of these sites. Surveys for rare and invasive species were conducted simultaneously by professional biologists. By pairing community members with professional biologists in teams, the approach built technical capacity within the participating communities and ensured that cultural values are accurately reflected in the baseline data collection. The resulting data will be used by OKIB and BC Hydro to identify the most feasible route for the proposed line, based on avoiding rare, sensitive and culturally important ecosystems and plants.

Field researcher collecting data on tree scars during OKIB vegetation study, July 2017.

Sakâw Mostos: Mikisew Cree First Nation Indigenous Knowledge Study

A Mikisew Cree First Nation study to document Indigenous Knowledge of Sakâw Mostos (wood bison) (Spring 2015)

The relationship between the Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN) and sakâw mostos (wood bison, wood buffalo, or Bison bison athabascae) has existed since time immemorial. While wood bison are now rare and hard to find within MCFN lands, MCFN members maintain a rich set of social, cultural, and knowledge-based practices that rely largely on the presence of a single remaining wood bison herd within preferred and historically known hunting areas.

This report is the result of work conducted by MCFN with support from the Firelight Group, to document MCFN indigenous knowledge of bison, especially in the area of Ronald Lake, south of Lake Claire and in Wood Buffalo National Park.

The report includes information on the distribution of bison and Mikisew bison hunting within MCFN lands, the unique importance of bison to Mikisew members, seasonal habitat and preferred hunting areas, and conditions or requirements for the Mikisew bison hunt. The report also describes a set of positive and negative Mikisew parameters that may be useful in developing models for seasonal bison habitat.

Wood Bison Report

Níh boghodi: We are the Stewards of our Land

An Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) stewardship strategy for thunzea, et’thén and dechen yághe jere (woodland caribou, barren-ground caribou, and wood bison) (Spring 2012)

This project involved drafting a caribou and bison protection plan to address the restoration of barren-ground caribou habitat, dwindling woodland caribou herds in the vicinity of industrial activities near the oil sands, and the pressures on a small but culturally important bison herd near Poplar Point in Alberta. The strategy was based on interviews with community members completed as part of a traditional knowledge study in 2010 and was endorsed in meetings with Elders and with Chief and Council in 2012. The strategy identifies an area for caribou and bison protection from the Firebag River north to the provincial border, including the Birch Mountains. The plan also recommends a stewardship zone in the rest of the ACFN territory in Alberta with guidelines to reduce impacts on caribou habitat.

The project was funded by the Environment Canada Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk.

Stewards of Our Land

The Firelight Group

Research, policy, planning, negotiation, advisory, and capacity building services for Indigenous and local communities.

Offices

VICTORIA (250) 590-9017
VANCOUVER (604) 563-2245
EDMONTON (780) 760-1255
HAIDA GWAII (250) 559-7885 ex 228

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