Comox Valley Naturalists Society
Sunday, April 15, 2007
The regular Monthly Meeting of the Comox Valley Naturalists Society will be held April 15, 2007 at 7:00 pm at the Florence Filberg Centre, 411 Anderton Avenue, Courtenay. The featured speaker will be Dr. Kathy Martin, who will introduce us to the ecology and coping strategies of birds in mountain habitats on Vancouver Island and in western Canada.
Mountains are fragile habitats experiencing the highest levels of global warming and about 200 of the 600 species of birds and mammals in the Pacific Northwest spend at least part of their life in mountain habitats. Although 50% of the British Columbia land base is classified as high elevation, little is known about status, ecology and conservation of many bird species supported by alpine, subalpine and upper montane forest habitats. Animals in the alpine experience high variation in temperature, wind, rain and snow. Dr. Martin studies how songbirds cope with the harsh climatic conditions and how changes in weather and other environmental disturbances affect their survival. She and her students study alpine ‘specialists’ –such as the White-tailed Ptarmigan - that breed exclusively in alpine environments and alpine-tolerant species that can breed in alpine areas and at lower elevations. Dr. Martin’s theory is that alpine birds are ‘rewarded’ for choosing to breed in a more difficult habitat like the alpine by living longer. For many songbirds breeding at low elevations, it’s a ‘live fast, die young’ kind of lifestyle, while at high elevation it may be a ‘live slow, die old’ model.
The Vancouver Island White-tailed Ptarmigan was first reported in 1905, and in 1992 was listed as a species of special concern (vulnerable) by the BC government, but there was no information on distribution, status, or trends. With the assistance of hikers and naturalists, and the placing of ptarmigan observation cards at trailheads by the Strathcona Wilderness Institute, Dr. Martin received over 200 records from 81 mountains spanning more than 50 years. With these public records and her field studies, she determined the historical and current distribution of Vancouver Island Ptarmigan and two Important Bird Areas were designated.
Dr Martin is a Professor in the Forestry Faculty at the University of British Columbia, and a Senior Research Scientist with Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada. She leads a team that conducts research on the ecology and conservation of birds in forest, alpine and grassland ecosystems. Dr. Martin established The Centre for Alpine Studies (UBC) that provides information on ecology and conservation for high elevation ecosystems and is a Past President of the Society of Canadian Ornithologists.
Previous Guest Speakers
Click on a link below to view descriptions of previous guest speakers.