Self-Guided Activity Suggestions

The following are suggestions for self-guided field activities.  Along with each suggestion, there is a list of recommendations/questions that you should consider to make the most out of your experience, and ultimately produce your 1-page report.

To receive extra credit for these activities you will be required to write a brief report (1 pg, double-spaced) detailing your destination, topics discussed and one or two key ‘lessons’ that you’ve learned.  You must also provide positive documentation of your involvement in the activity (e.g. a picture of you on the trip with the group/guide, in front of a sign or other identifiable object, etc.) embedded in your 1-pg write-up.  In general, public lectures or half-day activities count as 2.5%, full-day activities 5%, and weekends 10%, depending on the potential for learning.  For those interested in learning about activism, environmental law or social aspects of conservation, which are important topics not emphasized in this course, consider approaching a group like Sierra Legal, Suzuki Foundation, Western Canada Wilderness Committee, World Wildlife Fund or other group about volunteer opportunities.

If you choose an activity that is not listed here, please check in advance with Allan or Felipe to (i) ensure that the goals of the trip match those of the course, (ii) determine how to document your trip and what you learned, and (iii) how much extra-credit might apply.

Please hand in a hard copy of your report(s) in class, anytime during the semester


The Grouse Grind: (2.5%)

The Grouse Grind is a 2.9-kilometre trail up the face of Grouse Mountain, commonly referred to as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.”  This trail is very challenging, so sturdy footwear is imperative.  After the hike up, you can either hike down or elect to ride the gondola ($10).  The Grouse grind has several compelling issues that merit exploring.

  • Large predators are rehabilitated on the top of Grouse Mountain; have a look at the wolf and grizzly bear enclosures. These two species are ecologically very important, and both require large territories. Think about what their presence means beyond the tourist appeal.
  • When you do the climb, think about climate change and its impact on vegetation gradients, slope and soil material.
  • When you reach the top, think about the development, particularly about the windmill which is fairly new. Do you think putting the windmill at the top of mountain could be a good energy policy alternative to the Burrard Inlet power station?
  • Think also about greater Vancouver’s expansion. What conflicts arise from the need to preserve the mountain wilderness, the Fraser delta arable land, and the growing population.

How to get to The Grouse Grind entrance by public transport.

Lighthouse Park: (5%)

Lighthouse Park marks the point where Burrard Inlet meets Howe Sound. The rock you see there is old – primarily granitic and varying in age from 96 to 187 million years. Most is blanketed by forest, including huge Douglas fir, western hemlock and western red cedar trees. You’ll also see a variety of mosses, lichens, fungi, animals, insects, birds and sea life. Some questions to consider:

  • How does the forest change as you get closer to the shoreline?
  • What are the dominant tree species, and how could they be affected by a warming climate?
  • What is the primary source of disturbance in this type of ecosystem?  Can you see any signs of past wild fires, wind-throw, etc?
  • What will this park look like in 50, 100 and 200 years?

How to get to Lighthouse Park’s trail entrance by public transport.

Weaver Creek Spawning Channel: (5%)

Head to Weaver Creek (near Harrison) to see different species of salmon, especially sockeye, creating their next generation.  This is an outstanding opportunity to see (and touch!) spawning salmon.  In addition, you will learn about current issues associated with salmon conservation.  Some issues to think about:

  • How many species of salmon are there in BC waters, and how do their life cycles differ?
  • How and why do salmon return to rivers to spawn?
  • How does salmon conservation conflict with other ecosystem services?
  • What roles have salmon played in First Nations culture in the past and today?

How to get to Weaver Creek Spawning Channel by car.

Lynn Canyon: (5%)

Explore the natural beauty and history of our temperate rain forests on a walk through Lynn Canyon. Become aware of the animals that live in this rain forest. Use tracks and signs to understand where animals have been and what they have been doing in the forest.  Some questions to ponder:
  • Can you see the signs of past logging in the park?  How long ago did the logging occur, and how has the park responded?
  • Notice how the river channel shifts back and forth over time leaving gravel beds.  How is the vegetation on these beds different from the surrounding forest?
  • What will the park look like in 50, 100 and 200 years?
  • What impacts/changes are likely in a warming environment?

How to get to Lynn Canyon’s trail entrance by public transport.

Richmond Nature Park (Lulu Island Bog): (2.5%)

The Richmond Nature Park consists of 200 acres of the raised peat bog habitat that once covered large portions of Lulu Island. Walking trails provide visitors the chance to encounter plants and animals in bog, forest and pond habitats. This is a very unique habitat, and you should consider the following:
  • How does a peat bog form?
  • What sorts of plants and animals are mainly associated with peat bogs?
  • What is the main conservation issue associated with the Lulu Island Bog?
  • How is the bog changing over time?

How to get to Lulu Island Bog by public transport.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: (5%)

In November migratory snow geese and many ducks and shorebirds occupy the Fraser Delta in huge numbers (up to 12 million).  At the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary you can walk amongst these birds, and the predators that associate with them.  The Reifel Sanctuary has a fascinating history, and is now a critical wildlife refuge.  Bring binoculars, birdbooks and appropriate outerwear and footwear for walking outside on gravel and grassy surfaces.  Think of the following questions as you visit the birds:

  • How has this area changed in the past 100 years?
  • What is the role of the migratory bird sanctuary?
  • How many different bird species can you count?
  • What are the major conservation issues that the sanctuary faces?
  • Are there conflicts between the sanctuary and the surrounding farms?

How to get to Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary by car.

Vancouver Natural History Society. (Credit may vary between 2.5 – 5% depending on activity duration)

The VNHS offers many programs for interested naturalists of all ages.  Evening lectures are offered monthly (  Many guided field trips are also offered at various locations monthly, as part of long-term monitoring programs conducted by volunteers (  Both of these opportunities are excellent ways to meet others interested in natural history and conservation, and to learn about the natural history and conservation of species in our region. Make sure to discuss these in advance with your instructor to insure that reporting criteria and credit can be determined.

Beaty biodiversity museum: (2.5%)

The Beaty museum on the UBC Vancouver campus offers guided tours; we suggest that you consider a tour as the best way to make the most of your experience.

While you’re at the museum, you should consider a few questions:

  • What do Burgess Shale fossils tell us about the evolution of life on earth?
  • What is one way, other than by howling, that Grey Wolves communicate with each other?
  • How can you tell the difference between a bear skull and a wolf skull?
  • What do the two small bones suspended near the bottom of the blue whale’s abdomen suggest about the ancestors of great whales?
  • What is significance of the blue whale on display? (Think: Why is it here at UBC? How is it displayed? What does it make you feel? There is no right answer, just something to ponder.)
  • Of all the species on display in the museum, how many are native and of those how many are in danger of extinction or are actually extinct?

Vancouver Aquarium: (2.5%)

Take a a half day trip to the aquarium. During your visit and in your report, think about the following questions:

  • What role do aquariums play in preserving biodiversity?
  • How many species are at the aquarium, and how many are native to BC?
  • How is the welfare of the animals in the aquarium in comparison to their natural habitat? (Think about diseases, animal psychology, etc.).
  • Lastly, reflect on the orcas that used to be at the aquarium, and the multitude of orca watching expeditions currently offered. What do you think is the best alternative?

You may also want to read this short article:

Capilano Salmon Hatchery: (2.5%)

Consider spending a half day at the Capilano fish hatchery.  While there, consider these questions:

  • Think about the role that the hatchery has in the field of conservation. Do they rear native species? Do they restock depleted streams, or are they restricted to releasing salmonids in the Capilano River?
  • In what ways are fish sensitive to climate change? Is this specific hatchery particularly vulnerable?
  • What is the significance of the hatchery to the Salish Community?
  • How does a hatchery differ from fish farming? Do you think assisted fish rearing may be a solution to world hunger?

How to get to the Capilano Hatchery.

Cypress Bowl: (5%)

Cypress Bowl has many interesting trails in high elevation forest ecosystems where you can spend a whole day. While you hike there think about the following:

  • What sort of recreation activities take place there?
  • What sort of disturbance regime(s) determine the forest rejuvenation process? Can/should we manage them?
  • Compare the high elevation forest ecosystems with the coastal forests common to Pacific Spirit or Lighthouse parks; with climate change how do you think each of these ecosystem types might be affected?

For more information to help write your report see:

Steveston Village: (2.5%)

Steveston is located at the mouth of the Fraser River south of Richmond.  It has a long and fascinating history associated with fishing industry, and is still home to one of the largest fishing fleets on the west coast of Canada.  While there, consider the following challenges that Steveston faces:

  • What impacts will climate change have?
  • How is Steveston being affected by global trade, and a growing population?

Mount St. Helens: (10%)

This is an active volcano in Washington State that experienced a catastrophic eruption in 1980.  A visit to this area will likely take a full weekend.  If you visit as a self-guided trip, you should consider the following issues in your report:

  • Describe the general ecosystems of the mountain before and immediately after the eruption and compare it to the current flora and fauna.
  • How do you think climate change may affect the regeneration of the mountain ecosystems?
  • Do you think that the vegetation may eventually be the same as it was pre-eruption?
  • Where did the flora and fauna that have returned to the mountain come from?
  • A volcanic eruption can can affect global climate. How?
  • How could volcanic eruptions influence global warming?

Loon Lake (UBC’s Malcolm Knapp Research Forest): (5%)

Loon Lake is located at UBC’s Malcolm Knapp Research Forest in Maple Ridge (see: When you visit the research forest, think about a few conservation-related subjects.

  • What are the social pressures that the forest faces? (Focus on the economics from municipal and provincial perspectives).
  • What is the natural history of the research forest? Is there a First Nations claim? Was it logged?
  • What was the ecological condition when the university took it over?
  • Is there a conservation paradigm in place?
  • Is it a healthy ecosystem (i.e. are the important ecosystem processes functioning)?
  • What is the role of such research forest in our society? Should logging be permitted?
  • What do you think about the lodge? Did the wood come from the forest? What do you think is the role of wood construction in mitigating climate change? How does it compare to other form of construction material?

The Chief, Squamish: (5%)

The Chief is a mountain near the community of Squamish that attracts many hikers and rock climbers. If you attempt this hike here are a few questions to consider:

  • What do you think the impact of the proposed gondola could be on the ecology of the park?
  • Do you think the park could sustain an increase in visitors?
  • Is there a particular recreation activity that could benefit the park?
  • What do you think First Nations would have thought about the recreational development 1000 years ago, and what may they think about it now?
  • What do you think the park might look like in the future if it was warmer and wetter or warmer and drier?

Frosty Mountain (5%)
The Frosty Mountain trip is a great field trip opportunity, where you will likely see white bark pine and mountain larch.

  • In what way are high-elevation species vulnerable to climate change? Consider how ecosystems change as you go up in elevation. Additionally, think of the various causes that will affect White Bark Pine; competition, but also pest and diseases.
  • White bark pine is considered a keystone species, what does that mean and why? What impacts will climate change have directly and indirectly on white bark pine.  If the white bark pine went locally extinct, would other species suffer?
  • In your opinion is the park managed within a sustainability paradigm, recreational paradigm, a resiliency paradigm?
  • The north Cascade park straddles the US – Canada border. What does this mean in terms of conservation?
  • Lastly, the park is adjacent to the province’s largest human population. What does this mean for the park? Think about how many weekend warriors may want to visit the park and how it may affect the park’s ecology.