"Objective Science for Conservation"






Pacific WildLife Foundation Programs

Our programs target four major themes – Mapping Biological Diversity, Conserving Migratory Networks, Restoring Ecosystems, and Facilitating Scientific Discovery. We depend on donations and grants to carry our work.

Mapping Biological Diversity Program


Northern Salish Sea Atlas Project

The northern Salish Sea (a.k.a. Strait of Georgia, British Columbia) is important for endangered and threatened species of marine mammals and internationally significant populations of birds. The region is home to several million people and the Salish Sea is an important transportation route. Despite the high importance to birds and marine mammals, not much is known about their seasonal distribution particularly away from populated areas. The Northern Salish Sea Atlas project is systematically mapping the year-round distribution of marine mammals and birds. The results for southern Gulf Islands and Vancouver Harbour have appeared in our reports and a report for Howe Sound will be ready later this year. Field work is underway at the mouth of the Fraser River this year. To donate to this project please click here.

The Northern Salish Sea Atlas complements the Important Cetacean Area (ICA) project established by Pacific WildLife in collaboration with cetacean biologists who identified a network of important places for cetaceans along British Columbia and southeast Alaska. The atlas also complements the British Columbia Breeding Bird Atlas that mapped the distribution and abundance of over 300 species of breeding birds in British Columbia. The results have formed the foundation for government conservation policy, environmental assessments, endangered species protection, climate change effects, and academic research for years to come. Pacific WildLife was a founding partner of this important project. 


Sand Lance Project

Pacific sand lance is a small and important prey fish for many birds, mammals and other fish but whose habitats remain largely unknown in the Salish Sea. The Pacific sand lance lacks a swim bladder and thus buries in medium coarse sand with low silt content when not feeding in the water. Information on the types of sand where sand lance bury is critical for their conservation and for maintaining ocean food webs that include threatened seabirds, Chinook salmon, and the southern resident killer whale in the Salish Sea.

We anticipate that the application of newly classified seabeds at higher spatial resolution will greatly enhance our ability to predict sand lance burying habitats in the Salish Sea. We will also establish a network of sampling stations in the southern Salish Sea near Sidney Island based on previously documented and newly verified habitats as a result of this study. The network of fixed stations will be sampled monthly to understand the seasonal occupancy of different age classes and body condition of sand lance and begin to build knowledge of year-to-year and seasonal changes in their Salish Sea populations.



Conserving Migratory Networks Program


Uncovering the Migration of Seaducks Project

Most of the world’s Barrow’s Goldeneye spend the winter on the Pacific Coast and nest in the interior of western North America. Where the birds went after nesting was a mystery until now. Supported by the Sea Duck Joint Venture, Environment Canada, Simon Fraser University, and the Pacific Wildlife Foundation, has tracked movements of Barrow’s Goldeneye in British Columbia, Alberta, and Alaska. The study has uncovered the migratory routes, breeding places, moulting sites and winter with important management and conservation implications. More


The Migratory Shorebird Project  

The migration of shorebirds across the western hemisphere is one of nature’s greatest spectacles. The Pacific Coast of North America is a major migratory route for millions of shorebirds that spend the winter in South America, Central America, Mexico and western North America. Their survival is dependent on sandy beaches, bays, wetlands, mangroves and farmlands. This ambitious 10-year, multi-partner project led by Point Blue will help guide shorebird conservation in the Americas. Pacific WildLife was a founding partner of this project.


Restoring Ecosystems Program


Tracing the Lineage of Gray Whales Project

Pacific Wildlife has been tracking the recovery of gray whales for nearly four decades. Jim Darling from Pacific WildLife and his colleagues discovered that whales known as the Southern Feeding Group on the Pacific Coast of Canada and the USA, were genetically different from the rest of the eastern Pacific herd. This discovery raised the awareness of the importance of the small number of gray whales in the recovery of this species and had important implications on how the recovery of the gray whale populations was managed. Since 2013, Jim Darling, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and geneticists, ecologists and archaeologists have been investigating the ecological and cultural history prior to European contact through the recovery and analysis of a cache of ancient whale bones. The remains span thousands of years of Nuu Chah Nulth whaling culture. Changes in our coastal ecosystem over centuries or millennia may be recorded in these bones.


Recovery of the Humpback Whale Project

One of our longest running projects began in the 1980s when Jim Darling undertook pioneering research of whales on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Those data are being summarized to document the recovery along the east and west coasts of Vancouver Island, and the Strait of Georgia. A picture is emerging how individuals use the area, how long they are present, their migratory destinations, birth interval and age of sexual maturity. All photo-identifications, in conjunction with other photo collections from throughout the Pacific are assembled regularly in catalogues. Long-term data collected since 1995 by Dr. Darling provided an insight into the rate of recovery of the whales and linked the breeding sites in Mexico, Hawaii and Japan to the summer feeding grounds along Vancouver Island.

The recovery of the humpback took over three decades to begin and it will likely require many years before the recovery is complete. This information is important for meaningful management and conservation policies. For more information on humpback whales click here and to learn more about this project or contribute, click here.


Humpback Whale Song Project

Many humpback whales that spend the summer along the north Pacific coast swim to Hawaii for the winter where they are thought to mate and give birth. Some whales sing several meters below the water surface. Jim Darling has been researching the singing behaviour of humpbacks with Whale Trust in Hawaii for many years. Pacific WildLife is assisting Dr. Darling in this project. 


Sea Lion Entanglement Project

Associate Wendy Szaniszlo drew attention to the scale of sea lion entanglements off Vancouver Island in 2005. Her data and those of Brian Gisborne, Parks Canada and Strawberry Isle Research Society indicated hundreds of entanglements of sea lions occurred between 2006-2011. She has since teamed with Dr. Martin Haulena, staff veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium to rescue sea lions. You can read Dr Haulena’s Vancouver Aquarium blog and watch the rescue.





Nature Culture Project

The Nature Culture project is about establishing cultural ties to nature in the Salish Sea. The premise is that nature embedded in a culture will sustain the resource, the livelihoods, and the celebrations as an imperative. Pacific WildLife assisted in the production of a film called The Perfect State in 2016 by President Rob Butler and Associate Mike McKinlay. Visit the web site and see the trailer. Read the OnBoard magazine story. More


Vancouver International Bird Festival Project

The International Ornithological Congress 2018 is largest and most prestigious meeting of ornithologists in the world. For the first time, the congress will have a strong public outreach via the annual Vancouver Bird Week coordinated by Pacific WildLife Foundation and many of our partners. Bird Week will fledge into the Vancouver International Bird Festival in May 2017 to take flight in 2018 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Pacific Wildlife is coordinating the festival in conjunction with the congress.


Marine Mammal Symposium Project

Our predecessor, West Coast Whale Research Foundation was a founding partners in the symposium begun over two decades ago. Pacific WildLife is pleased to continue the tradition as a sponsor of the annual Marine Mammal Symposium held each autumn at the University of British Columbia. The event draws over 200 researchers, students, whale watching companies and citizens interested in the latest findings about marine mammals. In 2016, the symposium was streamed live on the web to over 2000 viewers. The symposium chair is Fellow Dr. Andrew Trites.



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