Forum aims to connect researchers with managers of protected areas

December 4, 2006 - 4:00pm

Forum aims to connect researchers with managers of protected areas

Cougar and human interactions, glaciers and climate change and marine protected areas are just a few of the topics being discussed at a three-day conference co-sponsored by Malaspina University-College in Victoria.

It’s the first conference of its kind in BC for the newly created BC Protected Area Research Forum, a network aiming to connect managers of protected areas with researchers. The conference is being held from December 4-6 at Royal Roads University.

More than 160 researchers and managers from regional, provincial and national parks and protected areas are participating. Delegates come from BC, the United States, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories.

About 13 percent of British Columbia’s land base is set aside as parks and protected areas.

“The idea for this forum was hatched just over a year ago. A number of us – managers, researchers, community members   – recognized the value of connecting research to various on-the-ground issues confronting our parks and protected areas,” said University of Northern BC professor Pam Wright, a co-founder of the research forum and Chair of the inaugural conference.

Dr. Nicole Vaugeois, Tourism professor at Malaspina, said the conference is part of university-college’s Tourism Research Innovation Project (T.R.I.P), which is trying to mobilize research so that it has greater impact in society. “We’re trying to create a dialogue between researchers and managers on issues facing those working in this field,” she said.

The conference includes sessions on a number of topics that will bring together biological scientists, social scientists, First Nations, park managers, and others around a common issue. Examples include cougar-human interactions, marine protected areas, glaciers and climate change, monitoring visitor use, human-wildlife interactions and species at risk, and integrating cultural and historical research into protected area management.

“Our natural landscapes and protected areas have shaped the global image of BC and Canada,” says Dr. Wright, who specializes in Protected Areas Planning and Management. “But they’re more than pretty places. They are reservoirs of life – both marine and terrestrial – and they support an outdoor lifestyle for residents and visitors alike.”

Malaspina Tourism professor Dr. Rick Rollins has done extensive research on Marine Protected Areas in BC. Together with one of his students, Dave McCallum, Rollins worked on a two-year study funded by AquaNet that looked at implications of shellfish aquaculture on the development of marine protected areas in BC. The $63,000 study examined perceptions of community residents and tourists regarding planning for marine protected areas, opportunities and constraints for the development of shellfish aquaculture in a marine protected area, and the role of First Nations in the development of marine protected areas.

Rollins and McCallum will be presenting on Shellfish Aquaculture within Marine Protected Areas at the conference. Rollins will also be presenting a session on “Resolving Conflict in an Urban Park Setting."

It’s expected that the BC Protected Area Research Forum conference will become an annual event, hosted in different areas around the province.  The 2006 conference is sponsored by the BC Ministry of Environment, Parks Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Capital Regional District, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Malaspina University-College, Royal Roads University, and UNBC.

For further information, contact:

Rick Rollins, Malaspina University-College, Tourism and Recreation Management Professor (250) 816-9124.

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