VIU's MABRRI Celebrating Second Anniversary

The MABRRI team on Mount Cokely near Port Alberni. From left to right: Researcher Mike Anderson, researcher Sarah Lumley, research coordinator Graham Sakaki, MABR DIrector Dr. David Witty, researcher Ryan Frederickson, MABRRI Director Dr. Pam Shaw, and MABR coordinator Monica Shore,

July 22, 2016 - 10:15am

VIU’s Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI) is inviting the public to come celebrate at Rathtrevor Beach, July 29

Staff and students who work at Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI) are breaking out the lawn chairs and Frisbees to celebrate the institute’s second anniversary, July 29, and they want everyone to join them.

Established in 2014 to help fulfill the research, education and outreach mandate of the UNESCO-designated Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region (MABR), MABRRI has in two short years exceeded expectations by creating extensive research opportunities for VIU students, engaging the public through educational events, and raising the profile of one of the most diverse and ecologically significant places on Vancouver Island.

Dr. Pam Shaw is VIU’s Master of Community Planning Director and the Research Director for MABRRI. She says as MABRRI’s second anniversary approaches, their team is taking a moment to look back at what they’ve achieved.

“MABRRI started with a research director, research coordinator and one work-op student. Last summer we expanded to include three more students who were tasked with setting up and conducting small research projects within the biosphere reserve. This summer we received enough funding to add another six full-time undergraduate students to the team,” said Shaw. “What is awesome is that, so far, MABRRI has been driven by our students. MABRRI student researchers are the ones responsible for every MABRRI project from start to finish – including everything from project development, meeting with experts, conducting fieldwork and writing reports. It’s inspiring to see that when students are given a great degree of responsibility in their work, they truly do rise to the challenge.”

The biosphere encompasses many unique ecosystems ranging from intertidal and marine habitats to coastal and high alpine environments. The region itself is 1,186 square kilometres and its drastic vertical range and incredible biodiversity makes the MABR unique among biosphere reserves in Canada. It is also home to 45,000 people and overlaps with seven First Nations traditional territories, which is part of why conservation of biological and cultural diversity and supporting sustainable economic and social development go hand-in-hand.

VIU Provost and Vice-President Academic Dr. David Witty was instrumental in setting up the supports necessary for MABRRI to succeed. This included dedicating offices to MABRRI on the Nanaimo campus, facilitating partnerships in the region and championing the VIU student research and public outreach work that occurs throughout the biosphere. Dr. Witty is the current Director of the MABR which was established in 2000. Management of the biosphere reserve was handed over to VIU and the City of Parksville who formed a joint-partnership in 2014.

In March 2016 Dr. Witty joined Dr. Shaw and MABR coordinator Monica Shore in Peru at the 4th World Congress of Biosphere Reserves. He and Dr. Shaw presented at the conference along with scholars, government and UN officials from around the world. The event culminated in the adoption of the Lima Action Plan for 2016-2025, which focusses member nations on conserving biodiversity, restoring and enhancing ecosystems, and fostering the sustainable use of national resources.

“During the final statements at the congress, VIU was singled-out because we will be creating and publishing an online Journal of Biosphere Reserves that will receive submissions from all over the world,” said Dr. Witty. “We were also recognized for the work we are doing throughout the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region. I left there feeling inspired and also proud of what MABRRI, our students, and faculty have accomplished so far.”

Graham Sakaki was the first VIU work opportunity student to be hired by the institute and is currently the Research Coordinator at MABRRI. Sakaki completed his undergraduate degree in Geography and also obtained a diploma in Forest Resources Technology. He is now working towards a graduate degree through the Master of Community Planning program.

“I’m thankful for MABRRI because I’ve learned so much about the biosphere, and myself, by being a part of it,” said Sakaki. “My work over the past two years has connected me to the community in ways I couldn’t imagine when I started. We’ve been building research partnerships, doing community presentations, collaborating on research grants, and participating in meetings to discuss local sustainability. Through all of this it's been so rewarding to witness MABRRI’s progress and to help create funded research opportunities that benefit both VIU students and the region."

The MABRRI Second Anniversary Biosphere Barbecue takes place on Friday, July 29 from 11 am to 3 pm at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park in Parksville (picnic shelter S-1). MABRRI will have a barbecue set up so bring something to grill and join VIU students and staff to celebrate. Everyone is welcome!



Dane Gibson, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

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Tags: In the Community