Hello SAM members and friends! We won't pretend that it has not been challenging to connect with you due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, but the work to identify and conserve the province's important habitats continues. Read on to see some of the things what we have been up to lately.
Eelgrass monitoring and Green Crab trapping in the Codroy Valley
In the early fall, SAM turned its sights to the Codroy Valley Ramsar site. Due to possible concerns about invasive Green Crab in Newfoundland waters, we once again set out to monitor the waters of the Codroy Valley Estuary. We are happy to report that there were no new crabs captured, although continued monitoring in the estuary will be required in the coming years to determine whether or not further intervention may be required in the future.
The view of the Ramsar site from the Wetland Centre in the Codroy Valley.
While in the Codroy Valley, SAM staff also began an eelgrass monitoring program. The rich estuarine habitat protected in the Ramsar site is crucial nesting, staging, and foraging habitat for thousands of migratory birds every year. The richness of the ecosystem and its ability to host such large volumes of migratory waterfowl is believed to be due to prominent eelgrass beds that exist throughout the estuary.
SAM Conservation Biologist Liz Belanzaran sets up a green crab trap in a newly established eelgrass plot.
Invasive green crab are a threat to eelgrass beds due to their aggressive foraging, which destroys the plants at the root. Establishing a baseline understanding for the eelgrass population in the estuary allows managers to better track what is happening with it and quickly identify and address any problems that might arise.
A trip to the Birchy Basin....
A highlight of the late summer for SAM staff was a trip to the Upper Humber wetlands complex. Conservation of the area is impacted by a corporate stewardship agreement between Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Ltd. and the provincial government, which was signed in order to help preserve the natural integrity of this beautiful and ecologically diverse area.
Wildlife Division biologist Jonathan Sharpe shows off the newly updated sign detailing the history of conservation in the area.
In September staff from SAM joined Wildlife Division biologist Jonathan Sharpe for a visit up to the beautiful Birchy Basin to look at the newly renovated water control structure (more on that below) and to replace the sign detailing Corner Brook Pulp and Paper's history of conservation in the area.
Christmas Bird Counts in Corner Brook
The fun doesn't end when the snow starts falling! This year, SAM Conservation Biologist Liz Belanzaran was able to participate in two different Christmas Bird Counts in Corner Brook - the adult version on December 28th, and the Christmas Bird Count for Kids on January 2nd.
What is the Christmas Bird Count? Started in 1900, it is the longest running international citizen science project, and provides invaluable efforts towards the continued tracking of bird populations. To find out more about Christmas Bird Counts check out this info page from our friends at Birds Canada.
The Corner Brook Christmas Bird Count is organized by the Humber Natural History Society and has been running annually since the early 1980s. The Corner Brook count occurs within a 24km diameter circle centered on Ballam Bridge at the mouth of the Humber River. This year, on an unseasonably warm December day, 37 volunteers diligently drove, walked, and hiked roads and trails, while 19 more recorded the visitors they had at their bird feeders. Despite the warm weather, 41 species were reported - including the first record of a Northern Cardinal in a Corner Brook Christmas Bird Count!
Did you know? Though they are common feeder birds in parts of Canada and much of the United States, Northern Cardinals are rare visitors to Newfoundland. Learn more about this beautiful species here.
The Christmas Bird Count for Kids is inspired by the popularity of the adult count. It aims to engage a new generation of birders by getting them excited about citizen science and exploring the great outdoors. This year, our SAM Conservation Biologist partnered with the Humber Natural History Society to plan a COVID-safe event 20 local youth aged 6-11. Along with their parents, the children learned about the importance of conserving migratory habitat, went over the basics of how to identify birds, started their very own field notebooks, and even built a bird blind out of snow. Seven different species were reported, including a flock of 75 American Black Duck.
Local youth aged 6-11 participated in the annual Christmas Bird Count for Kids, seen here leaning how to identify and count flocks of ducks in Margaret Bowater Park in Corner Brook. Special thanks to Judy May of the Humber Natural History Society for the use of this photo.
A note from our partners
From our friends at Ducks Unlimited Canada...
The Birchy Basin along the Upper Humber is a stunning swath of habitat used by dozens of species of waterfowl, migratory fish, and the Humber caribou herd.
Ducks Unlimited Canada is excited to announce recently completed restoration work at the Birchy Basin Wetland Complex—a critical swath of wildlife habitat in Newfoundland’s Humber River Watershed.
In mid-August, conservation staff repaired a small maintenance bridge, and rebuilt part of the wetland’s fishway, ensuring that species of migratory fish, including Atlantic salmon, are better able to travel through the wetland system to breed and spawn.
The Upper Humber River and Birchy Basin boast some of the highest densities of wildlife in Newfoundland and Labrador. In addition to waterfowl species including American black duck and common goldeneye, and an estimated 40,000 Atlantic salmon, the wetland is important for other provincially iconic species including moose and the Humber Caribou herd.
The newly renovated Birchy Basin water control structure will help ensure safe passage for migratory fish, including Atlantic salmon.
COVID-19 restrictions have put our biannual in-person SAM meetings on hold, but the virtual meetings have continued! On October 3rd, 2020 SAM members as well as representatives from several EHJV partners joined us for the Fall business meeting.
SAM meetings look a little different these days, but the passion and commitment to preserving the special places we have in this province remains the same.
Are you looking forward to the spring AGM? Attendance is by invitation only and registration information will be sent out soon - so keep an eye on your inboxes!
Wondering what these meetings are all about? Check out our "SAM Meeting FAQs" page for more information.
SAM Scholarship Call for Applications!
The 2021 SAM Scholarship is currently accepting applications.
Every year SAM awards a $1000 scholarship to a post-secondary education student whose interests, activities and post-secondary goals are focused on conservation of habitat in this province.
Who is eligible?
Applicant must be a resident of Newfoundland and Labrador;
Is (or will be) enrolled in a post-secondary program in the 2020-2021 academic year;
Have demonstrated an active commitment to conservation in Newfoundland and Labrador
We at SAM send our well wishes for a joyful and healthy holiday season!
Congratulations to Arielle Pryzbysz, our 2020 SAM Scholarship Winner!
Arielle is a 7th year student at Memorial University studying a dual degree Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Ecology and Conservation Biology, and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Geography. She aspires to pursue a career as a tenure-track assistant professor or a research scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, with a special focus on quantitative fisheries science and marine spatial habitat mapping. Arielle has and continues to demonstrate a strong sense of passion and perseverance in environmental conservation that manifests itself through a wide range of experiences and accomplishments. Her honours thesis research in 2021 will study marine invertebrate biogeography and biodiversity in Labrador and Nunavut. When she is not pursuing her research, Arielle enjoys drawing, hiking, rock climbing, and visiting museums.
We at SAM look forward to seeing what she does next.
Call for applications!
If you or someone you know is interested in applying for the 2021 scholarship, check out the application on our website. Any student with demonstrated involvement in conservation and stewardship in the province enrolled in post-secondary education for the 2021-2022 school year can apply.
And now a word from our partners...
SAM is fortunate to partner with many organizations doing incredible conservation and stewardship work in the province. Here we share the most recent edition of the Long Range Biodiversity newsletter, which provides a number of updates on the spring and summer activities of the partners in the Long Range Biodiversity Project.
Can't get enough of the incredible stewardship work being conducted by SAM partners? Click here to see the latest volume of the Living Rivers newsletter to see what Intervale Associates have been up to!
Do you have a habitat stewardship success story you would like to see featured in a future newsletter? Let us know about it email@example.com.
Congratulations to Arielle Pryzbysz, our 2020 SAM Scholarship Winner! Arielle is a 7th year student at Memorial University studying a dual degree Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Ecology and Conservation Biology, and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Geography. She aspires to pursue a career as a tenure-track assistant professor or a research scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, with a special focus on quantitative fisheries science and marine spatial habitat mapping.
We at SAM look forward to seeing what she does next.
SAM executive member Julie Pomeroy presents the SAM Scholarship award to our 2020 winner, Arielle Pryzbysz.
If you or someone you know is interested in applying for the 2021 scholarship, check out the application on our website. Any student with demonstrated involvement in conservation and stewardship in the province enrolled in post-secondary education for the 2021-2022 school year can apply!
The Fall SAM Meeting will be held virtually on the morning of October 3rd, 2020
During this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the safety, security, and comfort of all our attendees and members is our top priority and we are sensitive to your concerns. Following recent feedback from members/partners, we have decided to hold the meeting virtually. We are disappointed to take this approach but staff/council travel restrictions and reduced budgets are still impacting our ability to get together in person. We look forward to holding our spring AGM in person in 2021!
Attendance is by invitation only - keep an eye on your inbox for information on how to register coming soon!
Atlantic Salmon in Newfoundland and Labrador
Through a generous grant from the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation, SAM has been able to expand our efforts in 2020 to include the protection and stewardship of salmon habitat found within municipal planning boundaries.
Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) has always had an important place in the lives of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. This "king of the fish" is important culturally, economically, socially, and recreationally for people from all walks of life.
An anadromous species, Atlantic salmon live both in saltwater and freshwater at different points in their life cycle. They are born and reproduce in freshwater (their natal streams) before travelling to the Atlantic Ocean, where they spent one to four years feeding and growing at a much quicker rate than they would be able to in their natal freshwater streams. Now much larger and less susceptible to predators, the adult salmon return to their native stream to spawn.
Did you know?
Unlike their Pacific cousins, Atlantic salmon do not necessarily die after spawning. Instead, some will return to the ocean to feed and grow for another year or two before returning to spawn again.
Atlantic salmon's complicated life cycle relies on the health of their freshwater natal streams. That means that the health and connectivity of these natal streams is critical to the continued survival of the species - and is something that we can all play a part in ensuring.
Salmon travel home to their native stream when ready to spawn - sometimes travelling hundreds of kilometers upstream. These salmon natal streams have been used for hundreds, and sometimes thousands of years. Maintaining the health and connectivity of these streams is vital to the continued survival of the species.
Because of their sensitivity and reliance on these natal streams, Atlantic salmon are an important indicator species for the health and resilience of our waterways. If our rivers are in trouble, so are our salmon!
Healthy riparian habitat, like this river in Main Brook, are vital to helping maintain healthy populations of Atlantic salmon.
What can you do to help protect Atlantic salmon?
There are a lot of things we can do to help protect salmon and salmon habitat. Some good places to start:
Leave nothing but footprints - pack out any trash, litter, or equipment you brought
With special thanks to our funders at the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation. For more information on their organization and ongoing projects visit their website.
What have we been up to?
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way that we conducted business - but it did not stop us at SAM from working to promote good stewardship and conservation activities in the province!
Outreach with WILD Outside
When COVID-19 struck and quarantine was declared, we had to adjust our plans to deal with the new reality. One way that we did this is through virtual outreach and education events - and that is where the Wild Outside Program came in!
When quarantine first started, the Newfoundland staff at WILD Outside were quick to act, and organized a series of virtual guest talks. SAM was fortunate to participate in this speaker series not once, but twice! Our SAM conservation biologist spoke with youth across the country about municipal stewardship, the importance of conserving wetlands, and on the importance of salmon conservation.
Visiting the Limestone Barrens in the Northern Peninsula
In early August, SAM made a trip to the Northern Peninsula, where a highlight of the trip was a visit to the limestone barrens with officials from SAM member the Town of Port au Choix and Dulcie House, Limestone Barrens Habitat Stewardship Coordinator.
The limestone barrens are a unique habitat feature in Newfoundland - and indeed, in the world. Though they comprise only a tiny portion of Newfoundland's surface area, they support a very high percentage of its rare plants. Of 298 vascular plants considered rare on the island of Newfoundland, 104 of them occur on the barrens, while 22 of them are only found in the Great Northern Peninsula.
Exploring the limestone barrens habitat in Port-au-Choix with Deputy Mayor Susan White and Town Clerk Lizeta Gould.
What are the limestone barrens? As the name suggests, they occur where limestone (calcium-rich) bedrock has become exposed. Further, true barrens habitat can only occur in harsh conditions - the windiest, coldest, coastal and mountain top areas that are unable to support other habitat types like forest or bogs.
These difficult conditions have resulted in unique, resilient plants, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Barrens willow, Long's braya, and Fernald's braya are three such species, and their numbers are so low as to be considered endangered (the first two species) and threatened (the third.) These endemic plants are Ours to Protect, and several communities in the Northern Peninsula have taken the initiative to protect some of their most important limestone barrens habitat through Municipal Stewardship Agreements.
Despite the resilience of the plants living in these harsh conditions, limestone barrens habitats are vulnerable to a variety of threats. Climate change, predation, infection, and human disturbance are all threats facing the limestone barrens today. Today, the local practice of woodpiling and drying fishing equipment on the barrens, where done indiscriminately, can also be damaging to these sensitive plants as can the use of ATVs outside approved trails.
Port-au-Choix, Flower's Cove, and Corner Brook have all signed Stewardship Agreements that protect limestone barrens habitat and species. Their continued stewardship efforts over the years have helped to ensure the continued protection of these unique species.
Above: Socially distance beach monitoring at JT Cheeseman Provincial Park. Below: Both adult plovers and their eggs are well camouflaged against the sand! Plover eggs are laid in simple "scratches" on the sand, making them hard to spot. ATVs, unleashed dogs, and careless beach users can cause damage to nests.
Piping plover are small shorebirds that nest on sandy beaches in Eastern Canada in the spring and summer months, from mid-April to late August before migrating to their summering grounds off the southern coast of the U.S., the Caribbean, and the Bahamas. They are listed as endangered under both the provincial Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act.
Their preferred nesting habitat of sandy beaches means that humans also have to be careful when using these beaches - ATV disturbance and unleashed dogs pose significant threats to the species. Always respect posted signage and be mindful of where you put your feet!
Shorebird monitoring and shoreline clean-up in Anchor Point
In early August we spent some time in Anchor Point with Intervale Associates and summer interns from the Quebec Labrador Foundation (QLF) for some shorebird monitoring and a shoreline clean up. A special thank you goes out to the Town of Anchor Point's summer students who also came ready to work!
SAM Conservation Scholarship 2020 - Final call for applications!
Are you or someone you know enrolled in post-secondary education in a conservation related field this fall? Consider applying for the SAM scholarship, which awards $1000 to a deserving student every year. Applications are due by September 20th - for more information check out the application on our website here.