I’m in the small resort town of Tofino in British Columbia – for some reason I always thought that British Columbia was on the eastern side of Canada…now I know better.

Vancouver by night
Vancouver by night

Update – I’m out of BC now and in the Mississippi Delta university town of Cleveland where I’ll spend a few days with friends before setting off on a trip down the Mississippi River with the Quapaw Canoe Company that specialises in canoeing trips in this part of the world.

John at Quapaw gave me the following information about the trip:

This is a journey through some of the wildest & remote islands & forests of the Lower Mississippi. Great back channels & oxbow lakes to explore. Great swimming throughout. Abundant wildlife, exceptional birding, world class fisheries, the greatest concentration of white tailed deer in the country, as well as the Louisiana black bear. No towns or industry. The only evidence of civilization is the tugboats on the river. We’ll pass by the mouth of DeSoto Lake, where nearby its namesake explorer Hernando DeSoto is thought to have discovered the “Rio Grande,” as he called it, the “Big River.” He and his men witnessed an armada of 200 Indian canoes on the river. Some of the canoes held 70 to 80 warriors…This region saw the visit of explorers Jolliette & Marquette (1673), LaSalle (1681) and John James Audubon (1820). It was also the heart of the Quapaw Nation, the Siouan tribe who followed the rivers downstream out of the Ohio River Valley and settled within the forests of this dynamic confluence.

Anyway, I’ll have more to report on this trip in a week or so…

I got into Vancouver about a fortnight or so ago and spent a day and a half catching up with some friends and wandering around town before setting off for Vancouver Island – an hour’s steam by car-ferry offshore across the Georgia Strait and through the many small islands that litter the waters around the south of Vancouver Island.

I was in BC to attend two conferences on my favourite subject – ethnobiology. For the first time my two favourite scientific/academic/ethnobiological societies would be meeting back-to-back in the one place over two weeks.

The Society of Ethnobiology (the SoE) was established in 1977 to:

…gather and disseminate knowledge of ethnobiology, and to foster an ongoing appreciation for the richness of ethnobiology worldwide. Members of our society include academic and non-academic individuals who share a binding interest in exploring human-biological relationships, from the very distant past to the immediate present. The strength and uniqueness of our organization is that we are explicitly inter-disciplinary. Our membership is made up of researchers who study neo and paleo-ethnobiology, use qualitative and quantitative methods, study human interactions with plants and animals, and conduct applied and basic research.

I”d organised a symposium on my favourite sub-discipline within ethnobiology – the rather arcane but fascinating subject of ethnoornithology – the study of the complex web of relationships between people, birds and culture.

Here is part of the abstract for that session:

In recent years Ethnoornithology has emerged as a valuable sub-discipline of ethnobiological research, partly for its potential to be able to make a valuable contribution to bird conservation and also as a means of empowering people of all cultures preserve, re-examine and discover the connections between individuals, groups and cultures and the birds that people hunt, venerate and cherish. Another area of particular interest is the potential for enhanced the economic and employment opportunities for local communities and individuals through tourism and related activities. In this seminar it is proposed to examine, through a variety of oral presentations, current ethnoornithological research, recent publications of interest and future directions for proposed research.

We had an eclectic mix of speakers – a couple from southern India spoke on birds in the Greater Andamanese language and the importance of the peafowl in Sanskrit literature, another presenter spoke about his work with local Maori communities to conserve and manage the a seabird population that has been traditionally harvested for food for thousands of years and I spoke about the potential of small-scale culturally-based bird tourism to contribute to local economic development for indigenous communities.

After the SoE conference a group of us drove for five hours to the small tourist town of Tofino, on the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island, to the other ethnobiology meeting held by the International Society of Ethnobiology (the ISE) at the indigenous-owned and operated Tin Wis Resort.

We had a larger panel at the ISE meeting and I’ll post the abstracts to both meetings over at the Ethnoornithology Research & Study Group.

In the meantime I’m off to get some supplies for my trip on the river – and I’ll post on that trip as soon as I get back to civilisation later this week!