Science Spotlight:
Seeking the Oregon Forestsnail

An Intern Reflection

By Hugh Halsey, Conservation Science Intern

July 14, 2022

After arriving at the A Rocha BC Centre in February 2022 as an intern, I was thrust into the plethora of research projects, restoration work and surveys carried out by the Conservation Science team.

The Search for Snails

I was assigned the Oregon Forestsnail Project and we have completed many searches for it. The Oregon Forestsnail is a federally endangered species of Canada. It is particularly impacted by development of infrastructure that results in habitat loss, whether commercial or residential. On top of habitat loss, new infrastructure causes suitable habitat to be cut off to the Oregon Forestsnail, further reducing the number of populations.

Their preferred habitat is stinging nettle with abundant leaf litter and a forest cover of big leaf maple, and so over the last 5 months we have been searching through stinging nettle to find this species, but at the same time trying not to get stung (to limited success)!

We have conducted many searches for the Oregon Forestsnail in the backwoods of the A Rocha BC Centre and at the feedlot on 172nd Street, which was a site of a population previously found in 2013 but had not been studied since 2015. It took several searches at 172nd street to find the population of Oregon Forestsnails and so we were concerned that the population had not survived in the 7 years since 2015. However, after searching in an area a little further into the stinging nettle, we found our first live Oregon Forestsnail! We would go on to find a further 16 live Oregon Forestsnails, which shows a healthy increase in the population size since 2015.

Intern Hugh Halsey with one of the 17 Oregon Forestsnails found at a site historically known to be their habitat. (Photo: Lanie Fung)

Unfortunately, the exciting news cannot be repeated for the backwoods at the BC Centre. Despite many searches, we were unsuccessful at finding the Oregon Forestsnail. However, areas of good habitat have been identified for future searches and further studies in the backwoods.

Learnings to Live By

Working on this project has taught me so much about research and the impact that Biology can have on a local community through improving natural habitat and protecting endangered species. I will be going to university next year to study Biology and am excited to study with a new perspective on the potential that this scientific field can have on even small communities of people. So, although I am sad to be leaving A Rocha in a month’s time when I return to the UK, I am keen to live out the things I have learnt from working with Conservation Science.

It has been such a privilege to work in such a beautiful watershed with such a wide range of projects being conducted by the team. One of the highlights has been the truly inspiring community engagement made with landowners and members of the public. People are so excited by the work we are doing whether it be wading in the river looking for the European Green Crab, looking for Barn Swallows, or taking water quality measurements. It is so encouraging. It is great to be working with a group of people doing so much good for their local community and I am learning so much about how Biology and my faith are connected.

Featured photo: Lanie Fung


Help restore critical habitat in BC

The BC Conservation Science team in Surrey, BC runs Restoration Saturdays through the year, when volunteers can help with our work on the ground! Support local species and ecosystems by signing up.

Not from BC? Our Events page lists other opportunities for volunteers near our centres in Manitoba and Ontario.