An Interview with Christy Juteau

We recently sat down with Christy Juteau, A Rocha’s National Science Director to pick her brain about species monitoring and why it’s such a high priority for A Rocha.  Here’s what she had to say:

ARC: Both internationally and here in Canada, A Rocha prioritizes monitoring various wildlife species. Why is this so important?

Christy: The simple answer is to understand a place.  In order to understand our ecosystems we need to be paying particular attention to what the species’ needs are, where they’re living, when they breed, which areas are important to them. As we learn more, we actually care more because these creatures are amazing. Out of this desire to care we take our monitoring to its next logical step, which is either enhancing these amazing creatures’ habitat or protecting it.  

ARC: What are you monitoring in particular?

Christy: We pay closer attention to the more rare and threatened species because they are more vulnerable to change. If we are able to protect them, we are likely protecting a whole host of species as well. For those interested, here’s our current Lower Mainland BC list: 

  • Northern Red-legged Frog
  • Western Toad
  • Salish Sucker
  • Coastal Cutthroat Trout
  • Oregon Forestsnail
  • Western Pearlshell Mussel
  • Pacific Water Shrew
  • Barn Swallow
  • Barn Owl
  • Cliff Swallow
  • Western Painted Turtle
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher

ARC: Can you give us one or two examples of how this monitoring plays out?

Christy:  One interesting project has been our Barn Swallow monitoring.  We’ve been working for several years with landowners in the Little Campbell River watershed, raising awareness of old barn structures as valuable habitat. A number of these landowners have offered us access to their barns and have been very receptive to our work. We are also monitoring forage habitat (open field habitat) which is typically undervalued for conservation protection since it’s seen as potential for either agriculture development or other development.  We recently drafted a paper collating our forage data which will be submitted to BC Birds.

Then there’s our work on Cutthroat Trout. They are a threatened species in BC that very little is known about. In fact, ours is the only study currently being carried out in Lower Mainland. The main threat to Cutthroat is river flow because they stay in smaller streams throughout the year. Our watershed is a good study site because the Little Campbell River is groundwater fed and therefore sections dry up in summer. As we monitor the trout we’re also raising the profile of the water quantity challenges in the river. We’re doing all this work with an eye to the Water Sustainability Act which enables an environmental flow needs assessment. In terms of water extraction, our data could be critical for determining  guidelines for extraction thresholds in our watershed. 

Finally, another species which is getting lots of press is the Western Toad. Our monitoring has brought attention to issues around their migration. Thanks to our research, the Township of Langley is considering designing new roads in their breeding area that will incorporate wildlife migration tunnels. The hope is that this plan will protect toads as well as the toads’ habitat, both wetland and forest.

ARC: As you can imagine, we are sooooooo grateful for Christy’s expertise and finesse, both in the realm of science and also relationally in building partnerships and connections with landowners, government officials and various stewardship groups