In April 2022, False Creek Friends Society signed on to the Hakai Institute’s Sentinels of Change project and adopted a light trap to help study Dungeness crab in the Salish Sea. The light trap was located at Heather Marina in False Creek. From mid-April until early September, a group of over 25 volunteers took turns monitoring the trap and checking it for Dungeness crab larvae. The volunteers recorded their observations into a digital data form each time the trap was checked. Their observations were aggregated with data collected from over 20 other sites around the Salish Sea in order to improve our understanding of larval Dungeness crab populations and dynamics in the context of climate change. To see when and where the crabs turned up this past season, you can check out the interactive map on the Sentinels’ website. This project builds on an existing network established in 2019 by the Pacific Northwest Crab Research Group in Puget Sound, Washington, providing light trap coverage across the entire Salish Sea.
In early October, Kira Leeb, a board member of False Creek Friends Society and a volunteer for the light trap in Heather Marina, was invited to the Hakai Institute’s Quadra Centre for Coastal Dialogue.
Alongside were representatives and coordinators from communities across the Sentinels network.
Hakai coordinators shared some results from initial data analyses and together the group debriefed and discussed the inaugural season of the project. It was an amazing discussion at an amazing facility. We learned that while some sites saw crab larvae in their traps as early as mid-May, most sites saw the biggest numbers of larvae between late June and August (see graph below).
We also learned that most sites had some challenges during the summer and while the challenges were different across different sites they fell into 3 main areas: communications, technical challenges with the trap, and human resource capacity to do the checking.
As the Hakai Institute thinks through how to address these challenges for next year, there is unanimous support for the initiative across all the participating sites with many (including False Creek Friends Society!) expressing a desire to participate next year.
More results from this inaugural year of the initiative will become available as Hakai scientists continue to review and analyze the data collected. We will do our best to keep you posted about what they find so stay tuned to our website for more news.
And a ginormous shout out to our volunteers! Given our urban setting, we certainly didn’t struggle with volunteer capacity to do the trap checking at Heather Marina. We had amazing support from our volunteer coordinator, Brook Houglum who was also supported by our wonderful UBC intern student, Maggy Spence. We were overwhelmed by the interest our community showed in being involved. Delighted by the school groups and other kids’ groups that showed up to see what was in the trap and learn a bit about Dungeness crabs. We were so lucky to have all of you involved and hope you’ll join us next year.
Here are a few pictures of the gathering on Quadra Island. Totally beautiful in every regard.