Raincoast Speaker Series

“To ensure that residents of the West Coast have the knowledge needed to act responsibly and serve as stewards of our land, air and water.”

The Raincoast Speaker Series is a long-running social and educational phenomenon! Each winter season, we invite the community to brave the rain and join a panel of experts for in-depth discussions about locally, regionally, and globally relevant issues.

2020 Raincoast Speaker Series

Charismatic microfauna


Whether you are into bugs that break down decaying forest debris and turn over soil or sea butterflies that help us monitor ocean acidification, there is something to capture your heart in this year’s Raincoast Speaker Series. Join us for 5 different topics from January to March, each an in-depth examination of one special tiny yet fascinating creature. Expert speakers will share their tales of discovery, and the big roles these tiny animals play.

Raincoast Speaker Series punchcard – attend all five topics to be entered in a draw for an amazing prize!

New this year we will be offering the series in parallel in Ucluelet and Tofino. That means two opportunities to see each speaker.

Thank you to Pacific Sands Beach Resort for providing accommodation for our speakers again this year!

Carpenter Ants: the signs and signals used in their daily lives

with Asim Renyard, PhD Student SFU

Wednesday, January 22nd, 7:00 pm
George Fraser Room @ Ucluelet Community Center (500 Matterson Rd)

Thursday, January 23nd, 7:00 pm
Ecolodge Classroom @ Tofino Botanical Gardens (1084 Pacific Rim Hwy)

$5 at the door

Ants are one of most ecologically successful animals on the planet. They are highly abundant and present in nearly every terrestrial habitat, serving diverse and significant ecological roles. They are predators, herbivores, scavengers, and nutrient cyclers as well as partners in mutualistic relationships with fungi, other insects and plants. Ants are goal-oriented and coordinate their vast numbers to accomplish specific tasks, such as defending their nest or monopolizing food resources. 

Asim Renyard is a PhD student at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in the Department of Biological Sciences. Currently, Asim’s PhD thesis focuses on understanding the foraging and communication ecology of western carpenter ants, a highly abundant ant along the BC coast. His research aims to understand how ants communicate among themselves to coordinate group tasks such as nest defence and foraging, as well as the signals they use to locate food resources and why ant colonies choose some food sources over others.

Pterrific Pteropods and the Terrible Tale of Ocean Acidification

with Matt Miller, PhD Student UVic

Wednesday, February 5th, 7:00 pm
George Fraser Room @ Ucluelet Community Center (500 Matterson Rd)

Thursday, February 6th, 7:00 pm
Ecolodge Classroom @ Tofino Botanical Gardens (1084 Pacific Rim Hwy)

$5 at the door

Pteropods are the most beautiful and fascinating snails you’ve never heard of! Commonly called “sea butterflies”, these tiny planktonic marine snails spend their entire life in the water column swimming using two “wings”. Pteropods are important for two main reasons: they are a major food source for other marine organisms, and they contribute significantly to the biological carbon pump that helps regulate our climate. Studies have indicated that pteropods may be negatively impacted by ocean acidification dissolving their shells. If pteropods disappeared, the effects would be seen throughout the food web and in the biogeochemical cycles of the ocean. This talk will highlight the bizarre and wonderful biology of the pteropod Limacina helicina, and explain how ocean acidification may be threatening them along with many other marine species.

Matt Miller is a PhD student in the University of Victoria’s School of Earth and Ocean Science. Matt’s interest in the ways humans are impacting the ocean have led him to research microplastics, and currently for his PhD dissertation, ocean acidification. Matt grew up on Vancouver Island and received a Bachelor of Science in Fisheries and Aquaculture from Vancouver Island University. As Executive Director of the Surfrider Foundation University of Victoria Club, Matt engages with students and members of the public on issues such as marine plastic pollution, and organizes monthly beach cleanups in his community. He also sits on the steering committee for Ocean Wise’s Ocean Bridge program, helping passionate youth across Canada get more involved in ocean stewardship. Matt has a passion for science communication and literacy, and regularly delivers science presentations to community groups through the UVic Speaker’s Bureau on his topics of research.

Kaptivating Krill

with Dr. Stéphane Gauthier, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Wednesday, February 19th, 7:00 pm
George Fraser Room @ Ucluelet Community Center (500 Matterson Rd)

Thursday, February 20th, 7:00 pm
Darwin’s Cafe @ Tofino Botanical Gardens (1084 Pacific Rim Hwy)

$5 at the door

Euphausiids, or krill, as they are commonly called, are small crustaceans found throughout the world’s oceans. These zooplankton, often forming large swarms, are a very important part of the food web in the ocean. Krill serve as prey for countless species of predators, including fish, marine birds, and marine mammals. In fact, some whales eat them almost exclusively! In this presentation, we’ll explore the biology, ecology, and complex behaviour of these small but numerous critters.

Dr. Stéphane Gauthier is a research scientist at the Institute of Ocean Sciences (Sidney, BC). His research program focuses on the development of acoustics and complementary technologies to improve fisheries management and knowledge of ecosystem dynamics. Before joining Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 2011 he was a fisheries scientist with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research in New Zealand, where he worked on a wide range of ecosystems, from the Arabian Sea to the Antarctic Ocean.

A Short (and Long) History of Sex in the Sea

with Dr. Chris Neufeld, Associate Director, (Education) at Bamfield Marine Science Center

Wednesday, March 4th, 7:00 pm
George Fraser Room @ Ucluelet Community Center (500 Matterson Rd)

Thursday, March 5th, 7:00 pm
Ecolodge Classroom @ Tofino Botanical Gardens (1084 Pacific Rim Hwy)

$5 at the door

Compelled to mate, yet firmly attached to the rock, barnacles have evolved unusually large penises (up to 8 times their body size) so they can find and fertilize distant mates. Remarkably, barnacles can even change the size and shape of their penises to closely match local wave conditions. In this talk Dr. Chris Neufeld will explore the many fascinating ways that barnacles and other ocean creatures have evolved to overcome the challenges of sex in the sea, and touch on how certain species’ ability to reproduce may be threatened by changing ocean conditions.

Dr. Chris Neufeld is a scientist and educator with broad-ranging expertise in marine systems. He holds a PhD from the University of Alberta and has published 15 peer-reviewed papers on topics ranging from barnacle life history, island plant communities, and kelp forest declines. Chris is currently the Associate Director (Education) at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre where he maintains a small research program and oversees BMSCs field-based education programs including the delivery of 25 immersive senior undergraduate courses, overnight field trips for 3000 students per year, and active citizen science initiatives related to biodiversity.

This event has been cancelled

The Bees Needs: Why pollinators are in trouble and how you can support them with flowers

with Dr. Elizabeth Elle, Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at SFU

CANCELLED Wednesday, March 18, 7:00 pm
George Fraser Room @ Ucluelet Community Center (500 Matterson Rd)

CANCELLED Thursday, March 19, 7:00 pm
Ecolodge Classroom @ Tofino Botanical Gardens (1084 Pacific Rim Hwy)

$5 at the door

You’ve probably seen it in the news: the bees are in trouble.  Much of the press is on the managed honey bee, an important component of agricultural systems.  But many of the earth’s 20,000 other species of bee—and some of the 450 species we have here in BC—are experiencing population declines, and these insects provide essential pollination services not only to crops but also to wild plants.  What can you do to help provide the bees needs, and reduce their risk of extinction?  In this presentation, you’ll learn about the amazing diversity of wild pollinators, how critical they are for plant reproduction, and how gardens as well as natural areas can provide both food and nests to support them.

Elizabeth Elle is a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at SFU.  Formerly a high school teacher, she returned to university to foster a career that combined the pursuit of learning with her love of teaching.  She has been a member of national (the Canadian Pollination Initiative) and international (the Integrated Crop Pollination Project) research collaborations aimed at protecting pollinators and enhancing pollination services to wildflowers and crops.  She is also an award-winning teacher dedicated to both traditional university education and public engagement with the important conservation issues of our day.  Elizabeth recently became the inaugural Vice Provost for Learning and Teaching at SFU, and although much of her time is now dedicated to her administrative role, she really just wants everyone to know that bees are awesome, and if you are worried about pollinator declines you should plant a garden.