Saving Species at Risk
Western Painted Turtle
The Western painted turtle is a common fresh-water turtle found in North America, however their population on the Sunshine Coast and throughout British Columbia is unique. They are the only remaining native pond turtle in BC, and their populations are threatened by increasing development and infrastructure in their preferred habitats. In conjunction with the Sunshine Coast Wildlife Project we have been working to monitor local populations of the Western painted turtle, as well as takes steps to mitigate the effects of humans on their habitat. As you are driving along the Sunshine Coast Highway, you may spot some recent additions to the roadsides - "Turtle Crossing" signs have been erected at spots where turtles crossing the highway are a common occurrence - one that often leads to fatalities of turtles looking for a good nest site. Some sensitive areas on beaches have also been roped off so that the turtles and their nests may live undisturbed by both humans and their pets.
In conjunction with Acroluxus Wetlands Consultancy Ltd., the Ruby Lake Lagoon Society has been a supporter of freshwater threespine stickleback research and monitoring on the BC Coast. The Sunshine Coast and surrounding areas have a unique population of sticklebacks whose numbers are dwindling for a multitude of reasons. These populations have developed species pairs, where one species is benthic (bottom dwelling) and the other is limnetic (near-surface dwelling). The existence of more than one species of stickleback in the same body of water is unusual, making the coastal lakes of British Columbia particularly unique.
The discovery of two such unique populations in two Texada Island lakes led to a new research project to discover what was present in the aquatic community that may have led to these species pairs. Aquatic mapping and plant and animal surveys were done of the waters to develop a better understanding of what may be associated with this uncommon occurrence. Since then, more similar populations of stickleback have been found in other coastal lakes on Nelson Island and the Sechelt Peninsula.
Investigation into these populations is ongoing, and professors and students from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts visit regularly to research the fish. These visitors use the lab at the Iris Griffith Field Studies & Interpretive Centre as a base, and have contributed greatly to the centre by educating us and our visitors about the uniqueness of these small, yet significant, fresh-water fish.