Styner, Tyler

Project title: Exploring (& Expanding) the Historical Ecology of Clam Populations in the Southern Gulf Islands

Department: Environmental Studies

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Darcy Mathews

"Historical clam abundance plays an integral role in shaping our modern-day perceptions of intertidal ecosystem health and the subsequent government policies around conservation and restoration. With Indigenous clam gardens, as with many fisheries around British Columbia, our scientific understanding of what comprises the thresholds for “good”, “fair” and “poor” population conditions are greatly affected by a shifted baseline of data. While the current baseline for historical clam abundance in the southern Gulf Islands stems largely from DFO documents, these were not established until the 1970’s - well after shellfish populations had already been greatly impacted by commercial fisheries among other socioecological factors. This research thus aims to expand the contemporary scientific understanding of historical clam abundance by exploring early records of recreational and commercial fisheries, as well as ethnographic accounts and the possibility of interviewing local knowledge holders.

While Indigenous Knowledges are inseparable from any study of clam gardens that have been created and cared for by local First Nations since time immemorial, it is my intention here to present additional data that in some small way contributes to a shared cross-cultural understanding of just how significant clams have long continued to be in these lands and seas – for the ancestors of the present to the generations to come."