“Eco-Talks” at KPU discuss local biodiversity and wild spaces

Lectures were held throughout July with guest speakers to discuss environmental issues and solutions

Cougar Creek Park is a bioretention facility designed to increase rain runoff reabsorption by the soil. (Flickr/Susannah Anderson)

Cougar Creek Park is a bioretention facility designed to increase rain runoff reabsorption by the soil. (Flickr/Susannah Anderson)

Kwantlen Polytechnic University geography and environment instructor David Sadoway organized a series of Eco-Talks with the goal to educate students and the general public about environmental issues, specifically within Surrey. 

The Eco-Talks lectures took place at the Surrey campus and covered various topics about the environment, such as wild spaces, place-based learning, biodiversity, rain gardens, and stream keeping. 

“I wanted to bring the public more into it, especially because it’s about Surrey and environmental issues,” Sadoway says, adding that there’s not enough awareness of these issues in the city. 

One topic discussed was the United Nations triple crises, which includes climate change, pollution, and declining biodiversity. He says talking about these topics can be depressing, but wants to show there are people locally that are doing something about these issues. 

“I think it’s a way to give students some ideas that if we just listen and learn, then maybe they can create projects, and then they could be the next group of people who are doing these things,” he says. 

Lee Beavington, a biology instructor at KPU, was a guest speaker who discussed wild spaces and place-based learning. Place-based learning is an educational experience where the environment is a major factor into learning, he says. In his lecture, he talks about both the barriers and benefits of this type of learning. 

“There’s an unpredictable nature of place-based learning or learning outdoors,” he said. “So, there’s more uncertainty about what’s going to happen.”

Beavington said it’s important to be informed about the UN triple crises. 

“Multiple perspectives allow each of us to see beyond our own limitations,” Beavington said. 

He added it’s important to encourage people to think about how nature might be a teacher in everyday life.

Pamela Zevit, biodiversity conservation planner at the City of Surrey, was the guest speaker on biodiversity. 

“I’ve done lectures for [Sadoway’s] class in Geography for three years now, so it just happened to coincide well with his Eco-Talks,” Zevit says. 

“It’s part of my role with the City of Surrey to do outreach on biodiversity conservation in this city and it’s a good fit with the different types of partnerships that are being developed with KPU,” she says. 

Zevit says discussions on biodiversity started back in 2011, when the city did an ecosystem management study to gather more specific details about the landscape. 

“It was the first time that something called the green infrastructure network was defined,” Zevit says. 

Last year the city released a Biodiversity Design Guideline with eight categories, including habitat structures, human infrastructure, trails and landscape maintenance. 

Zevit suggests familiarizing ourselves with the areas we live in to better understand its biodiversity. 

“There’s a lot we can do to try to enhance biodiversity and we have the ability to do that in our own private spaces,” she says. “I hope [attendees] learned that we do have a strong connection to the natural world, even in really urban places like in Surrey.” 

Sadoway says he uses the acronym “SEE” for “social, economic and environmental” which helps him connect ideas. 

“There’s a lot of opportunity to become a part of solutions to the conservation challenges that we are in right now and that the city has a lot that it’s undertaking to try and address those issues,” Zevit says. 

Deborah Jones, a rain gardens co-ordinator for Cougar Creek Streamkeepers, talked about stream keeping and rain gardens. The Cougar Creek Streamkeepers are “an informal group of volunteers dedicated to restoring and maintaining the health of Cougar Creek,” reads their website

In her lecture, Jones discussed watershed consciousness. 

“No matter where we are on the planet, we’re in a watershed. Water flows downhill, and wherever we are, rain falls on where we are and it’s going to go downhill back to the ocean somewhere,” she said.

Jones said this is where rain gardens come in to help maintain cool temperatures as part of the urban heat island effect, which is when heat is trapped by buildings and paved surfaces in our cities in addition to heat generated by said buildings. 

She added that part of the precipitation cycle where the water is on land is crucial to humanity’s survival, because it aids in cooling down our ecosystems. 

“As we go suburban, we get a lot more of that water that can’t soak in because we’ve got lots of roofs, we’ve got paved streets, we’ve got sidewalks,” Jones said.

During her lecture, Jones took Sadoway’s class on a brief field trip to talk about the impact rain gardens could have while travelling to Cougar Creek Park. 

Rain gardens, or bioretention facilities such as Cougar Creek Park, are designed to increase rain runoff reabsorption by the soil. The gardens can be simple lawns or clusters of rocks that receive runoff from a roof downspout with varied plants, according to the Cougar Creek Streamkeepers website. The gardens prevent toxic pollutants from entering our creeks and oceans, including brake and tire dust, and cigarette butts. 

“Whether it’s on our balconies, or backyards, or neighborhood public space…. It’s not just the big urban forests, but there’s a lot we can do to try to enhance biodiversity, and we know where we have the ability to do that in our own private spaces,” Zevit says. 

“Providing support, contributing time, letting decision-makers know how important these things are is also an important role that residents can play.”