Kelp Research with Kwiakah First Nation

NIC has partnered with Kwiakah First Nation to conduct kelp research in KFN’s traditional territory. The goals of the collaboration are two-fold: to create a detailed map and measurements of the wild kelp beds and to research the role of kelp in carbon sequestration from the ocean.

Project Dates: March 2020 – November 2023
Funding Amount: $80,000
Students Hired: 1

Small bull kelp and other seaweeds attach themselves to hard surfaces in the ocean.

Project Summary

Kwiakah First Nation is the second smallest First Nation in BC with 23 registered members. The core of their traditional territory includes the Phillips and Frederick Arm region, about an hour’s boat ride north from downtown Campbell River. Bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) contours much of the steep, rocky shoreline throughout the territory. Frank Voelker, who leads Band Management and Economic Development for the Kwiakah First Nation, approached NIC with concerns about the status of wild kelp beds in the territory and the impact of commercial harvest of wild ocean plants. The Kwiakah also have a strong interest in the ecosystem services that kelp provides.

In August 2020, NIC researchers and SuavAir, a Campbell River-based aerial imaging company, conducted wild kelp bed surveys in KFN traditional territory. NIC researchers used the data to estimate the density and spatial extent of kelp beds. The results from the project help establish a baseline for future (or historic) kelp bed comparisons and will support management decisions related to kelp harvesting and conservation.

In 2023, CARTI is repeating the kelp survey using the same drone flight path plus an additional section of coastline. This new kelp assessment is to investigate changes in kelp abundance over time. This Phase 3 kelp survey will also feature a SCUBA component to provide accurate data on kelp density and biomass, as well as sub-surface observational data.

Research Team

Allison Byrne
Allison Byrne, Lead Researcher
Allison Byrne (Allie) is a researcher in NIC’s Centre for Applied Research, Technology and Innovation where her focus is applied aquaculture research. Most of her work involves field-based seaweed and shellfish research projects that engage local industry partners and NIC students. Allie has an MSc in Geography from the University of Victoria.
Sally Enns
Sally Enns, Research Assistant
Sally Enns is a graduate of the NIC Aquaculture Technician program. Read more about her experience with this research.
Abby Walker
Abby Walker, Student Research Assistant
Abby Walker is a biology student at NIC who is working on a variety of projects as a research assistant. She grew up in Campbell River learning and sharing knowledge about the ocean and the creatures in it. Her goal is to have everyone care about the ocean and the balance we hold with it.


News Stories and Coverage

NIC aquaculture student takes learning into the field

NIC and Kwiakah First Nation partner on kelp research

Vancouver Sun: Research project aims to assess locations of B.C. bull kelp beds

Times Colonist: Research project aims to assess locations of kelp beds

National Observer: Coastal First Nations ahead of the curve in cultivating seaweed industry