How salmon can transform a landscape

S Skeins of wispy clouds obscure the tops of distant forested mountains, reflected in calm waters. On this midsummer morning at least, the Pacific is living up to its name on this stretch of Canada’s west coast. Backpacks and thermoses in hand, four researchers tread down a wooden strutted ramp to board a boat named the Keta. Scientist Allison Dennert starts the boat, steering away from the dock into the broad channel, glancing at the map on the video console. A brief stop at the Bella Bella dock, to pick up research technician Sarah Humchitt, completes our crew of five. Heading up Johnson Channel towards Goat Bushu Island, this remote wilderness of British Columbia’s central coast is Heiltsuk Territory, lands known by non-indigenous settlers as The Great Bear Rainforest. The scientific crew aboard the aptly named Keta, meaning chum salmon, is investigating how the bounty of the sea enriches the land. Research assistant Lisa Siemens points at a bald eagle on the shore. “It’s bad luck to point at eagles,” says Humchitt, a member of the Heiltsuk people, one of Canada’s First Nations. Humchitt grew up in the tiny, mainly indigenous town of Bella Bella before spending her high […]

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