Rhonda L. Millikin

I recently retired to Whistler from a 35-year career as an Ecologist with the Federal Government, where I managed teams of 20-40 staff, responsible for the delivery of wildlife and habitat programs across BC and the Yukon. The programs included monitoring, regulations, permitting, enforcement, emergencies, and data management. I was successful in building a vision and mandate for my team, following two reorganizations of the department. After my career in government, I went back to UBC and received an ITC level 2 for Landscape Horticulture. I have a PhD in Environmental Studies and an MSc in Applied Ecology.

I am an adjunct professor at SFU, currently supervising a PhD student, and have graduated 3 master’s students, all studying the conservation of endangered species and their habitats – one from Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

In 2003, I incorporated EchoTrack Inc., to apply the remote sensing technology I developed and later patented (omnidirectional radar-acoustics), to the conservation of habitat for birds and bats. Last year, I formed Nativus under EchoTrack, to combine the principles of landscape horticulture with ecology, to restore native plant communities for wildlife that provide the ecosystem services essential for sustainable agriculture.

I have significant experience in proposal writing, project management, hiring and training of staff, science-based research and education, statistical analysis, and reporting. I have delivered on 68 projects globally totalling $1.9 M for EchoTrack, provided reports (progress, performance, financial and final reports) for each of these projects, and have 16 journal publications from research teams I have led.

I am grateful to have received 3 awards for leadership; an award for a significant contribution to National cohesiveness amongst staff in Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service; and two awards for “Community awareness through science” from Partners in Flight International and the Federation of B.C. Naturalists. I was featured in Suncor’s 2005 Report on Sustainability, and featured in Vancouver’s Georgia Straight magazine, in an article about efforts in the plight of songbirds, entitled “On a Wing and a Prayer”. Most importantly, this article led to the formation of a non-government alliance, the Songbird Project, and public donations to Canadian Wildlife Service’s landbird program.

In Whistler, this is my second year as a member of the RMOW Forest and Wildlands Advisory Committee. I have only missed one meeting and that was due to poor reception while returning from field work.

Policy Statement:

I am passionate about wildlands and guiding people to prioritize the protection of “specialist” plant and animal species, that truly need our care. For example, I gave a talk 2 weeks ago, to a Vancouver garden club, on gardening for the “underdog” i.e., the uncommon native species that require native plant cover and protection from our pets and windows, not feeders and nest boxes. I am now working with vineyards in the Okanagan to encourage them to re-introduce native plants as cover crops and hedgerows, because these plants are resilient to climate change and function as substrates for native wildlife which in turn provide nutrient cycling and pest management services back to the vineyard. I am now leading other volunteers in the sea to sky community in a research project to measure how fire thinning affects the microclimate of a forest and thus, the fire risk.

I believe citizen science, with the proper leadership on experimental design, statistics, and reporting, motivates the community to embrace the importance of ecosystem processes and the need to move beyond business sustainability to ecosystem sustainability. This is our avenue to climate change adaptability, including fire management.

With AWARE, I would hope to work with others on the board to develop government-funded community science projects that connect people and nature through curiosity and careful observation. I believe we can do better in Whistler in the way we manage climate change, fire risk, housing development and recreation. I would like to realize that vision as a member of AWARE.