The Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS) is one of three invasive species non-profits within the Kootenay Conservation Program service area dedicated to preventing and managing the spread of invasive species.

While all three organizations share the mandate of minimizing the impacts of invasive species in their respective regions, they each face different challenges. According to CSISS Executive Director Robyn Hooper, the biggest threat to the Columbia Shuswap region are invasive mussels.

“Hands down it’s zebra and quagga mussels, so we’re doing quite a bit of work doing lake monitoring and so far no invasive mussels have been detected in British Columbia. Really, the work is keeping them out,” Robyn said. “If we were to get invasive mussels the cost is astronomical just from an economic perspective alone, and everything would be really affected in this region especially. We’re just continuing the good fight to prevent them, and it’s a joint partnership with the Province, as well as federal and regional partnerships.”

With a background in climate change adaption and forest management, Robyn is uniquely positioned to lead CSISS given that invasive species may have an advantage over native species in a changing climate.

“They have less competition and predation. On the whole, a lot of invasive species that we deal with are very adaptable and that’s what makes them so good at causing such big impacts on the environment and so that’s a challenge, is that unknown with species management in particular,” she said.

Growing up on Bowen Island, BC in a family very much into the outdoors, Robyn developed an awareness around environmental problems early on.

“As a young person I was definitely into taking action,” she said. “I remember being in high school and trying to get my classmates to turn off the lights and save water. It was something that piqued my interest at a young age.”

At the college level, she decided to make environmental work her career, and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Conservation at the University of British Columbia followed by a Trans-Atlantic Dual Masters in Forestry and Masters of Science, which included a year of study and research in Sweden. Her published thesis topic was Climate Change Impacts and Forest Management Adaptation Measures, which became the focus of her work as a natural resource consultant before she shifted into invasive species management and joined CSISS in 2014.

“What I love about invasive species work is it’s quite hands-on and includes plant and species identification and working closely with land managers and stakeholders,” Robyn said. “Climate change still comes back into the picture all the time so in that way I’m still very much trying to see things from that perspective as well. It’s important to think about how are we going to manage invasive species with climate change in mind, which brings me back to the work I used to do.”

CSISS is always looking to grow its membership and support for their projects. Robyn believes the key to the organization’s success is collaboration and she’s excited for the new Stewardship Solutions toolkit developed by KCP that helps engage all groups doing on the ground conservation work in specific areas.

“We can’t really be in our silos. So much of what we do with invasive species work can blend in with all the other restoration and enhancement work that’s being done in the region, and landowners who are wanting to better manage their properties for conservation values, therefore our work really ties into many different facets of resource management and conservation.”

To learn more, visit the CSISS website.