A History of Great Bear Live Part I

Oct 31, 2018
Krista Roessingh

Many Pacific Wild followers and supporters learned about us, and about the Great Bear Rainforest, through Great Bear LIVE. Great Bear LIVE began in 2007, when we began experimenting with live-streaming video from hidden cameras in wolf and bear habitat. In those early years, we could not get the bandwidth to stream to the world wide web, but we could watch wildlife from a distance, without human presence, and share the best clips. The goal was to capture behaviours that we had seen evidence of, but had never been able to observe first hand, like cougars fishing for spawning salmon, and wolves hunting in sea lion colonies, behaviours that may be endemic to this coast.

In 2009, with the assistance and support from school staff, we were able to livestream video footage of wolves fishing in salmon spawning streams right into the Bella Bella Community School. We also livestreamed underwater video into the Qqs’ Projects Society library in Bella Bella.

Finally in 2012, we were able to open a window on Heiltsuk territory for anyone with an internet connection to view. In the following years, Diana Chan and her team installed and operated cameras where Bigg’s Killer Whales hunt sea lions on the outer coast, a mesmerizing underwater seal garden, a Sandhill crane nest, a herring spawning site, salmon spawning streams, and more. 

At the same time, they were building a network of long-term underwater acoustic monitoring stations that live streamed audio back to our base and onto the internet. These stations were set up throughout Heiltsuk territory to monitor both cetacean vocalizations and ambient noise levels, and to build capacity in non-invasive marine monitoring with the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department. Youth interns from Bella Bella helped to monitor camera and hydrophone feeds and assist with fieldwork in summers through the SEAS (Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards) Community Initiative. Our team also took groups of students on field trips to learn about whales and wolves. Great Bear LIVE built a global following through text and email alerts issued when something exciting was happening on the cameras or hydrophones.

An intense amount of effort and ingenuity went into developing and running this program. The field team had to learn on the fly to adjust and adapt finicky, complex assemblies of equipment for the harsh coastal conditions. On top of that, they had to deal with all of the problems inherent in operating in a remote area, with the nearest Radio Shack a 10-hour ferry ride away.  Through seemingly endless persistence, they developed a unique and valuable resource for the Heiltsuk Nation, educators, researchers, and wildlife fans alike.

When one by one, our young, dedicated, and brilliant field crew members went off to fry bigger fish, it was time to turn over a new blade of kelp and let go of Great Bear LIVE for the time being. 


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