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McMillan Arts Centre in Parksville holding month of ecologically-themed activities

ETHOS runs through Aug. 28

The McMillan Arts Centre (MAC) in Parksville will host a month of free activities and interactive displays, known as ETHOS, to help people learn, in a fun way, about nearby ecosystems.

Visitors to the gallery (133 McMillan St.) will be able to learn about local aquatic life by checking out tanks full of stream critters, participating in microscope activities and other creative projects.

ETHOS, which runs through Aug. 28, provides a more personal experience with some of the elements that make up our environment, according to Ross Peterson, ETHOS organizer and volunteer with conservation group Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES).

“We’re hoping its going to prompt them to develop a sense of stewardship and willingness to do something to help,” Peterson said.

ETHOS will include free beach walks and seining on Aug. 6, Aug. 13 and Aug. 20, led by experts from MVIHES, Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). The groups will take a large beach seine out in the shallows of Parksville Beach at about mid-tide and see what comes up from the eel grass beds.

“We usually get a variety of fish and shellfish in our net,” Peterson said. “It’s meant to awaken people to the fact that it isn’t just a dull, sterile beach out there — it’s full of living things.”

People will be able to learn how to identify pond creatures in an aquarium set up by MVIHES. There will also be a touch tank of marine sea weeds, courtesy of the VIU Deep Bay marine Research Centre, as well as a hydrology cycle display, set up by the Regional District of Nanaimo’s (RDN) Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Program and a salmon life cycle display by the DFO. MABRRI will host a Coastal Stewards program for youths, which aims to get young people to see themselves as actors in conservation.

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There will also be a children’s art project at the MAC every day, except Mondays, until Aug. 28.

“Kids will be encouraged to express their knowledge about local ecosystems,” Peterson said. “And some of their fears and concerns.”

Towards the end of the month there will be a Zoom talk by Deborah Jones about how she persuaded the local government, industry and homeowners to develop raingardens.

Peterson said one of the aims of these activities is to bring awareness to the challenges facing the ecosystem, especially water systems and the shrinking populations of salmon and trout that inhabit them. He hopes people will walk away from ETHOS with the knowledge that they can do things to help.

“If they love salmon, and of course everybody does,” Peterson said. “And they like to walk through our parks associated with our rivers and streams — and everybody does, then we have to do something tangible to make sure that those are protected.”

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