Satyr Players return for annual festival

newsVIUoneactThis month, theatre and creative writing students gather on campus together to share their craft at the Malaspina Theatre from January 27 to 30. The VIU One Act Festival, held each spring semester, is a 4-night event, showcasing a collection of short plays written by students.

This year, the festival features four plays:

  • The Dance by Jennifer Cox
  • This Is Acting by Brigette MacDougall
  • What’s All the Kissing about Anyways? By Jessie Smith
  • The Party Monologues by Paige Mader

The Satyr Players, a club formed by VIU students, has held the event annually, and hopes this year will draw more student attendees. The Players also work with the playwrights to audition actors for each role, as well as provide sound, lighting, and a stage manager.

“At first I was intimidated by the idea of directing a play for the stage,” Jennifer Cox, a VIU creative writing student, said when she accepted to direct her play. Her play, The Dance, is inspired by the lives of Cox’s grandparents, from post-World War II to present day. Cox said it “pays tribute to their love for one another and the family they built together.”

“I knew that if the actors connected with the characters, the audience would too,” Cox said.

The One Act Festival is a perfect opportunity for students to showcase their work, and because each one act play takes up so little time, there will be four plays shown each night of the festival. Liz Kraft, the festival coordinator, is excited to continue this year, and hopes to grow the festival in the coming years.

Doors open at the Malaspina Theatre on VIU campus at 7 pm beginning on January 27. Tickets are $5 each night. For more details, visit the event page on Facebook.

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Canada World Youth farewell show

arts-e1410731038391On Friday, January 2, 18 Indonesian and Canadian exchange students threw a community farewell party at St. Paul’s Anglican Church for the program’s host families, volunteer work placement partners, and other supporters of CWY. Don’t forget to check out Voices from Canada World Youth: Indonesia and Canada.



Winter birding


By contributor James Mackinnon

Hooded Merganser. Photo courtesy Ron Bellamy

Hooded Merganser. Photo courtesy Ron Bellamy

The excuses are endless: “The weather is too nasty,” “Everything’s gone away for the winter,” “I just got a sweet Playstation for Christmas.” During the colder months, it’s easy to be deterred from getting out for a hike or an expedition in search of the plant and wildlife the Nanaimo area is known for. Truth be told, many of the trails are closed and much of our well-known flora and fauna have gone dormant, or gone south, for the season. But there are still plenty of exciting ways to get out and explore the natural wonders that make this part of the world so amazing. During mid-winter and into spring, one of the best shows in town is the array of birds that choose to overwinter near our coasts and in our wetlands.

Nanaimo is home to many parks and coastal accesses, but no local area is more attractive to birders than the Buttertubs Marsh. Just minutes north of Vancouver Island University’s Nanaimo campus, created by a man-made flooding of the Millstone River, Buttertubs and its surrounding terrain offers shelter, semi-stagnant water, and a variety of nesting features that are disappearing from the ever-increasing urban layouts of southern Vancouver Island. One lap around Buttertubs’ trails reveals a plethora of ducks, though none will stand out quite like the Hooded Mergansers. These waterfoul are usually seen in pairs or larger groups (known as “flushes”), swimming on the water or flying just above. They’re easily identified by the large, ornate crest—or fin-like feathery plume—atop their heads; narrow, serrated beaks; and intricate colouring. Both genders average 45 cm in length, so they’re usually differentiated by a large white patch on the crest and series of white stripes leading to the tail on the male; and a golden-brown crest, grey chest, and long pointed tail on the female. Hooded Mergansers are common all over North America during the summer, but most head south during the winter. Coastal British Columbia’s temperate ecosystems host populations who prefer to stay in Canada year-round.

Great Blue Heron. Photo Courtesy Ron Bellamy.

Great Blue Heron. Photo Courtesy Ron Bellamy.

While scanning the water for mergansers, you may catch a much taller, lankier figure lurking in the shallow fringes of the bog. Southern Vancouver Island sustains a large population of the Great Blue Heron who, like the mergansers, take advantage of the coast’s warmer climates and reside here year-round. Standing more than a metre tall, the Great Blue Heron would be a conspicuous member of bog and shoreline ecosystems if it weren’t for its stealthy hunting tactics. Standing knee-deep in the shallows, dead still, the Great Blue Heron waits patiently for small fish to swim by, striking quickly with its large yellow beak, plunging headfirst into the water and swallowing the fish whole.

Through all of this feeding, nesting, and busywork, the mergansers, herons, and other marsh creatures carry on unaware that they are being watched from above by one of the great predators of the bird world. Vancouver Island is home to a year-round population of Red-Tailed Hawks. While their habitats include everything from grasslands to alpine meadows to rainforests, there is more than enough prey around our marshlands to lure the “chicken-hawk” in for a feed. Difficult to spot at times, the Red-Tailed Hawk can put on a truly impressive show, diving from great heights hunting mice, squirrels, and reptiles. These birds are often observed eyeing up VIU’s resident rabbits from atop trees and telephone poles. Roughly half a metre tall with a peppery-brown back and neck and a speckled white chest, these birds have a wingspan of more than a metre, and can be heard making that easily recognizable “cheeeew” screech, the go-to sound bite for desert scenes in cowboy western films.

Red-Tailed Hawk. Photo courtesy Ron Bellamy

Red-Tailed Hawk. Photo courtesy Ron Bellamy

Birding is a highlight, but it’s just part of what makes Buttertubs a great place to get out and explore. Throughout the upcoming semester, VIU’s Museum of Natural History will maintain a display highlighting current events in nature, emphasising happenings around the greater Nanaimo area or other parts of southern Vancouver Island. By making this information available to the public, visitors will know where to go to witness migrations, blooms, or spawns, and what to look for. Some of the natural world’s greatest stories happen in our own backyards, and while it’s easy to fall into the school/work/sleep routine, everyone can benefit from a lung full of fresh air and a greater appreciation of the natural settings around us. Watch The Navigator for future articles showcasing natural events and programs at the Museum of Natural History.

The Museum of Natural History is in bldg. 370 and is open to the public. Museum hours are available on their website and on Facebook.

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Ocean floor overwhelmed by exotic algae


Mazella japonica off the coast of Bowser, BC. Photo courtesy Kylee Pawluck

Mazella japonica off the coast of Bowser, BC. Photo courtesy Kylee Pawluck

The VIU Deep Bay Marine Field Station is currently documenting the activity of an introduced species of algae and its environmental effects.

The algae being studied, Mazella japonica (MJ), is an exotic species estimated to have been introduced 80 years ago.

The study is taking place due to it taking over the ocean floor and reaching critical mass.

Manager of the Marine field station, Brian Kingzett, admitted they don’t know much about it yet.

The algae itself has become a controversial topic in the area with two specific sides drawn.

Kingzett said the first narrative is that removing the algae is a bad thing. People on this side of things feel the algae is important and removing it will have negative effects. There are people who don’t want people harvesting the algae on their private beaches, and if the harvesting machines break down they can cause more pollution.

The second narrative is that this species is invasive and is displacing the native species and creating less complex ecosystems. There are people who see that there is an economic opportunity to be had with the 20-50 tons that wash up during the winter. There is much to gain from selling MJ as it is a valuable organic thickening agent used in processed foods as well as cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

“It’s important to see that neither side is right or wrong,” said Kingzett. Both these points are valid, but we need to learn more about the species to determine the ecological effects it has.”

Kingzett said researchers at the field station are trying to explore all narratives and find where the truth lies in it all. “It very well could be somewhere in the middle,” Kingzett said.

There is a lot of opinion-based information to get around and quantitative work to be done. He said the research is supported and is focused on problems affecting the coastal community.

“The research is interdisciplinary and affects the quality of life and economy of the area. It is not rocket science, but the work is very diligent. Students are out here doing the bulk of the work.”

Commercial harvest of Mazzella japonica south of Deep Bay Fall 2014. Photo courtesy of Deep Bay Marine Field

Commercial harvest of Mazzella japonica south
of Deep Bay Fall 2014.
Photo courtesy of Deep Bay Marine Field

Kingzett said the marine station is a great way to get students engaged in the research process and provides real world opportunities for undergrad students.

“At the end of this we hope to publish at least one paper, and the students involved will have the opportunity to be authors on that paper.”

“The jury is still out on whether the results will be positive or negative, but the more we learn about this, the more we see we might be on the cusp of ecological change.”

The project is now moving out of the data collecting phase and into data analysis.

“Is this an evil seaweed or is it a helpful food product? Kelp and seaweed are becoming the next trending food.”

The research will hopefully lend a hand to deciding whether or not to conserve MJ or harvest it.

The issue has become a point of contention with certain members of the community.

The research is a step forward, but it is hard to do with low funding for the Sciences in Canada.

“It is hard to get funded for multi-year studies,” said Kingzett.

Kingzett wants people to know that this is a serious issue. “It’s taking place in our literal backyard.”

He added, “It’s important for us to be involved in Coastal issues. Climate and ecological change is happening, but we don’t realize it until something drastic happens. People don’t see it because it is underwater and they miss how important it may actually be. Coastal issues are important. Some people want to work off the coast; others just want to look at it. Either way, these issues will affect you.”

For more information on research being done, visit the VIU Deep Bay website.

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Ted Talks speaker to lecture at VIU on climate change

newsour horizonThis Thursday, January 15, VIU is hosting Robert Shirkey, a former Toronto lawyer who quit his job to pursue Our Horizon, a not-for-profit organization fighting climate change. Shirkey lectures across Canada to demonstrate his organization’s plan to label gas pumps across the country with warning labels, comparable to that on cigarette packaging.

“This idea gives municipalities the chance to change the public perception of climate change,” Tomlinson says, “it is simple, easy to implement and relatively cheap.”

Melissa Tomlinson, a VIU student organizing Shirkey’s lecture, hopes that the awareness grows locally in Nanaimo as it has in Fredricton, NB, gaining the attention of Global News and CBC. Tomlinson, in turn, opened an invitation to Nanaimo’s council. “So far a few have confirmed, including the Mayor,” she says.

 The lecture is hosted by ACER (Awareness of Climate change through Education and Research), a VIU-based initiative to “promote a greater understanding of the science of climate change to high school students and teachers throughout Vancouver Island and coastal BC.”

“We can be the ones to start something big,” Tomlinson says.

Shirkey is a UVic alumnus who studied business, economics, and psychology at the undergraduate level prior to his law degree. He operated his private practice in Toronto before becoming executive director of Our Horizon, and speaking to students nationally on the climate. According to the website, his experience as a lawyer allowed Shirkey to become a compelling and entertaining speaker.

The Our Horizon event is free and will be open to the public on January 15 at 7 pm, located on the VIU campus, building 355, room 203. 

You can follow Shirkey’s project under the hashtag #facethechange or Through their website, you can sign the petition, receive updates, and check their social media for more information.


Scuttle-what? VIU: here to help you get active


As pages in the calendar flip, many students are settling in for another semester. VIU’s gymnasium fills with resolution-motivated students, looking to sweat off the stress. For those looking for a more interesting way to beat the holiday bulge, VIU’s campus rec has just the ticket.

This January, you could find yourself snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or rock climbing. Usually planned for the weekend, these incredible activities won’t interrupt your studies. If January 13 doesn’t work for you, a rock climbing shuttle is offered weekly until March–it looks like your Tuesday nights just got vertical.

Outdoor recreation seems to be something that Vancouver Islanders do well, and due to the colder weather this month, events like “How to Build a Snow Shelter” and “Avalanche Awareness 101” (both held on Mt. Washington) are healthy choices to raise your heart-rate and your knowledge of Canadian winter safety.

Spring will arrive, and with it, many more Campus Rec activities. Seriously: a hike to Ammonite Falls (see awesome photo above), three river rafting trips and surfing in Tofino, just to name a few. However, if breaking a sweat breaks your sweat-wearing student vibe, maybe the Canucks Road Trip to Rogers Arena on February 1 is your chance to catch a game.

Don’t wait for the warm summer months to “get active” or “get outside,” VIU boasts. They warn that no matter BC’s weather forecast, events will run, rain or shine.

They also provide Health & Wellness programs throughout the semester, including the weight room workshop series, from January 13 – February 19, to help students at VIU’s gym.

The gym offers student rates on their fitness programs, making it much cheaper to join a class, if you want to try something new. The classes are scheduled to make it easy for students to join, like the Sunrise Cycle, to get a fresh start before your 8:30 classes. Late afternoon Kickboxing and Yoga classes begin in January and continue until March, leaving the rainy weather or snow activities to the adventurous types.

You can register for Campus Rec easily online. Fees range from free (yay) to around $75. For the full list of spring activities, visit the Campus Rec page on the VIU website.





“In case you missed it” Chili Recipe

featuresNow, we know that everyone has their own take on chili, the slow-cooked Mexican staple; The VIU Students’ Union dished up their own recipe this week for students on campus. However, due to “New Year, New You” mantras and gym membership increases, The Nav has decided to add a few happy-stomach veggies to recipe below. Feel free to swap out the beef for any other meat (spicy sausage is a fun twist) or eliminate meat entirely if vegetarian is more your pace. And remember: the longer it simmers, the better it tastes.

Chunky Chili (yields at least 12 servings)


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and sliced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced (any colour)
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 1 jar tomato sauce
  • 1 can of chick peas (optional)
  • 1 can of kidney beans (black beans are cool too)
  • 1 tsp cumin (optional)
  • 2 tsp chili powder (not optional)
  • Hot sauce (to your liking)
  • Oil, salt and pepper


IMG_1594Add diced onion, garlic and some oil to a large pot, stirring until onion is see-through. Add seasonings, and beef. Strain and rinse beans and chick peas in colander; put to the side. Once beef is browned, add diced tomatoes and half of the tomato sauce (you can always add more, but don’t take away). Add peppers and zucchini. Cover and then simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Catch up on homework or Netflix…

Add beans. Stir, cover, simmer.

Finally, add any additional seasonings now (we recommend hot sauce), and prepare your taste buds for comfort. Serve alone, or with cheese, on a bun or rice.

PS: This recipe should work in a crock pot, in case you want to leave the house, and it freezes well! Enjoy!

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Behind the scenes with Amy Lynn Grace


arts-e1410731038391Up-and-coming model Amy Lynn Grace and photographer Mike Thompson of Impact Digital Photography
shoot a set of edgy, rocker-themed photos for her portfolio. A variety of backdrops, lighting, costumes, and
props help create a look worthy of a Rolling Stone magazine cover. Over a gruelling eight hours and hundreds
of shots, model and photographer collaborate to realize their shared vision, territory they hadn’t explored
before. The process is intense, exhilarating, and exhausting for both.

Photos by Brennan Hinchsliff unless noted otherwise.

Model: Amy Lynn Grace
Photographer: Mike Thompson