Nova Scotia

Friends of Sable Island Society conference aims to protect island

The Friends of Sable Island Society is running a one of a kind conference about the science and history of the island this weekend at the University of King's College.

Public lectures taking place Friday and Saturday at University of King's College

Historians believe the wild horses that live on Sable Island are descended from animals that were confiscated from the Acadians when the British expelled them from Nova Scotia in the late 1750s and 1760s. (Bill Freedman/Dalhousie University)

The Friends of Sable Island Society is running a one of a kind conference about the science and history of the island this weekend at the University of King's College.

In 2013, the remote Nova Scotia island became Canada's 43rd national park.  

This week, CBC Radio's Mainstreet has been talking to different speakers from the conference about the island and their lectures. Planned conversations include those on the sounds of Sable Island, its storied shipwrecks and tales about living on the island.

The conference runs Friday and Saturday.

Conference chair Martin Willison sent Mainstreet a list of the lectures he's most looking forward to and the questions they will answer:

1. How Sable Island Came to Be a National Park

Friday evening, 7:20 p.m.

"[There will be a lecture on] learning about Parks Canada's progress and plans for the creation of a functioning national park, including how difficult issues, such as sustainable numbers of human visitors and necessary associated freshwater resources, might be addressed," says Willison. 

The talk will be given by Kevin McNamee, the director of park establishment for Parks Canada.

2. The Significance of Sable Island panel discussion and Q&A session

Friday evening, 8:40 p.m.

"Friday evening will provide a fascinating mix of presentations covering topics from the historical past to the present, followed by a panel discussion which will surely touch on the future of the island," says Willison. 

The panel discussion will be comprised of Kevin McNamee, author and educator Jill Martin and historians Sharon O'Hara and Ian McLaren.

3. Sable Island Dune Morphology: A Comparison of Change over 20 Years

Saturday morning, 10:20 a.m.   

"The island is mobile; it changes position. Houses are buried, wrecks disappear and reappear. Do we understand the system dynamics? Can we measure the shifts? Can we predict the island's future? Perhaps we'll learn answers to questions like these," says Willison..

The talk is from Mary-Louise Byrne, who teaches geography and environmental studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.

4. Population Dynamics and Sociality of Sable Island horses

Saturday afternoon, 1:00 p.m.

"Can the herd of horses on Sable Island teach us something about mammalian evolution? While in its public image, the horses and the island are inseparable, what about other aspects of the island's natural history, such as seabirds that rely on it?" says Willison.

This lecture will be presented by Sarah Medill, who is a PhD student in biology at the University of Saskatchewan.

Willison hopes the conference will engage people to help protect the island's heritage and contribute to Parks Canada's conservation efforts.

Other planned speakers include Megan Leslie, the member of parliament for Sable Island and Labi Kousoulis, the MLA for Sable Island.

The conference runs this Friday and Saturday in the New Academic Building at the University of King's College.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.