The Friends of the Green Horse Society

The Friends of the Green Horse Society (FGHS) is enthusiastically supporting and participating in the development of the Sable Island Institute—thus the Institute has the benefit of the FGHS’s fifteen years of Sable-related experience in research, operations, and public engagement. The FGHS will eventually dissolve as an independent organization and become a chapter within the Sable Island Institute.

History

The FGHS began in 2002 with the Sable Island Green Horse Society (SIGHS), an informal but committed gathering of colleagues and friends of the island. Membership dues were paid in a dollar’s worth of Canadian postage stamps.

The acronym “SIGHS”, suggesting a gentle-sea-breeze-whispering-through-beach-grasses, was unintended, and because the group had simply referred to itself as the Green Horse, this serendipity wasn’t noticed until a distant supporter wrote to congratulate the Green Horse on its highly evocative and appropriate acronym. (We have often been asked about the origin and/or meaning of the words “green horse” in the name. There is a story, of course, but we’ll leave that for later.)

In 2006, the SIGHS group decided to contribute to an atmospheric research program on the island. The Sable Island component of this international study was conducted by the Meteorological Service of Canada. In order to raise funding to purchase the instrumentation required for the tropospheric ozone project, the Green Horse registered as a not-for-profit under the Nova Scotia Societies Act and became the Friends of the Green Horse Society.

For over a decade, the FGHS has conducted on-island monitoring and research programs (such as biodiversity surveys for lichens, mosses, and invertebrates), organized educational and public awareness events for schools and public interest groups, and supported the Sable Island Green Horse Society website. Except for technical support in processing invertebrate specimens, all FGHS activities are supported and carried out by volunteers.

The overall goals of the Friends of the Green Horse Society are to:

  • promote and support conservation of ecological values on Sable Island;
  • support and conduct scientific research and environmental monitoring on Sable Island;
  • develop educational programs and materials about Sable Island.

A founding principle of the Green Horse Society was that no government funding would be sought to support its activities. At that time, the reason for this approach was based on concerns about the survival of the Sable Island Station (owned and operated by the Meteorological Service of Canada until 2013 when the island was designated a national park reserve). The Green Horse Society was established during the decade when the future of the Sable Island Station and its essential roles on the island were under threat due to extensive budget cuts undertaken by the federal government, a process that began in the mid-1990s with Program Review. The FGHS worked closely with the Ecology Action Centre in the effort to maintain the human presence on the island. Given the FGHS’s concern about the proposed closure of the station, it would have been inconsistent for the organization to access federal grant programs and other government funding opportunities while the future of the island was in jeopardy due to fiscal restraints. The FGHS contended that if there was any spare cash in the system, it should have been spent on the station, not on Sable-related NGOs.

Green Horse Projects Completed

With private sponsorship and a high level of volunteerism, the FGHS has been able to conduct and/or collaborate on a wide range of projects. Listed below (in chronological order) are 12 peer-reviewed publications reporting the results of some of the work supported by the Friends of the Green Horse Society. Most of these projects were initiated by the FGHS, and the FGHS contributed funding and/or logistical support to all, as well as personnel and expertise.

New records of mites (Arachnida: Acari) from Sable Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. Majka, Behan-Pelletier, Bajerlein, Błoszyk, Krantz, Lucas, OConnor & Smith, 2007.

The lichen flora of Sable Island, Nova Scotia: its past, present and likely future status. Richardson, Lucas & Anderson, 2009.

New records of Odonata from Sable Island, Nova Scotia. Catling, Lucas, Freedman & Brunelle, 2009.

Plants and insects new to Sable Island, Nova Scotia. Catling, Lucas & Freedman, 2009.

Effects of feral horses on vegetation of Sable Island, Nova Scotia. Freedman, Catling & Lucas, 2011.

Lasiurine bats in Nova Scotia. Lucas & Hebda, 2011.

Assessment of the extirpated Maritimes walrus using morphological and ancient DNA analysis. McLeod, Frasier & Lucas, 2014.

Plastic ingestion by fulmars and shearwaters at Sable Island, Nova Scotia. Bond, Provencher, Daoust & Lucas, 2014.

Procedures for optimizing the recovery of DNA from mammalian carcasses. Clare, Lucas, McLeod & Frasier, 2015.

Small Ne of the isolated population and unmanaged horse population on Sable Island. Uzans, Lucas, McLeod & Frasier, 2015.

The bryophytes of Sable Island. Mills & Lucas, 2016.

Libellula pulchella (Twelve-spotted Skimmer): a new dragonfly species report for Sable Island, Nova Scotia. Lucas & Brunelle, 2016.

Also, in 2017, the FGHS published Sable Island Fieldnotes, an illustrated collection of poetry by Janet Barkhouse.

Zoe Lucas
Sable Island Institute, April 2018

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