University of British Columbia 1929
Cowan (in back row right)
Cowan at lake on Black Mountain 1929
UBC was a new, small university in 1927–28 on the northwest part of Point Grey. Cowan would be publishing his second refereed scientific article on the fauna of this campus two years later. In his first, he described the place and denizens he came to know intimately:
So far as mammals are concerned Point Grey is rather peculiarly situated in that it is completely shut off, by the city, from all communication with other areas of wild land. Civilization is fast encroaching on the remaining wild areas, so that in a few years hardly any of the more timid species will be found here. On the northwest corner are the lands and building of the University of British Columbia; on the east and south, building and road-making are going on apace.20
The following species Cowan observed on what were the UBC Endowment Lands between 1927 and 1929 (now reduced in size but conserved as Pacific Spirit Park) and today are extirpated from the Point Grey region. The weasel is dependent on forests and so disappeared with the carving up of their habitat and isolation from a larger population.
Streator’s Weasel [Ermine or Short-tailed Weasel]
Mustela streatori [Mustela erminea fallenda]
Rare, single specimen, a male, no. 1028, was taken by Mr. A.S. Walker on March 24, 1923, and is now in the collection of Mr. K. Racey. Since that time I do not know of any specimens being seen or taken.21
As with Darwin, the study of islands became a central focus throughout Cowan’s life. Islands not only provoked questions about evolution at work but also evolution in reverse – the simplification of biological diversity by human modification. His studies of island insularity of mice and shrews on BC’s coast continued for another 40 years.22
20 Cowan, “Mammals of Point Grey,” The Canadian Field-Naturalist 44, no. 6 (September 1930): 133. www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/89659 - page/167/mode/1up. (accessed October 31, 2014).
21 Cowan, “Mammals of Point Grey,” 134.
22 Ian McTaggart Cowan to BC Premier Hon. William Vander Zalm, July 6, 1987, Cowan_PN_016.