Charitable Choices: Derek Matthews of Vancouver Avian Research Centre (VARC)

The Vancouver Avian Research Centre (VARC) is a registered charity dedicated to wild bird research, conservation and education. We spoke to Derek Matthews, Chairman and Director of Communications, to learn more about their mission, where we can find them and how we can help them!


Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.

Using birds as its focus, VARC’s mission is to nurture nature’s recovery through the provision of scientific data, action-driven education and conservation tools. In this manner, VARC fosters behaviour change in individuals, educational institutions and policymakers.

If we connect individuals and policymakers to birds and nature through action-driven education and conservation they will become more aware of their impact on birds and nature and create change in their households and broader communities in order to protect them.

These statements drive our actions in the areas of Research, Conservation and Education.

We believe that research, monitoring and data collection are vital in guiding successful management action for habitat conservation.

We are committed to taking positive action for change and to using the knowledge and data we collect to influence policymakers at local, provincial and federal levels.

We strongly believe that education is the first step in safeguarding birds and their habitats. We offer an extensive variety of public outreach programs, lectures and workshops

What problem does it aim to solve?

The status of the world’s birds is deteriorating with more and more species at risk of extinction and the number of bird species listed as Critically Endangered has reached an all-time high. The number increases every year and we now have 1,445 species – that’s 1 in 8 of the world’s birds species threatened with extinction. Add the near-threatened species and the list goes up by another 1,010 – that’s almost a quarter of all bird species!

Virtually all of the threats facing birds are anthropogenic– threats to birds include:

Habitat loss and degradation

Climate change and light pollution

Plastic pollution continues to increase worldwide, with one study estimating that eight million metric tons of plastic enters the ocean annually — enough to cover every foot of coastline in the world. Think what that’s doing to our pelagic birds and other marine life.

Then there’s glass in our buildings which accounts for 1 BILLION bird mortalities through window strikes each year

Add to that the 4 to 5 million birds lost to free-roaming cats each day in NA alone and it’s easy to see why bird populations are declining.

When did you start/join it?

My wife and I founded the Vancouver Avian Research Centre Society in 2009 (Registered Charity #82118 2656 RR0001)

What made you want to get involved?

After successful careers in financial services, we felt an urgent need to put back ad raise awareness of environmental issues as they relate to birds. Our love of birds has taken us to more than 80 countries and we have witnessed firsthand the global impact humans have had on the environment.

What more needs to be done?

The issues facing our birds and the environment are global and so huge that it is hard to know if you are having an impact but we do know that our public outreach and education efforts have had an impact in showing people how to take action and make small changes can make a difference. At the end of the day, these problems will only be solved by individuals who care enough to take action now, but clearly, there is much still to be done.

How can our readers help?

We ALL need to take responsibility for our actions in adding to the environmental issue facing not only birds but the very future of our planet and our species. Each of us needs to do as much as we can – to get tips on things your readers can do, sign up for our newsletter or social media postings and TAKE ACTION NOW.


Do you have any events coming up?

We have VARC Open Houses, Workshops, Events and monthly Bird Walks – please see our website under the ‘Education and Public Outreach’ tab.

Where can we follow you?

Our newsletter and social media: Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Twitter

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity/non-profit that you love?

Stewardship Centre for BC

Pacific Parklands Foundation