Ellie Hiotakis holds a banana slug while practicing using the iNaturalist app on a smart-phone to record species for the Parks Canada BioBlitz. The 24-hour event

BioBlitz to document shoreline species this weekend

Parks Canada event synchronizes with global count

The countdown is coming.

A 24-hour race against to the clock to tally as many plants, insects and animals as possible at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse takes over the national historic site this Friday and Saturday (May 22 and 23) for what organizers are calling BioBlitz.

“The beaches out there have never been surveyed for species, which is really exciting. There’s a lot going on in the beach and when we have a survey like this, it gives us an idea of what is there,” said BioBlitz project co-ordinator Athena George. “We are better able to protect it if we know what’s there.”

Teams of volunteers, scientists, families and numerous community stewards will identify and tabulate as many different plants, animals, insects, fungi, and other organisms as they come across within the 24-hour period from 4 p.m. Friday to 4 p.m. Saturday. Organisms discovered are tabulated and updated in real time, going into a global count with participants from around the world.

“I think it changes how you look at nature and the world. All of a sudden the forest doesn’t just look like a big bunch of greenery, you start to see it’s full of life you didn’t know was there,” George said. “I am hoping to have that ‘wow’ moment when you see that number roll over and see how many species we are counting, for those who don’t know all those things were there.”

Experts from the Royal B.C. Museum and the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre will be among the scientists on hand making the discoveries and sharing some of those with the public, in fish tanks set up along the beach. Interested participants can see them up close and personal and learn about their place in the ecosystem.

The public can download the app Inaturalist from inaturalist.org to take photos of organisms. From there the pictures can be uploaded along with GPS co-ordinates, and a community of naturalists can help you identify unknown species. Numerous craft tables, teaching stations and even a First Nations cultural table round out the activities, aimed at participants of all ages.

“This is a first ever for Parks Canada,” George said. “We’re trying to get people excited about nature, get people outside, exploring outside and having fun. In one way we will find out some things we already know, but hopefully some things we didn’t know are (there) …  We will try to get every plant and animal on land and on the seas.”

For more information on the BioBlitz event visit http://bit.ly/1E82hJH

alim@goldstreamgazette.com

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