BioBlitz Canada 150: Canada’s Nature Selfie

Canada 150
BioBlitz Canada 150, Canadian Wildlife Federation
The Canadian Wildlife Federation is organizing bioblitzes across Canada.

The Canadian Wildlife Federation is putting Canada under a microscope in 2017—with your help. BioBlitz Canada 150 is bringing Canadians together to take part in making Canada’s “nature selfie.” Combining science with community engagement, BioBlitz Canada 150 is series of public events that will create a scientific snapshot of Canada’s terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine environments.

A bioblitz is when scientists and people from all walks of life come together to explore nature and identify and record as many species as possible. BioBlitz Canada 150 features five flagship events in urban areas, 20 community events and 10 science-intense blitzes. Individuals, schools and organizations are also invited to organize their own bioblitz events to contribute to the national database and celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. BioBlitz 150 Project Director Elizabeth Gammell tells us more.

Our environment is a defining element of Canadian identity, what makes land unique for scientists and conservationists?

There's so much of it—nature is part of our life. In the downtown of our nation’s capital you might catch a beaver walking on the sidewalk, or bears eating berries in the middle of the city. There’s nature everywhere in Canada, even if you're in the middle of one of our biggest urban centres, there are wild things living with us, it’s part of our community no matter where you are.

Why have bioblitzes have become more popular over the last few years?

I would use a very Canadian metaphor, it's a snowball! As more people do it, more people hear about it, and get excited about contributing. It started off as just the expert taxa-naturalists going out and doing it, and in more recent years there's more of a community of citizen-science projects. You don't have to be professional scientist to make a real contribution to the data in Canada.

BioBlitz Canada 150, Nature’s Selfie
BioBlitz 150 events will capture a nature selfie of our living species in 2017!
The Canadian Wildlife Federation has been leading bioblitzes for many years, why was it important to be a part of Canada 150?

The Canadian Wildlife Federation is one of the leading nature-related organizations for Canada, and such a large part of Canada's heritage. What we can be proud of in the 150th anniversary year is our nature heritage, and involving people in learning about the land, loving the land and being involved with nature.

How is it a positive community experience as well as an educational experience?

At the heart of the program is a real science inventory, paying attention to what's around so it can be useful for citizens to make decisions about nature, and combine that with the feeling of being in nature with people who share it with you. You’re joining a long heritage of Canadians from the first ancestors on Turtle Island to the latest families to come to Canada, learning about nature is just part of what we do together.

How will the data being collected help scientists in the future?

It's a single snapshot of a certain place at a certain time. You can get an idea of what lies out there and then compare it to similar inventories from 10, 50, or 100 years ago, or even set a baseline for going forward. We have to pay attention as we go along to make decisions about whether things need attention or if we can say "yes, that's working beautifully and things are rebuilding."

BioBlitz Canada 150, Canadian Wildlife Federation
Bioblitz 150 joins expert naturalists with citizens to create a science snapshot.
After 2017, what are you hoping people take away from participating in Bioblitz 150?

I think that it’s important to pay attention to what's real and alive. We use a lot of online and digital experiences, watching things on television, posting pictures, even having experts help you identify a posted picture on iNaturalist [the platform used for documenting a cataloguing a bioblitz] on a smartphone. Technology is very useful, but it’s not nearly as satisfying as having something that's alive become real in your world. I'm hoping people come away with the feeling that they have touched something that is part of them, and that they are part of nature. It's right at the heart of being Canadian, being among the other living things.

There are events scheduled in Toronto and Vancouver, and a growing list of places and dates. Visit the BioBlitz Canada 150 website for details on upcoming events in your area, for resources on doing an independent bioblitz, and on how to use the iNaturalist App.

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