One massive 'nature selfie': A snapshot of Canada's biodiversity as it exists in 2017
BioBlitz Canada 150 aims to link technology and living nature, with field records snapped directly to iNaturalist.ca. (BioBlitz Canada)
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, June 6, 2017 6:00AM EDT
Canada may be turning 150 years old this summer, but it’s still youthful enough to take a birthday selfie of its natural beauty -- or more accurately, several thousand selfies.
BioBlitz Canada 150 aims to mobilize more than 10,000 volunteers and expert naturalists to photograph and document Canada’s biodiversity as it exists in 2017. Think of it as a sort of real-world Pokémon Go for Canadian plant and animal life.
A series of 35 BioBlitzes are scheduled across Canada to capture as many species as possible from coast to coast. Five flagship events will take place in Toronto, Vancouver, Regina, Halifax and Quebec City between June 9 and Sept. 17.
Ten of the blitzes will be closed to the public -- they’re “science-intense” events aimed at covering the most remote areas. Nature enthusiasts are encouraged to go rogue and start their own unofficial blitzes.
“It’s about making a listed inventory of all living species in a particular area,” BioBlitz Canada 150 manager Elizabeth Gammell told CTVNews.ca. “Everybody is doing actual real science that is going to help future wildlife, and aid future decisions about our environment.”
Participants log photos, locations and notes into the national iNaturalist.ca database using a smartphone app. The finished product will be a massive “nature selfie.”
The information will be analyzed by experts, and shared to a public domain where scientists, government organizations, and research institutions can use it to track wildlife patterns and monitor the environmental impact of climate change.
Gammell warns that the odds of discovering a new subspecies of moose are perilously slim, but the chances of finding something undiscovered are better than you may think.
“Every time people go out, or go back over territory with attentive eyes, they find something new -- new to the area and even new to science,” she said. “I’m not saying you are going to find a new bird or new mammal; generally, discoveries occur in the world of insects, plants, or mosses.”
Canada has about 70,000 species known to science, according to Gammell. She estimates that figure represents about half of what is truly out there in nature.
“You don’t have to be an expert, or you can be a world-leading expert. You’re going to be working and learning together,” she said. “If you find something and you’re not sure what it is, take a photo of it, add information about where you are, what time of day, anything you are able to add, and upload it to iNaturalist.”
BioBlitz 150 is one of 38 signature projects bankrolled by the federal government to celebrate Canada 150.
The final flagship event at Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes and Point Pleasant Park in Halifax wraps up on Sept. 17. But the exploration will not end there.
After all, a selfie represents a single moment, and scientists need to track how wildlife and the environment change over time.
Gammell hopes the BioBlitz 150 events will encourage more Canadians to take an active role in helping the scientific community crowdsource a constant stream of information on Canada’s changing biodiversity.
“It’s important not just to get a nature snapshot,” she said. “You have to get a nature movie of Canada’s wildlife.”
BioBlitz Canada 150
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