December 17th, 2017

It’s, it’s a BioBlitz

By Mabell, Dave on July 13, 2017.

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald

It’s “part fun and part science.”

That’s how organizers describe “BioBlitz 2017,” running this weekend in the new Castle Provincial Park. It’s an opportunity for anyone to join scientists in exploring the area’s biodiversity.

The Universities of Lethbridge and Calgary have organized the event, in collaboration with the Entomological Society of Alberta. No pre-registration is required, with families and individuals invited to take part from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

“A BioBlitz is part fun and part science,” says John Swann, manager of the invertebrate collection at the U of C and co-organizer of the event.

“It is a weekend of biological surveying in an attempt to record the living species within a designated area. They are important because they provide us with an idea of how an area is doing.”

The interactive event will centre on the U of L’s Westcastle Field Station, about four kilometres before the Castle Ski Resort on Highway 774.

Swann says the goal of the event is to identify as many species as possible in the area over the course of the weekend survey. This will help researchers add to the database and inventory of local species. Visitors can watch and assist scientists as they examine and catalogue their findings.

The two-day program also includes walks and talks to identify insects native to the Canadian Rockies.

“If you love insects, birds, flora, fauna and the outdoors, this is a great opportunity to learn from experts passionate about their given subjects, and play a role in much-needed data collection as well,” Swann says.

In addition to the scientific mission, citizen science programs – like this BioBlitz – offer the public a chance to get outdoors and gain a deeper appreciation for the environment.

“I think that the more we can bring people out to learn and care about the environment, the more we’re going to have some power to make sure that it’s protected,” adds Swann.

Organizers remind participants to make sure they dress for the weather, bring along sunscreen, insect repellent, a water bottle and proper hiking footwear. They should also bring a lunch, because there will be no food vendors on site.

Two years ago in Kananaskis country, Swann says, U of C researchers discovered several species of insects entirely new to science during that year’s event.

“The specimens gathered from that survey two years ago are still yielding new discoveries,” he says.

“Scientists from other institutions across the country and the world are interested in what we’ve uncovered as they further their studies in conservation and ecology.”

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