BioBlitz fascinates kids and adults alike 

Annual event unites scientists in Whistler for a day of discovery

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOHN FRENCH - CRITTER CANOE As part of the 24 hour BioBlitz in Whistler scientists like Andy McKinnon and Bob Brett gathered samples of Whistler’s natural life and shared it with anyone interested at Alpha Lake Park.
  • Photo by John French
  • CRITTER CANOE As part of the 24 hour BioBlitz in Whistler scientists like Andy McKinnon and Bob Brett gathered samples of Whistler’s natural life and shared it with anyone interested at Alpha Lake Park.

A group of scientists have taken 24 hours to enjoy some serious fun while contributing to Whistler’s knowledge of itself. BioBlitz started at noon on Saturday, July 27 and wrapped up a full day later.

The home base for the event was Alpha Lake Park at Creekside. Bob Brett, one of the organizers, was in a canoe Sunday morning paddling along the shore of the lake gathering items to show kids gathered at the park. He was surprised to learn from Elizabeth Barrett, another BioBlitz organizer, that a rare green heron has been spotted a number of times at Alpha Lake.

While the pair discussed events from the night before a belted kingfisher distracted them by breezing across the lake to land in a tree at the shore. Barrett noted two adults with four babies have been spotted at the lake.

The BioBlitz is a 24-hour snapshot of what Whistler has in the way of natural life. According to Brett, it’s also a chance for scientists to have some fun and share what they know.

“When I look at the little kids on the beach, it’s basically a bunch of little kids that grew up and kept the love for running around and looking at stuff and the slimier the better,” said Brett after beaching his canoe at Alpha Lake. “We have people that are as thrilled about seeing a new mosquito species as they are about a beautiful wildflower. The main thing is that there’s a scientist sense of humour that is really, really fun.”

According to Barrett, the intensive 24 hours of science is an opportunity to show people that Whistler is more than just an outdoor playground.

“There’s one side of Whistler that people think of as riding bikes and skiing and then on the other side is an absolute treasure trove of animals and little critters around that people are unaware of,” said the volunteer from Vancouver. “I think that if we explore it and show children they really become citizen scientists and that is really important,” Barrett said.

She added that a unique group of scientists gathered in Whistler. The group included Andy McKinnon, author of what Brett described as the main plant book for the Whistler area. Volunteer Jordan Rosenfeld took kids gathered Sunday at Alpha Lake to the shore to catch aquatic life for further inspection. Seth Rodman, a UBC PhD student joined him and talked about his research on stickleback. A number of other scientists were at the park through the weekend to talk to park visitors about bats, fungus, mushrooms, spiders, snakes and other Whistler organisms.

Check back on Thursday for more on the BioBlitz event, including video highlights of some of the creatures captured in Whistler and put on display over the course of the weekend.

By John French

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