Hunt is on for more species at 9th annual BioBlitz 

Event to expand throughout the corridor; all welcome to attend free public events

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOERN ROHDE, SUBMITTED BY WHISTLER NATURALISTS - Bio blitzing Aidan Thornhill holds a Garter snake at the local BioBlitz, the longest running BioBlitz in Canada, now heading into its ninth year.
  • photo by Joern Rohde, submitted by Whistler Naturalists
  • Bio blitzing Aidan Thornhill holds a Garter snake at the local BioBlitz, the longest running BioBlitz in Canada, now heading into its ninth year.

The Columbia spotted frog may have been forever unnoticed in Whistler and Pemberton had it not been for the keen eye of scientists during the annual BioBlitz last year.

"There can be really important discoveries like that," said Bob Brett of the Whistler Naturalists, which puts on BioBlitz.

Every year, in a matter of hours over a weekend, local and visiting scientists find and document about 150 never-before-recorded species from insects and plants to mushrooms and frogs.

After nine years on the hunt, you would think the new discoveries would be slowing down now, but not so. Every year they find about 20 per cent more new species.

"To me, it's mind blowing," said Brett.

There are now 4,000 known species in the area, more than 1,000 of them found during BioBlitz, all done by volunteer scientists.

"It's really powerful to know what's in your area to understand it better and hopefully to plan development better and plan how to protect them."

This year's BioBlitz will be expanding to the south in Squamish for a corridor-wide event. Pemberton was included for the first time last year.

That gives scientists three entirely different ecosystems to explore: the estuary (marine and freshwater at sea level) in the south, the alpine in Whistler, and the lower lands in Pemberton that include a major river system called the Riverside Wetlands.

"There are three really distinct ecosystems which means really distinct sources of plants and animals live in them and that's the sort of stuff that gets the scientists excited," said Brett.

The Whistler Naturalists are expecting close to 100 scientists this year, including 70 visiting scientists.

"It's shaping up to be the most," Brett said.

BioBlitz moved to June this year, a full month or two ahead of schedule, to accommodate Whistler's jam-packed summer calendar.

"We can't operate a volunteer event like BioBlitz during that time because we can't find hotel rooms and there's just no space in town, so it was for a very pedestrian reason that we moved it earlier," said Brett.

"The irony is we are right where we would normally be."

He is referring to the early summer that has alpine wildflowers out, weeks ahead of schedule. Brett said on his last hike up to Decker Mountain, he saw less snow there than he would expect to see in September.

Scientists will share their finds with the general public including some hands-on fun where people can learn about alligator lizards, frogs and salamanders and so much more.

JOIN IN THE FUN

There will be free public events at Alpha Lake Park in Creekside on Saturday, June 27.

12-5 p.m. — the free Nature Festival with live critters, touching tables, working scientists, interactive displays, nature crafts and more.

1-2 p.m. — Animal Crackers, nature songs with the library.

3-4 p.m. — Wild Things Scavenger Hunt.

7:30-9 p.m. — Fabulous Finds of the Day where leading experts share their finds.

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