Naturalists welcome new blood to the board 

"We’re not really a board-driven organization," says Bob Brett, president of the Whistler Naturalists Society. "In fact we go out of our way to avoid board meetings as much as possible."

All in all, the third Whistler Naturalists annual general meeting, on Nov. 28, was laid-back affair, where society business was moved along, motioned and seconded, with all due haste.

"Because of government regulations, we have to provide a financial statement, and that took about 30 seconds, and go through a few other little formalities," said Brett.

"The important thing was getting some new board members in. More board members mean more events, and that means more involvement with the community. That’s what we’re really about."

The majority of board members returned from the previous year, one position was replaced when a board member stepped down, and three new members stepped up to help out with events.

"It’s always a little bit of a nail-biter to see what happens year to year with a really small organization like ours. We had excellent people last year, but it’s always good to bring in new blood, people who are excited and enthusiastic. That’s what keeps us going," says Brett.

The Whistler Naturalists, who are entering their fourth year, hold events on a weekly basis during spring, summer and fall, weather permitting, and at least one event a month during winter. The topics are far ranging, from bird watching, to volcanic activity in the region, to First Nations herbal lore, and outings are generally free for the society’s 130 members.

"You can join, and we’ll take your money, but what we really want is for people to come out to these events and learn a little about nature," Brett says.

Some of these events, like the popular mushroom walk, can attract over 60 participants.

In addition to the regular events, such as nature walks, Brett is launching a monthly speaker series using the expertise in town and that can be found around the Lower Mainland.

"The speaker series is a stepping stone to getting a kind of off-campus campus going up here, with night courses on different natural history topics. We’re so close to schools like UBC, SFU, and Capilano College, and that can be a huge resource for us if we can get everybody’s favourite teacher to come out and share some of their experiences."

Following the AGM, the Naturalists hosted a presentation by Andrew Bryant, chief scientist for the Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Project, which is working to protect one of the most endangered mammals in the world. Based on the turnout and the interest of the participants, Brett feels the proposed speaker series serves a need.

"People really seemed to enjoy it, not just for the photographs, but also the scientific explanation of what’s happening with the marmots and its prospects for the future," he says. "People seemed interested and asked a lot of questions at the end, so we hope to host a lot more speakers in the future."

Whistler Naturalist Jack Souther will be hosting the next presentation, which is a look at Volcanoes in the region.

The Whistler Naturalists publish information on outings, presentation and slideshows in the weekly Naturespeak column in Pique Newsmagazine.

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