Scientists leave BioBlitz happy 

Dozens of new species recorded at annual event

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - YOUNG SCIENTIST Spring Creek student Nate Lawrence spent a day wrangling snakes with biologist Leslie Anthony as part of the 12th annual BioBlitz on June 9.
  • YOUNG SCIENTIST Spring Creek student Nate Lawrence spent a day wrangling snakes with biologist Leslie Anthony as part of the 12th annual BioBlitz on June 9.

More than 60 scientists were in Whistler for last week's 12th annual BioBlitz, and for the most part, they left happy.

"The people with the biggest smiles on their faces were the mushroom people and the insect people—they're the things that most people don't pay too much attention to, but compared to last year, there were so many mushrooms, and new mushrooms that these scientists who have been here for a long time haven't seen, so they were really thrilled." said Bob Brett, founder of the Whistler Biodiversity Project and co-organizer of BioBlitz.

"And then the mosquito guy was in heaven, because where we went, we provided lots of mosquitoes."

While results are still being collated, this year's BioBlitz recorded dozens of species never before recorded in Whistler, and Pemberton.

By the end of the year, Brett expects Whistler's catalogue to feature about 4,200 different species.

"The premise is, by knowing what species live in the area, then you also know what species shouldn't be there, so in terms of invasives, it's really an important thing to know," he said.

"And it also is a really important building block for habitat conservation, because then you know what species live where, and therefore what habitats are most important to protect."

Having solid data helps inform where development and rezonings should—or more importantly, shouldn't—take place, Brett added.

The cadre of scientists and field biologists also shared their vast knowledge with local school children for the second year in a row, presenting to 22 classes and over 500 students.

"I'm always blown away by the calibre of people that show up, the scientists—like, they're literally the people who wrote the books on whatever they're studying. It's just fabulous," said Kristina Swerhun, president of the Whistler Naturalists.

Presentations differed depending on age group and the scientists involved, Swerhun noted.

"Some were mammal trackers ... we had amphibian experts, we had some giving talks on pollination, some giving talks on fungus," she said.

"It was just very diverse."

Some lucky students even got hands-on time in the field, like Nate Lawrence from Spring Creek teacher Jane Millen's 5/6 class, who spent an entire day wrangling snakes with biologist and journalist Leslie Anthony.

"Each year, we invite students from the schools to come out for a day in the life of a field biologist ... (Nate) hung out with Leslie on Saturday all day, and he got to help look for all kinds of stuff, and he's such a good finder ... he was great to have with us that day," Swerhun said.

Instilling that love of science and nature in young people is at the heart of the event, she added.

"That is all we're trying to do, is just to foster the enthusiasm and then grow the appreciation," she said.

"We're hoping to put them on the track of lifelong interest, and the stewardship towards nature is fantastic."

Students hoping to learn more about Whistler's natural environment should talk to their teachers, who can reach out to the Naturalists, who are always happy to share their knowledge, Swerhun said.

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