What does Alberta’s biodiversity look like in the southern Castle area of the province?
That is a question scientists and researchers from across the province are hoping to answer with BioBlitz 2017. The University of Calgary, University of Lethbridge and the Entomological Society of Alberta are collaborating to host an interactive weekend for the whole family at the University of Lethbridge’s Westcastle Field Station July 15-16, 2017.
Citizen Science is fun
“A BioBlitz is part fun and part science,” says John Swann, manager of the invertebrate collection at the University of Calgary and co-organizer of this year’s 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.”
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 even assist scientists as they examine and catalogue their findings.
During BioBlitz 2015 in the Kananaskis region, UCalgary Faculty of Science researchers discovered several species of insects entirely new to science.
“The specimens gathered from that survey two years ago are still yielding new discoveries,” says Swann. “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.”
Learn from experts
The two-day program 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,” he says.
“Our University of Lethbridge colleagues will have a lab set up at their Westcastle Field Station to get a closer look at what we are collecting and studying. Guests can come with us to collect new discoveries and hike with us to see the incredible natural diversity in the Castle,” adds Swann.
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 all participants to make sure they dress for the weather. Bring along sunscreen, insect repellent, a water bottle, proper hiking footwear, and a lunch, as there are no food vendors on-site.
When: Saturday, July 15 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday, July 16 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Guests are invited to drop in throughout the two days.
Where: University of Lethbridge Westcastle Field Station in Castle Provincial Park – please go to: http://www.ucalgary.ca/science/bioblitz_2015 for a detailed map of the location