Margaret Lidkea of Friends of Uplands Park. Christine van Reeuwyk/Oak Bay News

Oak Bay blitzed for Earth Day

Bioblitz highlights diversity, fragility of life

Oak Bay is about to be blitzed–bioblitzed, that is.

The first bioblitz was held in Washington D.C. in 1996 when the U.S. National Park Service applied the term to describe an ecological survey conducted at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Experts worked in conjunction with everyday citizens to identify the vast biodiversity existent within that location.

Since that time the concept has captured imaginations around the world as bioblitzes have been held in Israel, Malaysia, Ireland, Poland, Australia and…well …you get the idea. The concept has touched every corner of the world in an effort to bring experts and ordinary people together to explore, discover and catalogue the biodiversity surrounding them, no matter where they live.

In Canada, 2017 will feature 35 official bioblitz events as part of the nation’s sesquicentennial.

Not to be left out, Victoria will join the movement on Earth Day, April 22 in a bioblitz to catalogue the ecosystems and adjacent habitats of Upland’s Park, Beacon Hill Park and the University of Victoria campus.

“We’re very excited about the event. It’s so important for people to get outdoors and develop a sense of place…an understanding of where we live and all the wonders surrounding us,” said Margaret Lidkea, the Chair of Friends of Uplands Park, one of the organizations contributing to make the event possible.

Her organization will have volunteers at Upland’s Park to help guide volunteers through the trails and to help safeguard some of the more rare species already known to exist in the park.

“We have some species at Cattle Point that grow amongst the rocks and people don’t realize what they are and will step on them as they pass. These are very rare species but people just don’t know,” said Lidkea.

The blitz runs for 24 hours as experts work around the clock (from 6 pm on April 21 to 6 pm on April 22) to identify as many species as possible. For the general public, the action starts at 9 a.m. and run until 1 p.m. on April 22 when they are invited to join guided tours at all three sites. The public is encouraged to make notes and take photos of the species they encounter to add to the inventory.

In addition consulting with to the on-site experts, participants are encouraged to use their smart phones to document the plants, insects, birds, mammals, and every living thing and upload the photos to iNaturalist.org, an organization founded at UC Berkeley to develop a living history of life on earth.

Dr. Valentin Schaefer, the chair of the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team (GOERT), heads up another of the partners in the bioblitz project. He said the project is critical in places like Uplands Park.

“It’s an important record to have as we monitor the pressures on these endangered habitats, and a very hands-on way to bring the public’s attention to the amazing variety of species that depend on them,” said Schaefer.

For Lidkea, it’s the value of the event for young people that is most important. She said the benefits of getting children outside to develop an appreciation of the diversity and fragility of world around them are more important in today’s world than ever before.

“It’s the world they’re going to inherit and they need to have an understanding of how precious and fragile that world actually is,” she said.

More information in the bioblitz is available at bioblitzcanada.ca.

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