The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is encouraging people to go out and about to find and photograph local species in their areas.
The event, scheduled for the end of July, is their third annual Backyard BioBlitz. The idea is for folks across the country to photograph and submit species they come across, regardless of what they’re doing over the course of the weekend.
Media and communications coordinator for the Alberta region, Sean Feagan, said it’s a great opportunity for people to get out and experience their local natural environment.
“I think it’s a great way for people to realize what species are living in their backyards, both literally and figuratively,” said Feagan. “It’s an unstructured event but I think it’s just a great way for people to learn more about Alberta’s natural history.”
Across Canada, more than 6,500 participants logged over 36,000 observations during last year’s event, taking into account both flora and fauna.
Anyone can participate from anywhere, from their backyard to exploring national parks. From the gathered information, partnering scientists and conservation partners can use the data to gauge how species are doing, to plan for future protection and restoration efforts, country wide.
Submitted data will be collected within a program called iNaturalist — a community science platform that is one of the largest crowd-sourced species inventories in Canada.
“I think it’s really amazing that anyone can collect information that is valuable to science. I’ve talked to multiple entomologists who have said that they use iNaturalist data on a daily basis,” said Feagan. “I guess kind of the holy grail would be maybe (adding) a new species to science, but characterizing species through space and time is also important.”
For folks participating in Strathmore and Wheatland County, the local region consists largely of prairie grasslands, small water bodies and wetlands.
Feagan added the latter of which are rich habitats saturated with different species.
Inversely, much of the local land area has been converted into agriculture or development zones, which destroys grassland habitat and puts local species at risk.
The Backayrd BioBlitz is also an opportunity to track the spread of invasive species across the country.
“It’s a great resource for land managers to track invasive species throughout Alberta, and maybe understand what species could be spreading, or are in need of kind of management,” added Feagan. “I’m sure kind of at a municipal level that that might be handy for municipalities or even just private landowners that are trying to control these things.”
The 2022 Backyard BioBlitz will take place from July 28 to Aug 1. More details about the project, as well as how to participate, can be found through the NCC website.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times