When the B.C. Parks Foundation launched its nature challenge this spring, they set a lofty goal of gathering one million photos to showcase the province's biodiversity. Despite the arrival of a global pandemic, British Columbians have largely delivered.
The foundation has collected over 955,000 crowdsourced nature photos with three months left to go in the calendar year.
Andrew Day, CEO of the B.C. Parks Foundation, said the challenge was to gather observations from around the province of the natural world — both animal and plants — and build a database for researchers.
Citizen scientists can upload their photographs via the Big Nature Challenge homepage or via the iNaturalist app.
"In the background, it's logging all of those photos into a database that creates this massive kind of big data picture of where things are, when they're there, you know, how many — all that kind of stuff," Day told host Kathryn Marlow on CBC's All Points West.
Day said the photos capture iconic species — lynx, wolverines, grizzlies — and much smaller ones like butterflies and flowers. He noted that one couple entered photographs of a dragonfly species that hadn't been seen in 40 years.
"B.C. has more biodiversity than anywhere in North America, probably anywhere in the whole temperate zone, because we go from ocean to mountaintop and so it is like 13,000 species was something we found," he said.
"It's incredible what's out there when you slow down and you look."
Slowing down has taken on new meaning since COVID-19 spread across the globe several months ago.
Day says the pandemic actually helped with the challenge by showing two things: one, that humans are having a major impact on the planet — especially considering the reports of cleaner air, water, and wildlife returning to places during the lockdown — and two, the importance of nature to our lives.
"The pandemic showed us that nature is — parks in particular — a part of our health-care system," he said. "We need it not only for every breath we take, but also because of our mental health ... I think just people have really learned to appreciate small things and to stop, to slow down, to smell the roses."
People can continue to contribute to the Big Nature Challenge by visiting www.naturechallenge.ca.