BioBlitz is here, are you ready?
Digital Writer, theweathernetwork.com
Thursday, June 11, 2015, 2:56 PM - Six million call the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) home, but there are thousands more yet to be counted.
These soon-to-be identified inhabitants share our backyards, hang out along our favourite paths and swim our urban streams.
Who are they? Well, from noon, Saturday June 13 to noon Sunday, June 14 more than 1,000 experts, want-to-be scientists and nature-lovers will descend on the Don River Watershed to find them.
It’s called a BioBlitz, a citizen science-driven survey of life – animals, plants, insects, amphibians and fungi – in a specific location and date.
“This is one of the best ways to get to know what life exists just on the other side of your fence,” says Dave Ireland, Managing Director of Biodiversity at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). The ROM has partnered with some of the province's leading conservation, education and research organizations to take stock of the area.
“We team scientists up with average everyday citizens interested in nature and they work together to document biodiversity,” he explains.
Mr. Ireland has been a BioBlitzer since the program began in Ontario in 2011. While similar events take place worldwide and 17 across the province, the BioBlitz in the Don River Watershed is the biggest of its kind in Canada.
Leading the initiative are around 200 scientists from across the country who volunteer their time to survey 16 Intensive BioBlitz sites that stretch from Nevada Park north of Vaughan to Tommy Thompson Park on Lake Ontario. Throughout the 24-hour period, they take two-hour breaks to offer Guided Blitzes with citizen scientists who have registered for programs in areas around the Ontario Science Centre, Earl Bales Park, E.T. Seaton Park, Baker’s Woods and Tommy Thompson Park.
Participants record all the organisms they find and the experts verify their identity. At the end of 24 hours, the species are compiled into a single list to provide a snapshot of the biodiversity in the area.
Mr. Ireland expects that an upwards of 1,700 species will be found.
“We are really hoping that some of the intensive surveyors and guided blitz-ers uncover some very rare finds that help land managers and conservation authorities better understand their land and how to manage biodiversity.”
Previous surveys in Rouge Park and the Humber River Watershed have uncovered endangered species, new plants, as well as spiders that have never been documented in Canada.
The around-the-clock event does not slow down when the sun sets. Bat experts will survey Bakers’ Woods, moth experts will have black lights around the watershed, and herpetologists and ichthyologists will be watching the Don River all night.
Participants for Guided Blitzes have already pre-registered but the public can still join the Blitz. There are free daytime events - nature hikes, workshops and other family-friendly activities - at Evergreen Brick Works and Public Programs (pre-registration required) at the program’s base camp at the Ontario Science Centre
Here are some sights of the sites to be surveyed:
The Ontario BioBlitz aims to survey every major watershed in the GTA over five years. They will be moving to the Credit River Watershed next year then back to Rouge Park in 2017.
Editor's note: The incredible video off the top was sent in to The Weather Network by Mark Michael of Waterford, Ont.