The Big Backyard BioBlitz offers critical data for nature conservation.
Over the August long weekend, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is encouraging people to get closer to nature and contribute to protect the species they love!
NCC’s fourth annual Big Backyard BioBlitz runs for five days, from August 3 to 7, from coast to coast to coast. A bioblitz is a community-science effort to document as many species as possible within a specific area and time.
From backyards to provincial and national parks, on lunch breaks or on vacation, participants can snap photos of the plants and animals they find around them. They then submit their observations to iNaturalist, a crowd-sourced community science species inventory app.
The Big Backyard BioBlitz is a family-friendly activity, no matter how much or how little people know about nature. Newbies are welcome — no expertise or biology degree required. The more we know about nature, the more we can support it. Last year, nearly 3,600 Ontario residents participated in the national effort.
Observations can help scientists take stock of local biodiversity, track rare species and fight invasive ones. Scientists want as much information as possible about the plants and animals across Canada, and people can help. NCC will compile all of the information that is gathered about species populations and locations during the BioBlitz. It will then be made available for scientists and conservation planners, who can use the findings to inform future nature protection and restoration efforts and strategies.
To join in the 2023 NCC BioBlitz, all people need is their smartphone, tablet or digital camera to take pictures and/or record the sounds of birds or other wildlife. Whether participants live in a house, apartment or condo, in a city, suburb or rural area, or simply want to go out into the forest, this event is for everyone – young and young at heart. Going camping or hiking, or heading to the cottage over the long weekend? Bioblitzers don’t have to be in the wilderness to participate and immerse themselves in nature; when we slow down and focus on the small details, even walking to the mailbox or having tea on the balcony can be an opportunity to lose ourselves in the sights and sounds of the natural world around you.
Bioblitzers can document any species they observe, including birds, mammals, fish, plants, and insects. In Ontario, some important species to watch for include the eight endangered species of turtles found throughout the province, pollinators such as bees, butterflies and wasps, and invasive plants such as phragmites, giant hogweed, and garlic mustard.
“This is a great way to be a part of something big. You can participate while sitting on your deck, strolling through your neighbourhood, while out paddling or on a weekend hike. By documenting the wild species that you see, including plants, birds, insects, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, lichen and fungi, you’re contributing to the protection of nature by helping conservation experts take stock of local biodiversity, track rare species and tackle invasive ones,” said Megan Quinn, Coordinator, Conservation Biology, Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Register for the NCC BioBlitz at backyardbioblitz.ca. Once registered, participants will receive a step-by-step guide on how to participate, along with photography tips and information about species identification. Participants can also share their observations on social media using #NCCBioBlitz to be entered to win an NCC prize pack.
The results of the Big Backyard BioBlitz are important, and so is community science in contributing to our collective knowledge about Canada’s nature. Biologists, foresters and other science professionals simply can’t be everywhere. And every contribution counts. During last year’s event, 9,100 participants logged over 53,000 wildlife and plant observations across the country. More than 5,300 different species were documented, the most frequent being monarch butterflies, which are classified as endangered globally.
The most common invasive species was wild carrot. Also known as Queen Anne’s lace, it is a non-native wildflower that grows along roadsides and outcompetes native plants for water, sunlight and space.
- Participants with children can enhance their BioBlitz experience by downloading activity sheets, including word searches, bingo cards, matching games and colouring pages.
- Participants can record observations of any species, including birds, mammals, fish, plants, and insects.
- Extensive species information can be found on iNaturalist. Learn about a species’ habitat, range, and life cycle while documenting your sightings.