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Beetles and BioBlitz

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" The Creator, if He exists, has an inordinate fondness for beetles ."

- JBS Haldane, British evolutionary biologist (1892-1964).

Haldane's famous quote was his response to the immense number of beetle species in the world. Scientists have found even more since he died and the known count is at least 350,000 species. Many believe the true fondness will exceed five million.

But the fondness continues well beyond beetles and certainly beyond the limited diversity of vertebrates Noah invited onto the Ark. By the time you throw in lichens, fungi, mosses, plants, insects and the rest, the total diversity of species worldwide is likely over 30 million. Compare that to the 1.4 million species known so far.

It's a similar situation here in Whistler. While we don't know how many beetle species are here, it's safe to say many more than we currently list. Same thing for flowers and mosses, lichens and fungi, and even bats and butterflies.

Thanks to events like BioBlitz, we know a bit more about Whistler's diversity each year. In the first two years of BioBlitz - just 48 hours in all - over 300 species were documented for the first time.

BioBlitz, though, is primarily about fun. Its aim is to get people close to nature and the scientists who study nature. It's centred on a 24-hour race to count as many species as possible, and that's fun for the scientists. It's also centred on public events that give people a chance to poke and prod and learn about species they may not have known existed in Whistler (or at all), and that's fun for scientists and non-scientists alike.

BioBlitz is back Aug. 8th and 9th, from Saturday noon to Sunday noon at Alpha Lake Park. There are a few changes to make the event more accessible, including the new venue at Alpha Lake.

There are now two big events for kids. The first, on Saturday from 2:30-4 p.m. is the Wild Things Scavenger Hunt, again led by Cara Richard and partnered with AWARE's Kids' Nature Club. Swamp Monsters is on Sunday from 10-11:30 a.m., and features top scientists showing off all the critters found since the previous day.

Night Critters is back Saturday night with an expanded program to introduce you to creatures your mother told you to avoid. There will be bat nets, bat detectors, bug nets, beetle catchers, bird and mammal spotters, and maybe even a few stars and meteors (clear skies willing). Presentations on what to expect in the night start at 7:30. As the skies start to darken around 8:30, the critters will start to emerge. Night Critters is part of the Whistler Museum's Speaker Series.

Also added this year is a combined Naturalists/BioBlitz bird walk, 7 a.m. Sunday at the base of Lorimer Road. The bird walk is a chance to experience the combined talents of local and visiting birders.

Scientists will be available throughout the event at our tents at Alpha Lake Park. For more details, go to www.whistlerbioblitz.ca 

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