Education has always been at the heart of Whistler Naturalists' mandate for BioBlitz.
The annual race to count the hundreds of plants, animals, and fungi that call Whistler home has been helping researchers gather a fuller picture of this area's wide-ranging biodiversity for over a decade now.
To mark the event's 11th edition, which runs June 2 to 4, BioBlitz scientists will be taking their expertise into local schools for the first time, giving the scientists of tomorrow a glimpse at the life of a field biologist. These "Junior Scientists" will help collect biodiversity data and receive mentorship from some of B.C.'s top biologists.
"Each year, it's great to see people get really excited about something they see or learn about at BioBlitz," said the Whistler Naturalists' president Kristina Swerhun. "I am thrilled so many school classes will be involved this year. Our previous events were always during summer vacation so this is a huge opportunity to reach more young people."
This year's festivities will also include a celebration of "the amazing contribution" of the Whistler-Pemberton Breeding Bird Survey over the past 40 years. The count is scheduled to coincide with BioBlitz for the first time this year. The public can also learn more about the bird survey at a keynote presentation on Friday night at Legends Hotel, and at the Tour de Pemberton birding event on Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, at the bridge over Pemberton Creek near the Nature House.
The Whistler Naturalists' Bob Brett spoke about how valuable the volunteers work has been not only for local understanding of bird populations, but worldwide.
"(The survey) is part of an international chain of data that is one piece of the jigsaw puzzle that, when you put it into the continental perspective, helps detect large-scale trends in bird populations," he said.
Of course, no BioBlitz would be complete without the scientific survey that has, over the course of its history, tallied an impressive 1,200 species never before recorded in Whistler. Held in the spring for the first time, volunteer scientists will look to add to that total on Friday, before heading off to Pemberton on Saturday, and the Pinecrest/Brandywine areas on Sunday.
"We're expecting most to find new insect and mushroom species," Brett added.
Another always-popular event set for this year's BioBlitz is "Night Critters," where attendees of all ages are welcome to Alpha Lake Park from 8 p.m. until late to learn more about local nocturnal species, including bats, owls and moths.
"It's almost an ad-libbed evening with all kinds of scientists," Brett said. "Whoever's there will deliver impromptu presentations, and whatever's cool that's happening at the time is whatever the focus is on. It tends to be a really nice, relaxed, enjoyable type of evening."
For the full schedule or to learn more, visit www.whistlerbioblitz.ca.