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BioBlitz keeps education at heart for 12th edition

Annual celebration of local biodiversity set for June 7-10

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For the second straight year, BioBlitz is heading into the classrooms—to the delight of junior scientists across the valley.

"We got lots of lovely thank you letters (last year)," said Kristina Swerhun, president of the Whistler Naturalists.

"It was funny, because we did 15 classrooms last year, and as soon as we put the word out, like 20 signed up right away."

The 12th annual celebration of Whistler's biodiversity—which sees scientists and volunteers scour the local ecosystem to count as many species as possible—is set for June 7 to 10.

Last year, blitzers counted 100 species never before recorded in Whistler.

"I think the total species list was close to 600," Swerhun said.

"What is really cool this year is we have an ant specialist, a beetle specialist and a mosquito specialist, and we've never had those specialists here before so we don't know what they're going to find."

In its 11 years, BioBlitz has recorded more than 4,000 known species, Swerhun said—data that is invaluable for identifying species at risk as well as invasive species.

"With the data, they're going into classrooms and sharing it right away, so they take all their great knowledge and all the scientists get to put it out there," she said.

"And then we'll also have some junior scientists interning with scientists, so they learn what a day in the life is like for a field biologist."

This year's event is wide-ranging, with the namesake blitzes taking place in Whistler (Thursday and Friday), Pemberton (Saturday) and Brandywine Park (Sunday), along with school visits and expert presentations at Legends in Creekside.

Presenters include bear expert Michael Allen, biologist/journalist (and Pique columnist) Leslie Anthony and ecologist Bob Brett, founder of the Whistler Biodiversity Project and co-organizer of BioBlitz.

All events are free for the public. While the complete schedule is still being finalized, more information will be posted to www.whistlernaturalists.ca

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