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Teaching the basics behind Whistler's natural beauty

Museum's 'Nature Training 101' course kicks off May 30



It's easy enough to take Whistler's natural beauty at face value, but those who take the time to look deeper will see a vast and interconnected network of animals, plants and landscapes.

But those connections are not always visible to the naked eye.

It's with this in mind that the Whistler Museum and Archives Society is launching its "Whistler Nature 101" training course, starting with a seminar on Monday, May 30 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Whistler Chamber of Commerce.

"Whistler's awesome natural surroundings is what attracts so many people here, but most visitors and even many community members don't get a chance to learn about it," said Kristina Swerhun, the museum's "Discover Nature" coordinator.

"It just made sense to do our best to gather nature knowledge collected in this community over the years and share it face-to-face with nature tour operators, so they can do a better job of helping guests appreciate Whistler's remarkable nature, or locals looking to grow their knowledge."

The training aims to elevate the knowledge of Whistler's nature throughout the community by looking at its landscape and biodiversity — and the crucial connections underlying it all.

"We had a couple of different inquiries from nature tour companies wanting us to help them out with information that they could share with guests, and so we thought that that's probably a need for more than these two companies," Swerhun said.

The training will serve as a professional development opportunity for tour guides, front-desk workers and more, but is open to anyone who is interested, Swerhun said.

It consists of the seminar — which will run again on Thursday, June 2 at the Whistler Public Library — and a series of field trips focusing on wide-ranging topics.

"The focus will really not be on the details, but just how everything is interconnected and how really complex biology is," Swerhun said.

"We try and break it down into something really simple."

Swerhun will be teaching the course using subject material developed with help from other nature-oriented groups in town, like the Whistler Biodiversity Project, AWARE and the Get Bear Smart Society, to name just a few.

"Hopefully it will keep people interested, and if they are in the tour guide or the nature guide industry, it will be exciting for them to keep learning more," Swerhun said.

"And then I think for some people's personal interest, it might spark a love for nature, and they can do whatever they want with that — teach others, or just delve into a little bit more."

From a business perspective, the program aligns well with the Whistler Chamber's mantra of elevating service.

"Knowing the Whistler environment — and being able to talk about it to our 2.7 million visitors — is a wonderful way to deliver world-class service and deepen your own appreciation for this magical place in the mountains," Chamber CEO Val Litwin said in a release.

The program was developed through financial support from the Community Foundation of Whistler, but Swerhun said the ultimate goal is for the program to support itself.

The seminar costs $50 to attend. Field trips are planned for the week of June 6, with a final schedule and pricing to be announced soon.

To register, email or call the museum at 604-932-2019.


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