The seventh annual Whistler BioBlitz is all about eights this year, with three of B.C.'s foremost arachnologists — eight-legged spider experts — joining the team.
At least 70 scientists will scour Whistler high and low in search of species of plants, fungi, mammals, insects, amphibians, reptiles and other living things for 24 hours straight, starting at noon on July 27 and finishing at noon the next day.
The public is welcome to come out and learn from the experts, join expeditions and get an up close look at the creatures they bring back with them.
The goal every year is to top the previous years' tally, while filling in the gaps in the Whistler Biodiversity Project — an official record of every species that can be found in the municipality.
Over the past six years, Whistler BioBlitz participants have found at least 500 species a year, including 1,000 species that had never been recorded before by the Whistler Biodiversity Project. The success of the Whistler event has also inspired BioBlitz events across the Lower Mainland and B.C., and as far away as Halifax.
Bob Brett a local biologist and founder of the Whistler Naturalists, came up with the idea after hearing of similar events in Washington State. For him, the event always turns up something unexpected.
"We're especially excited about this year's BioBlitz," he said. "It's a great welcome back for most of the core group of scientists who've made BioBlitz such a success. Plus we're delighted to welcome for the first time some star scientists who've never been able to make it before."
Brett says there's a chance that the event will not return to Whistler next year, depending on the schedule.
"The summers here are getting busier and with events like Crankworx and Ironman in town we can't find rooms for our scientists, and it's harder to find space to do the event," he said.
Brett said that BioBlitz has always happened in the middle of the summer because the snow is clear from the alpine, and alpine meadows are filled with flowers, insects and birds. There's a possibility he could move the event earlier or later, or even move the event elsewhere in Sea to Sky where's there's opportunity to create a database from scratch.
"In Whistler, our list of species is over 3,000 records of different plants and animals, and I'd be surprised if there were any kind of printed report in Pemberton with more than a few hundred species, and I think Squamish would be similar because this kind of data has never been compiled before. Any time they do go into an area they have to do a new study and look for species of concern, but that data never gets collated into any kind of central information bank that lets the knowledge build over time."
The ongoing value in Whistler, says Brett, is public education and adding to the inventory of found species, "while at the same time it performs a really important scientific function where you can learn a lot more about an area," he said.
The 2013 Whistler BioBlitz will be based in Alpha Lake Park once again. Crews will head out to every type of ecosystem in Whistler to do a survey of species and collect specimens, returning to the park to talk to members of the public and show off their finds. As well, there are a number of scheduled events:
• There will be a pre-blitz of Nicklaus North Golf Course from 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Saturday. To participate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Visiting scientists will be hosting family-friendly presentations from noon to 5 p.m. at the main tent.
• The annual Wild Things Scavenger Hunt takes place from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, encouraging families and up-and-coming scientists to take part in the fun.