Outdoor enthusiasts have an opportunity to be “blitzed” by the diverse and unique natural species that populate the Balls Falls Conservation Area.
This Saturday, the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) have joined forces to host a BioBlitz.
David DeRocco, CWF senior manager of marketing events, explained that a Bioblitz is a search for species within a limited area and timeframe that takes a snapshot of as many living things as possible.
“Think of it as a nature selfie,” he said, explaining people from all walks of life help out — expert and amateur naturalists, taxonomic scientists and the public.
The species records are compiled to reflect the biodiversity in that location at that time, and is available to researchers, scientists and policy-makers for informed decisions about wildlife management.
“We use the free app called iNaturalist to upload the data. Anyone can download the app free and turn a simple walk in the woods into a bit of citizen science,” he said.
People often ask how they can get involved in conservation efforts, DeRocco said, and the response is with iNaturalist.
“You can actually contribute to an active scientific database taking inventory of the flora and fauna you see every day. Knowing what’s out there helps guide land use policy, mitigate invasive species impact and so much more.”
This is the first partnership event between the NPCA and CWF.
Alicia Powell, NPCS acting manager of strategic initiatives at Balls Falls, said when the CWF contacted them they were interested.
“Balls Falls has the infrastructure and facilities to provide the services and indoor and outdoor activities,” Powell said, with a diverse ecosystem, including Carolinian Forest and meadow habitats, making it interesting for amateur and expert naturists.
Powell said events such as these allow the NPCA to connect with the public and raise awareness of its conservation efforts, showcasing nature from a recreation and education aspect.
On a public level, the BioBlitz reaches out to the community, to help people identify plants and animals that contribute to biodiversity in our environment, Powell added. “It gives people an opportunity to work and learn with conservation and environmental staff, in a safe, accessible and co-ordinated way.”
Powell said that they are expecting about six community and conservation groups for the day’s activities. The NPCA will also have a public information booth. In addition, 10 to 12 NCPA staff members will be leading a variety of activities, including hikes, sampling and guided tours. There will be three experts from the CWF providing their insight and knowledge on the species that pertain to the area.
DeRocco said they would like to return to Balls Falls in a few years to see if they still find the same diversity. “If it’s less, then action needs to be taken; if it’s more, then that’s a positive reflection of conservation efforts taken on site.”
BioBlitz is a free event, with activities running from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m Saturday, Aug. 24, and vendors and information booths open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“This is a simple way to get involved and appreciate nature on a whole new level,” he said.
In preparation of the day’s events he advises appropriate clothing, pants tucked into socks in case of ticks, water for hydration and “wear your enthusiasm.”
The iNaturalist app is available for free on Google Play and Apple platforms.
DeRocco encourages individuals and groups to conduct their own BioBlitzes at any time in their community. More information and a “bioblitz in a box” kit can be found at http://cwf-fcf.org/en/explore/bioblitz/.