It’s always a privilege to learn from passionate biologists, and we were incredibly fortunate to have nine of them attend our Wetlandkeepers course in New Denver! Since the Slocan Valley has been identified as a priority area by the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program’s Riparian & Wetland Action Plan, it was an ideal location to host this event and to promote the valley’s protection while encouraging wetland stewardship. The course (June 7-9) was held in tandem with the BCWF Wetland’s first BioBlitz! BioBlitzes are an intensive biological survey that attempts to record all the living species within an area over a 24-hour time frame (except ours was over 2.5 days). The New Denver BioBlitz was successful in inventorying over 150 flora and fauna species at Hunter Siding Wetland and Bonanza Marsh, and featured specialists in botany, ornithology (birds), entomology (insects), herpetology (amphibians), GIS, chiropterology (bats), lepidopterology (butterflies and moths), and limnology (freshwater biology) – how’s that for learning some new words?
The workshop gave 25 full time participants an in-depth learning experience on the various forms of wildlife that are found within the Hunter Siding Wetland and Bonanza Marsh. Not only were our biologists knowledgeable, but our participants were quite educated as well. There were members of the Slocan Lake Stewardship Society, the Slocan Lake Research Centre and the Slocan River Streamkeepers, as well as many naturalists, students, and citizen-science enthusiasts. The amount of knowledge shared over the weekend was rich and insightful, and we look forward to seeing the future of Slocan Valley watershed conservation. Let’s take a look at what we learned and inventoried over the weekend:
Birds – Janice Arndt
Ornithology – Greek ornis (“birds”)
On an early Saturday morning, Janice led our enthusiastic participants to the Hunter Siding Wetland for some auditory bird sampling. Each 5 minute interval of silence allowed us to sharpen our listening skills as we sifted through the chorus of birds, trying to identify each species. This type of monitoring is part of a protocol that Janice is working to implement in BC. This protocol is similar to the Great Lakes Marsh Monitoring Program in Ontario, which began 18 years ago and has successfully identified trends in amphibian and bird populations, as well as, engaged hundreds of citizens with habitat conservation. In BC there is no comparable project that examines long term data for marsh bird populations, however, the need for such a project is certainly recognized. Janice is working towards starting this type of project to monitor marsh birds in a standardized method, which will allow for data comparison on long term scales. This project is being piloted by Canadian Wildlife Service under the Government of BC. Below is a list of birds that she inventoried over the weekend:
Butterflies & Moths – Janice Arndt
Lepidopterology – Greek lepido (“scale”) & pteron (“wing/feather”)
After our birding session, Janice led the group on a search for butterflies and moths within Hunter Siding. She discussed how butterflies are used as indicators of ecological health by examining the larvae diets and looking for signs of environmental pollution (ex. pesticides or invasive plants). Butterflies are also very sensitive to air temperature and have specific environmental living requirements. As well, they can be used as a proxy for determining change in atmospheric temperature – which is especially useful in times of climate change. Here is a list of the species that she found (which is impressive when considering the rainy weather):
Bats – Cori Lausen
Chiropterology – Greek cheir (“hand”) & pteron (“wing”)
For most of us – myself included – bats are an animal that we are not too acquainted or comfortable with. However, after listening to Cori Lausen’s presentation on bats and watching her do some bat monitoring, we have a deeper respect for their conservation and protection. Cori is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about bat biology and behaviour: she was one of the first people to monitor bats in southern Alberta during the winter.
Although people like Cori are incredibly committed to protecting bats, there is a growing epidemic that has devastated bat populations in the United States (with some caves having 100% mortality rates) and it has the potential to do the same in Canada. White Nose Syndrome has resulted in the deaths of over 6 million North American bats, which targets them during hibernation. In Canada, the disease has reached four provinces and has the potential to spread nationwide – and BC has the most to lose. As a province, we are fortunate enough to be the home of 16 species of bats, the highest bat diversity in Canada. If you’d like to read more, please visit Cori’s website here. Cori and her dedicated team found the following species over the weekend:
Plants – Evan McKenzie
Botany – Greek botane (“pasture, grass, or fodder”)
With his hand-lens ready, Evan came out to Hunter Siding to help us with plant identification (“Sedges have edges, rushes are round, grasses have nodes that grow to the ground“) and vegetation surveys. As well, Evan conducted several soil samples with the group. The soils showed repeated flooding events in Hunter Siding as well as a layer of volcanic ash! Evan inventoried over 100 flora species at both Hunter Siding and Bonanza Creek, to view a list of the found species click: BioBlitz Plant Inventory.
Amphibians – Jakob Dulisse
Herpetology – Greek herpeton (“creeping thing”)
Through captivating images and interesting facts, Jakob taught our group about the various species of amphibians that are found in the West Kootenay area. Since worldwide amphibian populations are declining, it is important to understand which species are at risk and how to protect their habitats. The United States has been monitoring amphibians for over a decade and have discovered that between 2002-2011 their amphibian populations have an average annual decline of 3.7%. However, as Jakob discussed, this type of long term monitoring is not established in BC and poses a major hurdle for determining population trends. This type of initiative can be conducted through projects that involve citizen science – using skills that are taught at our Wetlandkeepers courses.
An amphibian protection project that is being conducted in BC’s Central Interior is the Summit Lake Western Toad Project (otherwise known as “ToadFest”), an initiative that Jakob contributes to. Since BC has the majority of the world’s western toad (Anaxyrus boreas) population, we have a special responsibility to ensure their protection. Summit Lake is an active breeding area for western toads where females lay their eggs (up to 16,000 at once!), which emerge as tadpoles at the beginning of June. In early August, the tadpoles-turned-toadlets leave the water and head upland to find their new homes. However, due to the lake’s proximity to the busy Highway 6, many toadlets become roadkill. Fortunately, there are people like Jakob and the 500 individuals who attended last year’s ToadFest to help move the toadlets across the street (over 12,000 were moved in 2012)! If you’d like to see some of Jakob’s work (or his stunning photography) check out his website here. Here’s a list of the amphibians that were inventoried:
Invertebrates – Peter Wood
Entomology – Greek entomos (“insects “)
If you’re from the Kootenays, then the name Peter Wood may sound familiar. Peter is the president of the West Kootenay Naturalists Association, a member of the Slocan Pool Advisory Committee, and he received the Diamond Jubilee Medal Award from Selkirk College earlier this year – all while being an active member in his community. His immense knowledge and passion guided us through the identification of the invertebrates (which can sometimes be a challenging task) that were found in the wetlands. Here’s a list of what was found:
Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory – Ryan Durand
As mentioned earlier, the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program’s Riparian Action Plan has identified the Slocan Valley as a focal area for conservation and protection. However – as the saying goes – you can’t protect something if you don’t know that it exists. One of the first steps towards identifying priority areas involves mapping fields and classifying them based on their environmental health. This allows experts – like Ryan Durand – to identify fragile ecosystems and refer to these maps for land-use planning and management. Ryan is the founder of Taara Environmental, an organization that is dedicated to inventorying terrestrial and aquatic habitats, as well as the wildlife that lives within them. He uses GIS techniques to delineate these areas and he incorporates them into a Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory (SEI), which highlights areas in need of protection and allows researchers to monitor environmental changes over time. This work can be time-consuming, but it does have rewarding payoffs. Recently, Taara created a baseline inventory and management plan for the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) to help develop a management plan for the 380 acre Daphne Ogilvie Nature Reserve – which is home to over 90 birds and other species, as well as, many at-risk ecosystems. If you would like to view examples of SEI or to look at some interactive maps, the Columbia River Basin has compiled a Biodiversity Atlas and can be viewed here. Or if you’d like to read more about Taara Environmental’s projects, click here.
CABIN Protocol – Jennifer Yeow & Verena Shaw
CABIN – Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network
Jennifer Yeow and Verena Shaw came to our event to teach participants about the CABIN protocol and aquatic invertebrate sampling techniques. The CABIN protocol is a monitoring program that assess the ecological integrite of Canada’s freshwater ecosystem. Maintained by Environment Canada, the program allows for collaborative action to scientific assessments using national standards.
To check out more great photos from the weekend,visit our Flickr page here! To access the summary report of the BioBlitz, please click: BioBlitz Report (Updated July 19). To read about the Slocan Valley Wetlands Working Group, which was organised as a follow-up meeting to the New Denver BioBlitz and Wetlandkeepers, click here. Graphics provided by Eryne Donahue.
Special thanks to Irene Manley of the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program, Margaret Hartley and Slocan Lake Stewardship Society, Richard Johnson of the Slocan Lake Research Centre, Marcy Mahr of the Know Your Watershed Program, the Hills Community & Fire Hall, David DeRosa of Teck Resources Limited, and to all of our participants for making this such an outstanding workshop! We look forward to hearing from all of you in future.
Thank you to our partners for all of your generous support:
And thanks to our sponsors for making this event possible: