Becoming an Outdoors Woman: Wetlands Edition

Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) is a program the BC Wildlife Federation started in 1997. With over 80 participants, the first BOW weekend was a great success, and this event has continued to run up to three times a year reaching over 20 communities throughout the province and training over 1000 participants over the years.

This weekend-long event provides an opportunity for up to 50 women to get away from the city and learn outdoor skills at an all-inclusive camp, where they could tailor the workshops they attend depending on their interests. This year, the event was held at Camp Whonnock in Maple Ridge from May 24th – 26th, 2019. During this eventful weekend, participants were taught how to clean wild game, use chainsaws and axes, canoe, learn archery, use a GPS, and more!

This year Neil Fletcher of the Wetlands Education Program was invited to teach wetland ecology and wetland mapping. This wetland workshop included a condensed lesson on wetland classification, how to use a GPS unit to map wetlands, and included learning about aquatic invertebrates. To begin the day, the participants shared their interest in wetlands and how they can use this information in their lives. Participants included teachers wanting to add ecological and environmental aspects to their curriculum, women with basic botany skills wanting to enhance their knowledge, and women interested in GPS use and advancing their outdoor skills and knowledge. We even had a future Wetland Steward from Alaska who wanted to be able to identify and properly protect the wetlands near her property!

In the classroom, the participants learned the three key ingredients of a wetland: amount of water, the type of soil, and the type of vegetation. During the workshop the group was lucky enough to try some delicious Labrador Tea that Neil brewed from local plants, and can be seen in the photo below. Labrador tea is an obligate wetland species, meaning it is only found in wetlands, and is often found in bogs.

In the field, Neil taught the participants how to use a handheld GPS unit, including how to create a way-point, map pathways and use their compass. Equipped with these new skills, the women competed to find a special prize by entering given UTM coordinates into their GPS and following the compass.

After a short trek through the unmarked forest, the group found a patch of the sweet-smelling Labrador tea that was enjoyed earlier in the day, and just a few steps further, the group found themselves in the beautiful wetlands surrounding Whonnock Lake.

Using the new knowledge gained from Neil’s presentation, the group was able to identify many different types of wetlands by examining the soil, vegetation, and water present. Surrounding Whonnock lake, the participants identified shallow open-water wetlands, fens, and bogs. The group was then split into teams to look for aquatic invertebrates using the “pond-dip” method- the very scientific method of dipping a net into the water to catch whatever could be found. All kinds of neat creatures were found, including the exoskeleton of a dragonfly, salamander eggs, and various aquatic insects.

After exploring the wetlands and all the life found in and around them, the group headed back to the camp through the unmarked forest using their newly acquired GPS skills. The curiosity and passion that each individual brought to this workshop made it a wonderful, exciting, and educational experience for the whole group.

For any ladies who are interested in or want to learn more about the outdoors, want to try new activities and improve skills, or find a group of like-minded women, this is an amazing program to look into. Without the hard work and efforts of all the volunteers, organizers, and instructors, this experiential event would not be possible. A special thank you to Joann Bosch and all of those dedicated volunteers of the Mission & District Rod and Gun Club who work so hard to put on this fantastic event. As well, thank you to our sponsors, Wildlife Habitat Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada who made it possible for our team to share our passion for wetlands with these wonderful women.

For a brief overview of the whole weekend, see this post from the BCWF. More moments of the wetlands education portion of this weekend can be seen in the album below.

Wetlands Program Assistant Alana

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