Get outside for science, says the Nature Conservancy of Canada

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is hoping you’ll get outside this weekend, in the name of science. 

The NCC is holding its annual event, Big Backyard BioBlitz project, which aims to get people to take photos of the plants, animals and insects in their regions and upload them to the organization’s online crowd-sourced species inventory. 

The idea is to help compile critical information on species populations and locations for scientists and conservation planners, who can use this information to plan future protection and restoration efforts across the country. 

Andrew Holland is with the conservancy. He said anyone can participate in the project — you don’t even have to know the name of the plant or animal to submit a photo.

“The app is user friendly. It will give you some tips or look-alikes you can pick from to help identify it,” he said. 

A colourful, orange and black, monarch butterfly sits on a pink flowered plant.
The monarch butterfly was recently added to the international endangered species list. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Helping inform conservation efforts

Holland said once the photos are uploaded, scientists will review them to confirm the sightings uploaded onto the app. 

“It could help identify the range and distribution of our native species but it also can help isolate infestations of certain invasive plants, shrubs and beetles, which can help inform conservation efforts and how municipalities and other groups have to control and contain the spread of these,” Holland said. 

In 2021, Holland said that the inventory saw 6,500 participants gather more than 36,000 observations across the country. Once participants register on the website, they can access a step-by-step manual on how to take a photo for the project and how to upload it. 

For those who are participating, Holland said, he’s hoping they might pay special attention to sightings of the monarch butterfly this time around, as the migratory butterfly was recently added to the list of international endangered species list as a result of dwindling numbers. 

“In many parts of Canada we’ve grown up seeing that big orange butterfly in our trees and parks and gardens,” he said.

Holland says the information gathered over the weekend can be used to identify important habitat for protecting at-risk species, including the monarch butterfly. 

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