CHEK Upside: Environmental group launches free educational campaign on Salish Sea biodiversity

CHEK Upside: Environmental group launches free educational campaign on Salish Sea biodiversity
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With minor changes due to COVID-19, The Georgia Strait Alliance have moved forward with their annual BioBlitz campaign.

Kirsten Mathison walks on the shore of Esquimalt Lagoon searching for something new. With her smartphone out, she’s using the iNaturalist application to take photos and learn.

“All of the observations that people take through that app are used by scientists to study population dynamics and just have a better understanding of the biodiversity around the world,” said Mathison, the Public Engagement Coordinator with the Georgia Strait Alliance.

Mathison and her team at the Georgia Strait Alliance, a non-profit environmental organization with representatives on Vancouver Island and the lower mainland, are encouraging people to get out, explore and take photos of the Salish Sea’s biodiversity. It’s all part of the environmental group’s annual BioBlitz campaign.

BioBlitz is a worldwide campaign to help scientists source information from the public on various living species. The Georgia Straight Alliance puts an emphasis on the surrounding waters of British Columbia, namely the Salish Sea. The campaign launched July 3rd and many people across the province have taken part.

“Sixteen hundred observations and five hundred unique species identified,” said Mathison in regards to submissions made to the iNaturalist application.

This year’s BioBlitz also features a free online speaker series with topics ranging from indigenous culture to southern resident orcas.

“Unfortunately there’s only 72 of them left,” said Tessa Danelesko, Biodiversity Program Lead with the Georgia Strait Alliance.

“But typically at this time of year they spend a lot of time in the Salish Sea so there are opportunities for sightings, and even better you can actually often see them from land when they’re spending time onshore waters.”

The speaking series moved online this year due to precautions regarding COVID-19.

“We really wanted to find a way to bring that educational component to the experience,” said Mathison.

The Georgia Strait Alliance estimates there are 37 species of mammals, 172 species of birds, and more than 3000 species of invertebrates that call the surrounding waters of Vancouver Island their home. Mathison says the aim of the campaign is to encourage people to learn, appreciate and care for their environment.

“I hope that people have an opportunity to connect with nature and just learn more about all of the amazing animals and plants that we share the space with…..Anytime people have an opportunity to form connections with their environment and the creatures they share their space with they will become more likely to want to conserve it and protect it and just be aware of what’s at stake,” said Mathison.

For more information on the BioBlitz and how to access the free speaker series visit

Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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