Vital People: Metchosin Foundation volunteers doing ground-breaking research

Watch The volunteer-run Metchosin Foundation is a community foundation with a focus on environmental issues. Tess van Straaten reports.

Metchosin Foundation volunteer Shannon Berch is a retired scientist and researcher who specializes in the study of fungi.

She’s volunteering with the Metchosin Foundation on a new citizen science project looking at Garry Oak ecosystems.

“The work had never been done up here,” Shannon says. “This is the northern range of this oak species so we’re very curious to know what fungi are associated with Garry Oak on Vancouver Island.”

The ground-breaking research is the continuation of an earlier project Shannon did and they’re already making surprising discoveries.

“It’s very early days yet, but if anything like what found thus far, we are finding species that are new to science that have never been described before that are growing with our Garry Oaks,” she says.

The volunteer-run Metchosin Foundation is a community foundation with a focus on environmental issues.

“Our mission and our vision are both focused around environmental stewardship, environmental awareness and education and ultimately, environmental protection,” explains Morgan Yates, who’s on the Metchosin Foundation’s board of directors.

The foundation’s bioblitz biodiversity project is the second-longest bioblitz in B.C. — running for about a decade to inventory and count local species.

“We’ve identified in Metchosin over 3,200 different species, that’s fungi, plants, animals,” says long-time volunteer Kem Luther.

People can upload their observations to i-Naturalist and the hope is that by getting people engaged, their love of nature will grow.

“One of the things we find when we focus on these bioblitz efforts is when people know about the nature in their community, they start to really want to care for it,” Morgan says.

For Kem Luther, the outreach the Metchosin Foundation does with schools to develop curriculum and support materials is especially rewarding.

“We all realize that those of us that have an interest in the land, its use and conserving it, if we can’t pass on this love of our land to the next generation, all of our interest is for nothing,” Kem explains.

Shannon Berch just hopes the work they’re doing will inspire others to get involved, give back to their community, and make a difference.

“It’s very exciting and I think it should hopefully encourage people who are thinking about volunteering, boy there’s a lot you can contribute!” she says.

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Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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