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This is ag: Local agricultural campus to host BioBlitz

The Dalhousie Agricultural Campus in Bible Hill is hosting a BioBlitz this week. The event surveys biological diversity within a specific area and is open to the public.
The Dalhousie Agricultural Campus in Bible Hill is hosting a BioBlitz this week. The event surveys biological diversity within a specific area and is open to the public. - Contributed

BY COLETTE WYLLIE

The Dalhousie Agricultural Campus is blitzing out.

On Friday, the Faculty of Agriculture will host an inaugural BioBlitz on the Bible Hill based campus. Bring a sturdy pair of footwear to the BioBlitz headquarters in the new Student Learning Commons (upper floor of the MacRae Library) for the day-long event. Headquarters will be staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

A Bioblitz is a rapid survey of the biological diversity within a fixed area and time. Using the platform “iNaturalist”, students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members will be asked to record, inventory and manage observations of the biodiversity found on campus.

“It can be easy to overlook the incredible array of biodiversity that surrounds us,” said Dr. Paul Manning. “Our local environments are teeming with life: from the diminutive flowers of the Lesser Centaury growing from sidewalk cracks, to the impressive red plumage of northern cardinals calling from the tops of trees. If we don't stop to notice will we realize if their populations decline, or disappear altogether?”

The agricultural campus is home to a variety of different ecosystems: rivers, forest, agricultural land, meadows and more. This event will encourage participants to explore areas of campus which they do not typically frequent. Interacting with experts to learn about the names, behaviours and ecological roles of the organisms living on campus will hopefully encourage students and community members to become better stewards of, and advocates for, the variety of ecosystems amongst which we work, study and live.

The idea for a BioBlitz came from a friendly challenge issued by Dr. Lara Gibson, an instructor with the Faculty of Science. She and her colleagues successfully organized a BioBlitz on the Studley campus in 2016. Their efforts resulted in 739 observations of 286 species.

This fall, the campus community is participating in a friendly challenge to see which campus can generate the most records (i.e. number of observations) and the more comprehensive species inventory (i.e. the most unique species). For example, among the Bicentennial Botanical Garden exists large, extensive horticultural collections and an array of habitats including rivers, forest fragments, agricultural fields, pollinator meadows, aquaculture facilities, campus barns and more.

“We are optimistic that we will find all sorts of interesting species that call our campus home,” Manning said.

The iNaturalist platform is quickly gaining popularity world-wide. Currently, there are more than 12 million observations of more than 150,000 species logged on this platform. While participating in this activity, students and community members will be introduced to an international community of naturalists and learn the basics of a user-friendly web-based tool for observing and recording biodiversity.

The event is open to the community and there is no charge to participate. To get started, download the iNaturalist app to your mobile device or check it out on a browser at www.inaturalist.org.

For more information about using iNaturalist and this specific project, visit www.dal.ca/agriculture/bioblitz.

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