June 1st, 2023

Galiano ‘BioBlitz’ is a Hit! Exploring the Amazing Biodiversity of Galiano Island, BC, Canada

Galiano ‘BioBlitz’ is a Hit! Exploring the Amazing Biodiversity of Galiano Island, BC, Canada
At a light trap demonstration in Retreat Cove on Galiano Island, Sentinels of Change project lead Heather Earle talks about the larval crabs, worms, and other plankton animals that were captured in the light trap. Photo by Kelly Fretwell

This past weekend (May 26th - 28th, 2023), a ‘BioBlitz’ was held on Galiano Island, BC, Canada, hosted by the Institute for Multidisciplinary Ecological Research in the Salish Sea (IMERSS), the Hakai Institute, the Galiano Conservancy Association, and other community partners. Organized under the banner of the UN Ocean Decade endorsed Project ‘the Northeast Pacific Biodiversity Action Network (or ‘BioActNet’), and the Marine Life 2030 program, the event brought locals and visitors out to explore the terrestrial, freshwater, and marine biodiversity of Galiano Island, a southern Gulf Island consisting of a wide diversity of habitats from coastal forests to wetlands to sandstone and pebble beaches. The event was a brilliant success! Read on to learn more about the event, and some of the unique species that were observed and identified.

What is a ‘BioBlitz’? A ‘BioBlitz’ is an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time. Scientists with taxonomic expertise work alongside community members, families, students, and others to get a snapshot of an area's biodiversity. On Galiano, previous BioBlitzes were held in 2017 and 2019, with a focus on terrestrial environments. The 2019 Blitz did include a marine component, with dive teams and dedicated rockfish surveys. This 2023 BioBlitz aimed to build off of previous Blitzes, documenting terrestrial biodiversity as well as freshwater and marine biodiversity. 

The event was attended by over 100 people including keen community members, experts, and students. Areas explored and surveyed included Hunterston Farm and Retreat Cove - Xetthecum. Observations made during this Blitz are being included by observers in iNaturalist - a nature App whose purpose is ‘to build a global community of 100 million naturalists by 2030, to connect people to nature and advance biodiversity science and conservation’. For some harder to identify species, tissue samples were collected for DNA barcoding, a method of specimen identification where genes are used to identify species. These specimens, once identified, will be included in the Barcode of Life Database. Biodiversity observations are also feeding into an ongoing project called the Xetthecum Eco-cultural Mapping Pilot Project, an inclusive participatory mapping project where Indigenous ways of knowing and Western ecological science are being integrated into an ecocultural map of Xetthecum (Retreat Cove), Laughlin Lake, and Hwta’loonèts (Grieg Creek) on Galiano Island, with a focus on Hul'q'umi'num' species names and place-based stories.

Galiano ‘BioBlitz’ is a Hit! Exploring the Amazing Biodiversity of Galiano Island, BC, Canada
This spaghetti worm, pictured here in a petri dish, was one of the many subtidal specimens collected by Hakai Institute divers for closer identification during the bioblitz. Photo by Amelia Nimmon

What are the results? So far, over 1,600 observations have been entered into the iNaturalist Galiano BioBlitz 2023 project (observations are still rolling in!) and over 600 species have been identified by close to 50 observers and 180 identifiers. Some of the most observed marine species were sea cauliflower (Leathesia difformis), the ochre sea star (Pisaster ochraceus), and the aggregating anemone (Anthopleura elgantissima). 

Other events that were held as part of the BioBlitz included a presentation by Oceanwise on their Send a Sighting Save a Whale campaign;community water sampling with Swim Drink Fish to investigate what impact the Fraser River might have on the water quality as far away as Galiano Island (roughly 40km); and a presentation fromHakai Institute’s Sentinels of Change project on theirLight Traps initiative focused on Dungeness Crab (Metacarcinus magister) in the Salish Sea. IMERSS was also around all weekend to discuss with visitors their many ongoing community research projects, such as the Diatoms of the Salish Sea.

Galiano ‘BioBlitz’ is a Hit! Exploring the Amazing Biodiversity of Galiano Island, BC, Canada
Left: Hakai Institute research technicians Tyrel Froese and Amelia Nimmon collect plankton with a fine mesh tow net. Right: Hakai Institute divers collect invertebrates and algae from below the surface for further identification and photos. Photos by Angeleen Olson

IMERSS is keen to stay in touch with all participants regarding their findings and to share news about the outcomes of the surveys to a wider audience. Contact IMERSS and request to be added to their newsletter for future updates, including  the results of the BioBlitz! And join iNaturalist to contribute your own biodiversity sightings to a growing network of community and expert biodiversity enthusiasts.

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