VIU Bioblitz Will Contribute To Long-Term Look At Biodiversity

VIU student researchers got into the woods to practice their species identification skills before the first annual VIU BioBlitz, April 17. The BioBlitz planning committee is working hard to register 100 ‘citizen-scientists’ to join in the fun.

March 23, 2016 - 2:30pm

BioBlitz will bring students and community together through citizen science

A group of volunteers and student researchers will be getting their hands dirty in an effort to identify a wide range of plants and birds during Vancouver Island University’s first BioBlitz. The event is scheduled to get underway on April 17 at Milner Gardens and Woodland as part of the 2016 Brant Wildlife Festival.

VIU student researchers have been working hard to get everything ready for BioBlitz and even though it’s a pilot event – they’re expecting up to 100 community members to contribute to what they hope will become a long term inventory of the species and biodiversity found in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region, a UNESCO designated biosphere reserve.

“What a BioBlitz looks like is a bunch of teams that go out in nature with data collection forms, writing down every single species they can find in a pre-selected area,” said co-leader, Sarah Lumley. “The event is meant to be fun and get people outdoors while also giving us a snapshot of the plants and birds in the area.”

At the end of the day, all the species lists collected by volunteers will be entered into a combined species inventory that will be made available to the public.

“Once we have a database started we can build on the inventory each year, and start adding more locations to get a better picture of biodiversity in the region,” said Lumley.

The BioBlitz planning team consists of more than 10 students from various VIU departments including Forestry, Recreation and Tourism Management, Community Planning, Geographic Information Systems, and Geography.

Forest Resource Technology professor Michel Vallee is the VIU faculty advisor. The event is supported by VIU’s Research and Scholarly Activity Office, the Nature Trust of British Columbia, and VIU’s Milner Gardens and Woodland. Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute’s (MABRRI) Research Coordinator, Graham Sakaki, is co-leading with Lumley, who is also a Research Coordinator with MABRII.

MABRRI is the research engine of the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region (MABR). BioBlitz is part of the institute’s vision for community-based, student-led research to connect students with the community through various collaborations and research projects.

“The BioBlitz combines education, outreach, and research – all important components of the MABR’s UNESCO mandate,” said Sakaki. “It’s about getting people interested in their environment and offering hands on learning and research opportunities. We’re calling it a ‘citizen science event’ and we’re excited to see how things turn out for this first MABR BioBlitz.”

While the BioBlitz is meant to be fun, Lumley emphasizes community members will be contributing to real research on species in the region. The work done during the event will contribute to a better understanding of the area’s biodiversity – something that has real-world implications.

“Each year you might find fewer species or discover something new that wasn’t on any of the lists from the year before,” said Lumley. “If you find something new and it’s invasive, that could be bad for the area but if it’s native to the area and is coming back, that’s good news. Over the years you get to know how things change and you can use the information to frame research questions for potential projects.”

VIU’s Research and Scholarly Activity Department supported the event through its Community Engagement Accelerator (CEA) grant program, which provides funding to projects that build and strengthen community engagement in research priority areas.

“Events like the BioBlitz are excellent examples of community engagement, which is why we were excited to get behind it,” said Associate Vice-President of Scholarship and Community Engagement, Trevor Davis. “By including members of the public and planning it as an annual event, long-term relationships can be built. It brings VIU faculty and students together with community members, non-profit organizations and local businesses to conduct research and to me, that’s pretty cool.”

On the day of the event, participants will be split into teams of five. The first group of teams will Blitz in the morning and the next in the afternoon. Each individual team will be accompanied by a VIU student volunteer and a species identification expert.

“The key to making this BioBlitz successful is the number of participants that sign up. It is a fun activity for families, seniors and students alike, so we’re really encouraging people to register and fill up those spots,” said Lumley.

To be a part of BioBlitz and to register go to or visit

- 30-


MEDIA CONTACT:  Dane Gibson, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6288 E: T: @viunews  

Tags: Research

Sign up for our VIU news and experts email