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Oct. 21, 2021 | Thursday
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BioBlitz offered hands-on environmental learning Saturday
Glenys Robinson, a commercial bee keeping program at Niagara College, and Joanna Paul, a graduate from the program, during BioBlitz Saturday. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

Snakes and turtles and bees, oh my.

Niagara College took BioBlitzing to another level on Saturday, adding a range of free activities, games and prizes to the family-friendly full-day event.

Typically, a BioBlitz is a comprehensive biological survey recording all living species in a designated area over a set time-frame. The college’s blitz took the core concept a step further by including hands-on experiences and inviting the 150 people in attendance to interact with and learn about a variety of local species.

Now in its fourth year, the spring BioBlitz is hosted by the college’s Office of Sustainability in the teaching greenhouse, but is mostly run by the students, said Taryn Wilkinson, a sustainability adviser at the school.

“They’re the ones that help the staff pull it together. It’s very much a student-run organization.”

The faculty tackle the administrative duties, leaving the planning to student volunteers who engage the community, look for experts, organize activities and handle the marketing. “We rely heavily on that,” Wilkinson said.

She added that the program is fortunate the students are willing to give their time to help with the event.

“This is co-curricular, so they do this as a volunteer. We recognize the importance of building those skills that happen outside of the classroom, that help complement the more technical academic work inside the classroom. This is very much volunteer.”

This year the blitz saw more families and community members than previous years, Wilkinson said. The department tried to make the event more family-friendly, she said.

“We think it’s really important to use this as an opportunity to engage our community, to showcase different components of our campus.”

Scales Nature Park, a conservation centre in Oro-Medonte, Ont., with a focus on reptiles and amphibians and their habitats, was on-site throughout the day, adding to the applied learning aspect. Visitors had the opportunity to hold and learn about a variety of local species of snakes and turtles.

Representatives from the college’s commercial beekeeping program were also on hand, providing an inside look at beehives and the work beekeepers do daily.

“We partnered with our Student Administrative Council, and (lunch) was provided in the student armoury,” Wilkinson said.

The BioBlitz is run to coincide with Earth Day, which this year is on April 22, “to really bring people on campus and to showcase what we have here and get our students involved.”

Wilkinson said the college plans to continue hosting the BioBlitz, as well as a smaller scale blitz that is planned for the fall.