Today’s post was brought to you by the natural heritage education staff at Lake Superior Provincial Park.
Last July, Lake Superior Provincial Park conducted a bioblitz in an effort to identify as many species as possible within the park boundaries. That is, 160,810 hectares of parkland and water, teeming with life!
Our mission: learn about our park and teach its visitors how to be citizen scientists.
Why a bioblitz?
Have you ever wondered why a hiking trail was created or why a campground was put where it is? Although the design of a park may seem like a mystery, it is actually the product of a Park Management Plan.
This is one of our natural heritage educators discussing caddis fly larvae, a common find in Lake Superior’s spring ponds, ponds and streams.
A Park Management Plan is based, in part, on information and research collected on the flora, fauna, natural and cultural resources of a park.
These plans help ensure that any potential impacts of park development are fully assessed and addressed before construction begins. They also ensure that trails are planned to minimally interfere with ecosystems while still providing high-quality wilderness recreation opportunities.
These plans provide the direction needed to manage a park efficiently. And how can we continue to ensure park management is top-notch? We have to know the species in the park!
To help us with this, we asked some regional experts to visit our park and search everywhere for as many species as possible. Naturalists from the Sault Ste. Marie area came to assist in this mission.
We were very lucky to have birding expert Carter Dorscht. Carter offered three bird walks to teach campers how to identify the different birds that reside on Lake Superior. Additionally, Carter recorded 39 different species, including a seasonal rarity, the red-necked grebe! Our second expert, a forester from Sault Ste. Marie, identified 57 species, including birds.
You can be an expert too!
But the park staff wanted to do something else: we wanted to teach campers and visitors that they, too, can be experts.
This furry friend was on the back deck of our Visitor Center. The moth Polyphemus even showed us his fake eyes!
While our visiting experts were in the field, park naturalists conducted a scavenger hunt at the Visitor Center for families camping in the park. The scavenger hunt was designed to allow visitors to learn about the biodiversity of Lake Superior and encourage them to get out and explore on their own.
Spring Peepers are some of the smallest but loudest frogs in the park.
When visitors arrived, they were given a passport and began their adventure at a station designed to teach them how to use field guides to help identify various flora and fauna.
What better way to discover the many adaptations of beavers than to become one yourself?
Then they went out to discover the amazing beaver adaptations (and dressed up as beavers themselves!).
Beavers are important ecosystem engineers. Building dams can lead to the creation of new wetland habitats. Visitors were then encouraged to head to a nearby wetland to see how many species they could spot.
After discovering a diversity of wetland species, visitors explored the complexities of food webs and the importance of biodiversity to an ecosystem.
The adventure of discovery continues!
Their next stop was a station dedicated exclusively to trees. Visitors learned about tree identification and tried out bark and leaf rubbings.
To conclude the day, the Sault Ste. Marie Invasive Species Center spoke about invasive insects and the risks they pose to ecosystems.
A pine sawyer beetle resting on a flower. These are common in July in Lake Superior Provincial Park.
Once they completed their passport, visitors received a park map showing the many places in Lake Superior Provincial Park to explore.
Introducing… new citizen scientists!
After participating in these activities, visitors were ready to participate in the bioblitz and become citizen scientists. Visitors left with a greater ability to identify species in our park and other natural areas.
A blue flag iris in full bloom
As visitors become more confident in identifying species and contributing to the park’s species inventory, increased data better informs park managers and improves the overall health and sustainability of the park’s ecosystem.
Thank you to the experts and park visitors who participated in the 2018 Lake Superior bioblitz!
To help celebrate the 125th anniversary of Ontario Parks, parks across the province are hosting 13 stewardship programs to help protect biodiversity in provincial parks.