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Royal BC Museum Scientists presenting Flathead science

By Contributor
January 22nd, 2014

The Flathead River Valley is well known for charismatic mega fauna such as grizzly bears and moose, but, over the past few years teams of researchers have discovered it’s also home to dozens of uncommon, tiny critters such as bugs, bats and birds.

The discovery of a brand new spider species, the first Canadian record of a rare spider, several rare butterflies, an unusual fish species found only in the Flathead and the first B.C. sighting in 100 years of a Herrington’s Fingernail Clam are some of the significant science findings from two years of BioBlitzes.

The August 2012 BioBlitz was conducted by 10 scientists, including six from the Royal B.C. Museum, and focused on documenting a stunning variety of rare, at-risk and extensive invertebrates from clams to butterflies to spiders. The second Flathead River Valley BioBlitz, which took place this past summer focused on Birds and Bats.

“The BioBlitz results prove that B.C.’s Flathead has remarkable biodiversity not just in mammals and plants but also in a stunning variety of smaller organisms that are essential for a healthy ecosystem,” said Wildsight Southern Rockies Program Manager Ryland Nelson

“Scientists did not find a single introduced species of spider or mollusc, which is very unusual,” said Bob Peart, Executive Director of Sierra Club BC. “They found 71 spider species, and 14 of these findings are considered scientifically significant.”

At this past summers BioBlitz nine species of birds were recorded that are either classified as rare regionally or as “declining and rare” on the American Bird Conservancy watch list. In total, over 115 bird species were recorded over the 10 day blitz.

Other findings include the discovery of 10 of Canada’s 18 bat species and five small invertebrates considered rare — including the Herrington’s fingernail clam.

“It’s even smaller than the size of your fingernail,” said Melissa Frey, curator of invertebrates with the Royal B.C. Museum. “That’s a species that hasn’t been documented in this area of the world, in British Columbia, for more than 100 years. “That was a very exciting find,” she added.

Want to learn more? Wildsight will be hosting a presentation in conjunction with Sierra Club BC and the Royal BC Museum, A Wild Life in the Flathead Valley, at the College of the Rockies Lecture Theatre in Cranbrook on January 22nd at 7 p.m.  They will then move on to Fernie on Thursday January 23rd at 7 p.m. at the Arts Station.

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