Spring is here! Birds are returning from the south; butterflies, frogs, and flowers are appearing. If you are out in nature and find something interesting, share it with others — and record it for posterity — using the new and improved features of the Renfrew County Biotabase.
The Biotabase was developed and is maintained through a partnership between the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists, the Ottawa River Institute, and Bird Studies Canada. It already contains over 10,000 records of plants and animals found in Renfrew County.
“The Renfrew County Biotabase is a great record of the wide variety of life in our area. Local naturalists are actively exchanging information on when and where species occur. We’ve added new tools so that participants can easily retrieve their own data, find records of individual species, and map species locations” explains Robin Cunningham, Biotabase coordinator and Pembroke Area Field Naturalists member.
The Biotabase is designed to include species from all taxonomic groups. Last summer’s Bioblitz, organized by the Four Seasons Conservancy in Deep River, attracted expert taxonomists who added new records for lesser-known groups such as mosses. To date, most species records are for better-known groups such as birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and flowering plants. The Biotabase includes species lists from group trips organized by local naturalists’ clubs, but the majority of entries have been contributed by individuals.
“The results demonstrate how people can make important scientific contributions while getting out and enjoying nature,” says Ole Hendrickson, President of the Ottawa River Institute. “We were happy to work with the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists and Bird Studies Canada on these improvements. We are pleased with the results, and are grateful to ORI members whose donations paid for them.”
“You can start by observing species right in your neighbourhood,” explains Jean Brereton of the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists. “Even if you know only a few common birds and flowers, it is scientifically valuable to record when you first see them in the spring. We’re hoping some Renfrew County schools become new Biotabase sites and start making entries.”
Jean adds, “We’d really like to have more data on the Monarch butterfly. This used to be a common species, but there are concerns that numbers are declining because of habitat loss.”
The Biotabase was conceived by Jean’s partner, Pembroke Area Field Naturalists club member Chris Michener, who passed away in 2011. Chris was always very generous with his time, leading numerous group outings, and patiently showing participants how to recognize key features that distinguish one species from another. Chris loved all species, from snow fleas to eagles. It is a tribute to his vision that the Renfrew County Biotabase continues to grow and attract new participants.
Biotabase entries become a permanent record, maintained for future generations and shared globally. To start entering data, register at “create new login” on the Biotabase website, and check the users’ guide in the “resources” section. Coordinator Robin Cunningham oversees registration and data entry. Only registered participants can submit data. Registering gives you access to the new and enhanced functions for reviewing and summarizing data. The Biotabase can be accessed through the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists website or directly.
For more information please email Robin Cunningham or call (613) 732-8402.