Dr. Matt Whalen was a Principal Investigator for the 2022 False Creek BioBlitz in False Creek, Vancouver, Canada. A BioBlitz is a rapid assessment of the living things in a given area. Techniques such as ground surveys, remote-operated vehicle video footage, marine settlement plates, light traps, plankton tows, and eDNA were used to catalog many different kinds of life around the body of water. This information will let us know how biodiversity in this location has rebounded from its recent industrial past, and continues to change through time.

My name is Matt Whalen I am a postdoctoral scholar at University of British Columbia and the Hakai Institute and during this BioBlitz event that's happening this week I'm one of the principal investigators for the science side of it. We're out here today right on the edge of False Creek here in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. A BioBlitz in general is an intensive survey of life in a particular location in a short amount of time. It's this idea [that] you send people out, it's a flurry of activity and you try to build a species list of all the organisms that you can find in the region. For this BioBlitz of False Creek we're using a variety of different techniques to assess and quantify biodiversity in the area, from the bottom of the seafloor up to the terrestrial habitat where you see us sitting now.

Right now there's a boat that's out there with a remotely operated vehicle, an ROV, that's going to be deployed here in front of Science World and out near the mouth of False Creek. That will enable us to get video footage of what's living right on the bottom of the sea floor. On the land side we just completed a survey of birds around the sea wall of False Creek and we got approximately six to eight hundred bird observations with the help of two different teams. Right around the margin of the shoreline we have a couple of projects to look at organisms that are living in the water but [are] close to the surface. We put something out called settlement plates. They're just small tiles that hang off of a dock at about a meter underwater. We let them soak for a couple months and things naturally recruit and grow onto those surfaces. We can come back and see how many species there are in the amount of time that they've had to grow. Then lastly we've we've sent a boat out to collect samples of water that we filter and then take back to the lab [to] extract any fragments of DNA that are in the water. We can make a list of of all the species just from about a one litre jug of water, surprisingly, with a technique we call eDNA or environmental DNA. We can catalog life across the Tree of Life from bacteria all the way up to the larger fish that we see here in False Creek. For instance some divers recently saw spiny dogfish, which is a type of shark, and we fully expect to be able to pick up a signal of their DNA in the water.

We're really excited about the possibility for BioBlitzes like this one here in False Creek to not only collect vital information about the status of biodiversity, but also to engage with the public towards fostering ocean literacy and inspiring and engaging the next generation of stewards and maybe even future scientists who might come back to places like False Creek and be able to tell us how biodiversity is changing into the future.

This BioBlitz of False Creek is is possible because of several partnerships that we've engaged with, involving the Hakai Institute, False Creek Friends Society, the City of Vancouver is also a core partner, Nature Canada, Vancouver Maritime Museum, Biologica Limited, the Emerald Sea Protection Society, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, and the University of British Columbia.


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