© Guardian photo by Mary MacKay
Janette Gallant, outreach education officer with Parks Canada, Lucy Kirby, six, second from left, her sister, Hannah, nine, and four-year-old brother Ben check out one of three traps that were set at a freshwater pond Bioblitz station at Cavendish Grove in the hopes of capturing a live American eel.
To many, one dragonfly-like flying insect looks pretty much like the other.
However, after participating in the fourth annual Bioblitz day at Prince Edward Island National Park last week, one nine-year-old girl from Cornwall had her eyes opened to this Odonata order.
"I saw a damselfly. I didn't even know damselflies existed!" says an amazed Hannah Kirby, who was at Bioblitz with her mom and three of her siblings.
Bioblitz is a national program that is presented free of charge by various Parks Canada outreach officers and interpreters in various locations across Canada.
"It's just a really good opportunity to talk about science and the research that's done in the park and what's in the park. It's also a great way to explore the park," says Janette Gallant, outreach education officer with Parks Canada on P.E.I.
Being that each park has its own unique features, the program is tailored to fit with what ecosystems it specifically has to offer visitors.
"It's very much tailored to each place. Every national park makes its own activities," Gallant says.
"It's a bit of a unique program because we have ecologists who work alongside the interpreters as well so they're presenting the work that they do in the park."
In P.E.I. National Park there were four stations set up at Cavendish Grove: wetlands, freshwater, forest and beach, all of which were within easy walking distance of each other on the clearly marked trail system.
"Every station represents an ecosystem and for each ecosystem we're highlighting a plant and an animal," says Ocel Dauphinais-Matheson, heritage presenter with Parks Canada who, along with other Parks Canada staff, was manning the orientation tent at the entrance to the former Rainbow Valley site.
Marram grass and the piping plover were the focus at the beach where Julie-Lynn Zahavich, who is a piping plover specialist with Island Nature Trust, was also on hand to share information about this endangered shorebird.
In the forest the attention was on warblers and sugar maple.
For the wetlands it was cattails and dragon and damselflies, and at the freshwater pond it was submerged aquatic plants and the American eel, which is an at-risk species.
At the freshwater station, there was a heightened excitement as the Riley children hauled up one of three live traps that were set out to capture the slippery star of Bioblitz show.
"We're hoping we find an eel today. So far no luck but we have found lots of minnows and larger fish as well," Gallant says.
"The American eel is a species at risk but it's one that's found in our freshwater pond and also it's very special to the Mi'kmaq people as well. It's part of their culture as well.
It's something that traditionally they've hunted, either for food or for a variety of different purposes. . . ."
Busy Cornwall mom Amanda Doherty-Kirby has Parks Canada as one of her likes on her Facebook page, which is where she saw the invite to Bioblitz day to which she took her children
"We learned about the different types of maple leaves (and how to) identify a number of the different leaves in the forest. So I know for the next couple of weeks we'll be walking through the forest and they'll be going ‘That's that' and ‘That's that!' " she says.
"I didn't realize there were that many different types of dragonflies on the Island. There's something like 38 and a lot of them are in this area."
Children were given Bioblitz booklets with activities that could be completed at each of the four stations. At the end, they were presented with a certificate of completion.
However, sometimes the best souvenir of an experience is what one takes away in his r her mind.
"It's hard to know what the impact it has on a child, but when you see them here, just at this (wetlands) station, looking at some of these dragonflies, it might be different for each one what they find amazing about it, but I think that they are learning," Dauphinais-Matheson says.
"And the thing is that they might not realize that they're learning. And sometimes when they're doing something hands-on and they're having fun, they're not realizing that they're learning but they are and they're taking that home with them."