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Toniata Public School Class Embarks on BioBlitz Project at Mac Johnson Wildlife Area
Toniata Public School Class Embarks on BioBlitz Project at Mac Johnson Wildlife Area
Posted on 06/08/2023

June 8, 2023 (Brockville, ON) – The Grade 4/5 students at Toniata Public School recently undertook an exciting research project known as a BioBlitz at Mac Johnson Wildlife Area. Spearheaded by the students, this immersive experience aimed to collect valuable data by observing the area's diverse array of living organisms.

Driven by their curiosity and a desire to deepen their understanding of the local ecosystem and its conservation, the students organized a BioBlitz to identify various living species at Mac Johnson Wildlife Area. Local biologists and support staff from Frontenac Arch Biosphere and Cataraqui Region Conservation Area also joined to share their expertise with students on May 26. A BioBlitz is an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time.

Throughout the day, the 32 students had responsibilities that included event promotion, welcoming volunteers, engaging with guests, teaching others how to utilize the iNaturalist app, providing refreshments, locating and documenting species, and analyzing the collected data for future comparisons. The project, which began in the fall, has provided an invaluable opportunity for the students to develop essential skills across various disciplines.  

“We're studying and seeing what species of birds, animals, flowers and trees live at Mac Johnson,” says Grade 5 student Olivia Lehman, who has enjoyed learning about the different species in Brockville. “I spend time outside, but not as much as I would like to, so I'm getting to learn a lot of the different living species found in the water and on the ground.”  

Lehman adds that she is fascinated by what they’ve discovered so far and cannot wait to explore what her classmates have identified.

Ellie Andress, Grade 5, says they were first introduced to the idea of a BioBlitz by their teacher Sarah Van Winckle and after learning about what it is, the class thought it would be a great outdoor activity for them. “Data collection is important because without it, we wouldn’t really know half as much about what species live here. Data is basically the building points that lead to the big answer.”

Andress shares that she learned how important and beautiful nature is, the importance of understanding ecosystems and conservation, and creating something that has a real-world impact.  

Students are now analyzing the data they gathered, with the goal of publishing their findings, allowing others to access and study the rich biodiversity of Mac Johnson Wildlife Area.   

This information would be beneficial for both local and international visitors, providing them with an understanding of the diverse plants and animals present in the Mac Johnson habitat. The students plan to compile the data collected through the iNaturalist app and add their own observations into a comprehensive collection, including a data sheet detailing their discoveries and naming each species encountered. Van Winckle shared, “It all started when the kids came to Mac Johnson in the fall and had an underlying question all the time of who and what lived here, which led us to a BioBlitz. To secure approval for the project, students created a PowerPoint presentation. Throughout the process, there has been verbal communication, mathematical aspects related to data collection, and lessons on comprehending and organizing the data. Artistic elements have also been integrated, such as designing a sign, drawing various species, and writing stories around these species. The students have gained knowledge about science, habitats, and the workings of ecosystems. Additionally, our social studies lessons have focused on understanding the influence of human actions on the land and its impact on the environment where these species reside.”    

Van Winckle adds that the students raised funds through a lemonade stand, fostering financial literacy, and plan to donate the proceeds to the Cataraqui Conservation Area. 

The data collected can be added to in the future and will also be used as documentation to find trends of species numbers increasing, decreasing, and disappearing and pinpoint a potential reason for the change.  

“It was a great experience, and I had a lot of fun learning about the different species at Mac Johnson,” says Gavin Johnston, Grade 5 who was part of the communication and marketing sector. “I really enjoyed learning from the volunteers and their expertise.” 

  For media inquiries, please contact:   

Tania Stover   Principal  Toniata Public School  [email protected] 

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