The Williams Lake Field Naturalists are preparing two engaging new activities for the community in the coming days.
First up on Sunday, May 26 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. is their monthly free family event Awesome, Aquatic and Almost Alien. This event invites families and young inquiring minds to consider what’s on the bottom of the food chain in the lakes and rivers that surround us. This event will encourage children to dipnet for invertebrates, insect larvae and other small aquatic creatures for a gentle analysis and lesson.
Scout Island Nature Centre executive director, Sue Hemphill, said that young children between the ages of three to 12, which is the event is designed for, love the chance to get a hands-on experience like this. While they dip for creatures first in the lake and then in a bucket, instructors will be on hand to explain how they breathe, live and contribute to the environment.
“Invertebrates around the world are down by a huge percentage. Even though people think of them as ugly and bothersome, like mosquitoes, they’re absolutely essential to the ecosystem. In fact, mosquitoes are more important than us because they pollinate,” Hemphill said.
She feels that events like this help people appreciate these small but vital creatures more and encourages more mindfulness about water quality. Hemphill also wished to stress that this event is designed to include the parents throughout the entire process in a supervisor role.
Following up this event, on Monday, May 27 at Lake City Secondary Columneetza Campus from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Hemphill is excited to bring Build-A-Whale to the community in partnership with the Pacific Salmon Foundation. Several years ago the Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society found a dead Orca whale washed up on shore, Hemphill said, and saw an opportunity to turn the tragedy into a learning opportunity. They cleaned the skeleton off and were left with a complete, reconstructible skeleton that they now take on tours around the province.
Hemphill said that during the school day on Monday and Tuesday students will be coming to the gymnasium to view the whale skeleton and learn more about these creatures. However, she said the Field Naturalists knew that the public would also like the chance to see the skeleton and so set aside the time Monday evening for the general public.
The event will be interactive and hands-on, Hemphill said, with residents given the chance to touch and study the skeleton up close.
She has never been up close to a whale skeleton like this and sees it as a unique opportunity to remind ourselves of our connections to the Orcas.
“I think we, in the Interior, forget that we’re connected to the ocean and this helps (remind us of that). Orca whales are in great jeopardy on the coast and part of that is because the Chinook salmon numbers are down, that’s their main source of food” Hemphill said. “We are where the salmon lay their eggs and become little tiny fry. If we’re not taking care of our streams that’s affecting the Orcas in the ocean.”
Connecting back to both these events, Hemphill and Scout Island’s yearly Chinook salmon raising program is nearing its end this month, with local classes releasing hundreds of new fry into streams and rivers around the area.