BC’s biodiversity in the palm of your hand

A family smiling and looking at a mobile device in a wooded area

BC’s biodiversity in the palm of your hand

New app helps nature lovers identify hundreds of species along the province's Central Coast
May 11, 2016

Ever wander in nature wishing you could identify the different plants and animals around you? Now, thanks to a team at the University of Victoria (UVic), there’s an app for that. Biodiversity of the Central Coast — launched this spring — gives users helpful images and descriptions for 210 plants, 80 birds, 120 seaweeds, 190 marine invertebrates and 20 mammals and reptiles that live in the Great Bear Rainforest along British Columbia’s central coast. Most conventional field guides include nowhere near that variety or number of species.

The free tool is intended for locals and tourists so they can better understand and appreciate the biodiversity of this rich ecosystem, and ultimately support its preservation. The app has already been downloaded approximately 2,500 times.

The project is a collaboration among UVic community ecologist and conservation biologist Brian Starzomski, graduate student Chanda Brietzke and alumna Kelly Fretwell, as well as the Hakai Institute — a research institution that advances long-term research in remote locations on the coast of B.C. — and its researchers. Starzomski works in the British Columbia Centre for Mountain Biodiversity, which is funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation. He came up with the idea for the app in 2012 to house all of the images and descriptions of species gathered by his students over the years.

Starzomski and his team conduct field and laboratory studies to produce ecological research data on the long-term human impacts on species in B.C., which in turn informs environmental policy and improves conservation in the province. The UVic team plans to continually expand the app’s range to eventually include the entire B.C. coast.