Interested in alpine flowers? How about ants? Two outstanding opportunities to learn about natural history are coming up as part of the Wells Gray World Heritage Year.
This evening (Thursday) and tomorrow Andy MacKinnon, who has been described as “the rock star of western Canadian botany,” will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about alpine flowers.
Starting at 7 p.m. this evening he will give a lecture at the Upper Clearwater Hall on alpine plants.
Friday morning, starting at 10 a.m. from the Spahats picnic area, he will lead a hike to the Trophy Mountain flower meadows.
The lecture will be about how plants adapt to life above treeline.
“The alpine in many ways is a harsh environment,” McKinnon said. “It’s cold, windy, the light is intense, but many plants are spectacularly successful there.”
The hike will not strenuous and will be suitable for nearly all ages and abilities.
“I expect that, once we get to the alpine, we’ll walk at a genteel pace,” he said. “At times I’ve been known to travel 100 m in an hour, but I think we’ll go a little faster than that.”
Those going on the hike should bring a lunch, something to drink, and dress for mountain weather.
A book MacKinnon co-authored, “Plants of Coastal BC,” has sold more than 300,000 copies, making it the best selling botany field guide in Canadian history.
A few months ago he published a new guide on alpine plants and he expects to see how well it helps with identification during the Friday hike.
MacKinnon works as a research ecologist with the provincial government. This spring SFU gave him an honorary doctorate in recognition of his work.
All about ants
The ants take over Saturday evening. Starting at 7 p.m. at the Upper Clearwater Hall, Thompson Rivers University entomologist Rob Higgins will present a talk titled, “Ants: Biological Giants.”
According to Higgins, in jungles ants contain more biomass than any other group of animals.
He pointed out that, while no non-human primate lives in communities greater than 100 members, only ants (and humans) live in communities much greater than 1 million.
A field trip will begin on Sunday at 10 a.m., also from the Upper Clearwater Hall.
Participants are advised to bring a hand lens or magnifying glass.
Higgins is based out of TRU’s Williams Lake campus.
His work has focused on examining how heat loving ants adapt to the cool climates of British Columbia, as well as extending an understanding of ant biodiversity in the province.
In 2010 he confirmed the presence of the European fire ant (Myrmica rubra) in B.C. More recently, Higgins confirmed the appearance of the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) in Victoria.
As with nearly all the Wells Gray World Heritage events, participation in both events is by donation.