For my community event I chose to go to a Burke Mountain Naturalists community meeting.The Burke Mountain Naturalists is a group within the Tri-Cities whose members enjoy experiencing and learning about nature (walks, hikes, guest speakers, etc.) and work towards conserving nature spaces within the community. At this particular community meeting, Sheila Byers (Marine Biologist) gave a presentation about Glass Sponge Reefs. For my visit to a park in the community I chose to walk along the Shoreline Trail in Port Moody.
In her presentation, Sheila Byers covered many important aspects of glass sponges such as basic structures and their functions, types, brief history, surrounding ecosystem and the interactions between the sponges and other animals, conservation efforts, and important reasons to protect these organisms. Throughout the entirety of the presentation I learned a ton, and took a lot of notes and managed to get a few pictures of the slides and samples! (See below) I found it very interesting to learn about the structure of the sponges as I didn’t know how effective they are at filtering water (the glass sponges filter about 10,000 olympic swimming pools per day!). Another thing that I found particularly interesting is that these sponges have been around since before the dinosaurs and prior to the rediscovery of these sponges along the coast in 1987, they were thought to be extinct. One thing that she really stood out to me is how much human activities are harming these organisms. Activities such as chemical pollution, prawn traps, fish trawling, nets, and anchoring boats impact these organisms either directly or by causing too big of an increasing in sediment floating around in the water which ends up clogging the sponges.
The majority of the presentation tightly correlated to the field of biology as well as the upcoming unit in Biology 11. Sheila explained the structures and functions of some parts of the sponge in great detail and with my previous knowledge from Biology 11 and some pre-reading before hand I was able grasp a good understanding of the organism and its uniqueness. Besides learning about the structure of the sponge, symbiotic relationships and ecosystem interactions between the sponge and the other organisms within the reef emphasized the importance of the reefs to the organisms that live and reproduce within the reef. Another reason this presentation related to another aspect of the field of biology is that she actually explained how they came to find these reefs and researched them. In order to research these sponges they coupled together cameras and sonar technology to produce a more accurate picture of these reefs as the depth of these organisms was an obstacle of researching them.
The main purpose of the Burke Mountain Naturalists is to provide a group where those who are passionate about nature can experience it, learn about it, and contribute to improve it. On a fairly regular basis the group plans hikes, guided tours, participates with volunteer work, and invites guest speakers to engage its members and the community in different aspects of nature within the community. The purpose of this particular meeting was to educate and provide a learning experience to those who wanted to learn about glass sponge reefs along the coast of British Columbia, as well as to learn about conservation efforts of this particularly vulnerable species. I think that if the group was no longer a prominent group in the community it would limit the involvement and the amount of people experience nature within the community. Since the group provides a wide variety of events/meetings such as hikes, tours, field trips, volunteer opportunities, and guest speakers it really invites members of the community of all ages to participate and learn something new about the lovely place that we live in and get out into nature.
While at the Burke Mountain Naturalists community meeting I didn’t really notice any major issues as the meeting was very well organized and had a lot of participating members who kept the meeting running smoothly. However, when I walked along the Shoreline Park in Port Moody I noticed a few issues. Firstly I noticed that along the trail there was a few places where a few people had dropped garbage. Not only is the garbage on the trail a terrible eyesore, but it also causes damage to the delicate ecosystem and can harm the organisms that live along the trail.
The second thing I noticed while walking was the trail etiquette of some individuals walking the trail. Before Leadership I probably wouldn’t have recognized this issue, but since reading “Soft Paths” trail etiquette has become a more prominent focus. The main issue I observed was individuals and their pets going off the trail and disturbing the area around the trial and causing more impact to the surrounding area than necessary. Some examples of this are off-leash pets running off the trail into the vegetation, people breaking branches that hang over top of the trail, and too many people walking horizontally across the trail and stepping on vegetation instead of the trail. I don’t think people do this to intentionally harm/disturb the ecosystem, it seems more like they don’t think about how delicate the ecosystem they are distributing is. Because of this, I strongly believe that the community should become more informed of proper trail etiquette in order to preserve the beauty and biodiversity of our community.
The most positive aspects of my experience at the community meeting was how much I learned! Initially, I didn’t think that the speaker would explain the subject with so much detail but she was able to explain the topic detail in a way that was easily digestible by the audience. One thing that I really enjoyed was that the speaker brought in samples of the sponges so the audience could actually touch and feel hoe delicate these organisms are.I think that my experience and the knowledge learn’t at this meeting will really help me with the next unit as we will be learning about sponges along with other animals. Because of this experience I plan to participate and go to more meetings within the community.
As I was going to a community meeting that I had never gone to before, I was a little bit nervous about going to one. At the start of the event I felt a little uncomfortable in the situation because there was so many people there and all of them were adults! And I almost couldn’t find a seat! (Because of this I would recommend to someone who is interested in going to a meeting to come early as the seats fill up fast). However, after the first couple of minutes it got a lot more comfortable as everyone there was very friendly and welcoming to anyone who wanted to learn anything related to the environment and its organisms. They were especially friendly because they thought it was great that a young person wanted to learn about the environment and actually came out to a meeting. Because the event was mostly a presentation I didn’t get to interact with a ton of people there. However, for about 10 minutes before the presentation I talked with the two ladies at the sign in desk who were very friendly and were surprised that I was interested in a topic like this. Everyone at the meeting seemed very friendly and thoroughly interested and involved within the group.
I think that one of the most eye-opening things about this experience was how much involvement there was. Prior to attending this meeting I didn’t realise just how many people were regularly involved within the community and participation within the clubs. I didn’t expect so many people to show up for a presentation at 7:30 on a Thursday night, but the room was packed with so many people eagerly awaiting the presentation. This experience made me realize that I should get more involved in something like this within my community.
Based on my experience I’m not sure exactly what I would do differently to get ready for the experience. One thing that I did before the meeting to help with my understanding of the topic was a little bit of pre-reading on the subject and I found that having a little bit of background knowledge helped to understand the information and be able to form connections between this topic and my knowledge from the course. So I think if I were to go to another meeting like this I would definitely do the some pre-reading as I found that beneficial to understand the material. However, I wished I had brought my glasses because sometimes it was difficult to see the slides and I couldn’t always get as many notes from them as I wanted to.
One of the main highlights for me at this community event was just seeing how involved and interested so many members of the community were in the environment and ecosystems of the community. I really enjoyed being able to connect the knowledge I’ve learned so far in this course along with the knowledge I gained at Bamfield last year to this topic and be able to more thoroughly understand and add to my knowledge. I hope that in the future I will be able to go to more meetings like this and participate more within the community.