Nature PEI (Natural History Society of PEI)
General Status of Species – Citizen Science Fills the Gaps
To understand wildlife, we must first know what we have. This project and an Ontario study expanded the PEI spider list to 197 species from an original 38. It contributes to the General Status of Wildlife in Canada, a program all Canadian jurisdictions support in order to learn more about all wildlife species. A species list will be placed on the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Center web site. A paper is being prepared for publication. As biodiversity author E.O Wilson says “How can we understand the deep principles of sustainability of a forest or a river if we still do not know even the identity of most of the insects, nematodes and other small animals that run the finely tuned engines of the energy and materials cycles?” The spider list will be consulted by working biologists in future and is already proving useful. A student who learned heaps about spiders is continuing work on bar coding spiders at UPEI based on the confirmed identifications. Many Islanders in 2016 were intrigued with publicized results, and Kyle Knysh’s presentation to the Atlantic Society of Fish and Wildlife Biologists encouraged other biologists to value spiders as wildlife.
The project goals revisited:
- Following assessment of 1100 spiders in 2015 that with other studies increased the PEI spider list from 38 to 171 species, we will sort, identify and data base an additional 3200 spider specimens that were collected by citizen scientists in 2015. Over 650 adult specimens were identified bringing the Prince Edward Island species total to 197.
- The project will develop more capacity to identify spiders in PEI. Twenty-nine collectors took part and have learned a great deal about the species present on the Island.
- Data will be analyzed with regard to relationships within the spiders, and identifying data gaps, with particular attention paid to exotic species. Dr Robb Bennett of British Columbia assisted in pointing out the exotics spiders which comprised 9.7 % of the specimens collected.
- Communication about spider invasions will bring this issue forward as it is not confined to spiders. Given strong evidence that non-native spiders are introduced as hitchhikers through the ornamental plant trade, we expect that data collected from this project will inform future education and communication strategies about invasive species. Communication through media, social media and science presentations raised the awareness of these invasive species in PEI.
- Distribute updated spider lists to the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Center and other spider specialists. An updated spider list has been sent to Robb Bennett in British Columbia who is working to consolidate spider records for the General Status of Species program. Other regional biologists have possession of an updated list and data base.
- A geo-referenced data base will allow data analysis and mapping of the spiders and contribute to the assignment of spider status based on IUCN and Conservation Data Centre methodology. A peer-reviewed publication officially updating the status of spider species known for PEI is planned.