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Understanding Camas through Citizen Science

The Kootenay Camas Project seeks to engage the public in making observations and collecting and recording data about camas populations in the Kootenays.  We hope to understand the health and status of camas meadows, to identify opportunities for stewardship, and to promote awareness of this important natural and heritage resource.

2012 Kootenay Camas Inventory

With the help of local residents, the Kootenay Camas Project (KCP) has found the largest Canadian populations of common camas (Camassia quamash) east of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. The confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers is the area with the highest population density as well as the area with the most individual finds. Millennium Park in Castlegar is a camas “hot spot”.

“With the help of local residents we have found camas in places we were hoping to see it and totally unexpected places. People have reported camas in suburban gardens, along trails and rivers and in back woods areas. Citizen scientists have been able to cover a large area and help us with valuable information.” says project coordinator Eva Johansson. 

Students from Stanley Humphries Secondary School and Selkirk College, West Kootenay Naturalists and Castlegar Garden Club members and the public have all contributed to this project. People have used email, a smart phone app (INaturalist.org) and mailed report cards to report their finds.

Common camas is a native lily with beautiful blue flowers and edible bulbs. It was an important food for First Nations throughout the Columbia Basin and in the Pacific Northwest, where it has been called a cultural keystone species. Camas meadows were described by early explorers as "blue lakes," and David Thompson records being given "Root" on his journeys on the Columbia River. Now, however, camas is an increasingly rare find in the West Kootenay.

“We are hoping to raise awareness of this unique and beautiful flower. Public response has been great so far. Hopefully, we will expand this project in the future to include restoration and stewardship of camas habitat.” says Valerie Huff of the KCP.

 

Get involved!  We need your help to find out where camas grows in the West Kootenay. 


Camas Citizen Scientists at work in Idaho.

Photo credits: Camas Citizen Science Monitoring Program in Nez Perce National Historic Park in Idaho and Montana.

How to be a Camas Citizen Scientist

Camas will be in flower in late-April through early June.  Report camas when you find it.  You can send us your report

1.  Print out 'Camas Report Cards' (coming soon), fill in the details and mail it in.

2.  Send us an email with your observation details.

3.  Join the Kootenay Camas Project at http://www.inaturalist.org.  You can enter your observations directly to the project website.

4.  Download the iNaturalist app for your mobile device.   It's free, easy and fun! 

Take a photo from your phone, and it will be added to your observations.  You can then add it to the Kootenay Camas Project on http://www.inaturalist.org. Your observations will then appear on the map below:

 

Why Inventory and Monitor Camas in the Kootenays?

Camas is an important natural and cultural resource in the West Kootenay. Camas was an important part of First Nations' cultures who gathered, ate and traded it extensively. In addition, camas is a low-elevation species associated with moist and seasonally wet ecosystems.  The extent of these ecosystems has been dramatically reduced due to agricultural conversion, urban encroachment, and flood control from the dams along the Columbia River.

A comprehensive inventory will provide baseline information vital to understanding the origin, persistence and threats to camas.  We will be doing a habitat assessment in the spring of 2012 of known and reported camas populations and collecting herbarium specimens so that Kootenay Camas can be adequately represented in E-Flora BC.

What is Citizen Science?

Citizen science is the involvement of the public in scientific discovery, where volunteers partner with scientists to answer real-world questions.  Christmas Bird Counts, done annually by naturalists across Canada and the United states, are one of the longest running citizen science projects.  Bird observations provide critical data on the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.  Scientists use data collected by citizens to document how bird populations have changed in time and space and to identify threats to birds and their habitat. 

The Kootenay Camas Project seeks to engage the public in making observations and collecting and recording data about camas populations in the Kootenays.  We hope to understand the health and status of camas meadows, to identify opportunities for stewardship, and to promote awareness of this important natural and heritage resource.