Thursday, February 28, 2013

New to E-Fauna BC: Big-headed Flies and...

Thanks to fly (Diptera) specialist Jeff Skevington, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, we have been able to add two more checklists to the E-Fauna checklist page:

Big-headed Flies (Pipunculidae):
Thick-headed Flies (Conopidae):

This brings our Diptera (True Flies) checklists to six, covering the following groups:

 Big-headed Flies (Pipunculidae) (Jeffrey H. Skevington) [PDF]
 Black Flies (Simuliidae) (Rob Cannings) [PDF]
 Horse Flies and Deer Flies (Tabanidae) (Rob Cannings) [PDF]
 Mosquitoes (Culicidae) (Peter Belton) [PDF]    
 Robber Flies (Asilidae) (Robert Cannings) [PDF]    
 Thick-headed Flies (Conopidae) (Jeffrey H. Skevington) [PDF]  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Articles on E-Fauna BC: Birds of British Columbia

The Nature Notes section on E-Fauna BC has been changed recently to a Notes and Articles section which includes two categories: 1) Nature Notes and 2) Articles. The Articles section is new and allows us to bring in interesting and comprehensive articles on BC species prepared by experts.  As a start we are adding a series of articles on the Birds of British Columbia prepared by Rick Toochin.  Ten articles are now posted:

Blackburnian Warbler
Ferruginous Hawk
Least Auklet
King Eider
Long-billed Murrelet
Philadelphia Vireo
Pine Warbler 
Prairie Warbler
Red-Necked Stint
Scarlet Tanager

Rick's articles provide comprehensive detailed information on bird species in BC covering topics such as first confirmed records for BC, status and occurrence in BC, and identification. These are easy to read articles that provide great overviews of the species as well as nuggets of information.  For example, read Rick's article on the first confirmed record of Pine Warbler in BC

To view all of the new bird articles, go to the E-Fauna home page and use the 'general information' menu on the left side of the page. Select for 'Notes and Articles'.

Contributions to the Notes and Articles section of E-Fauna BC are welcome.  We are particularly interested in articles on new species occurrences in the province and documentation of range expansions--information that can complement or add to our atlas pages would be very welcome.

Profile: Tom Carefoot, Marine Biologist

 Tom Carefoot, diving at Turneffe Island, Belize

Adding new material to the marine invertebrate sections on E-Fauna BC gained momentum last year when Tom Carefoot lent his expertise to E-Fauna and began to send in species introductions. He started with an introduction to the Zebra Sea Hare (Phyllaplysia taylori)--a lightly striped, mostly green, sea snail that grazes on common eelgrass Zostera marina. Since that introduction, Tom has contributed dozens of introductions to marine invertebrates on E-Fauna, ranging from the Dog Whelk  (Nucella ostrina) to the Southern Sea Slater (Ligia occidentalis).

Tom is a retired zoology professor from the University of British Columbia where he spent 35 years teaching the biology of invertebrates as well as researching sea hares and the physiological ecology of oniscid isopods (woodlice or sowbugs). Tom is well-versed on invertebrate marine life both on the Pacific Coast and also in the Caribbean, and has written 2 books on marine ecology and is the author of more than 90 research papers.

Of his teaching career, Tom says: "My teaching involved two courses on the biology of invertebrates, one given several times a week to a class of 300 students. The courses required many field trips to the west coast over the years, and in total I did over a thousand SCUBA dives at local sites. In lectures, I used photographs, videos, and other projection material, complemented during later years with extensive computer-based teaching aids that we developed with financial aid from a series of “Teaching, Learning, and Enhancement” awards from the University. Later in my career the University honoured me with a Master Teaching Award, which always seemed humorous to me because most of the time I joked that the administration would instead be better off giving out scads of  'Master Learning Awards'."

Recently, Tom has produced an interesting and comprehensive educational website on west coast marine invertebrates called A Snail's Odyssey.  This is a detail-rich web site that summarizes research findings on west-coast marine invertebrate species, and covers just about everything.   He says this "will keep me busy essentially forever".  Tom is also preparing a second web site on Caribbean coral reefs, called the Biology of Caribbean Coral Reefs.  For this he is assembling his large collection of underwater tropical photos and videos--it is a work-in-progress.

Tom's level of expertise and exceptional knowledge of marine species ecology have resulted in some great introduction notes for BC species.  They are well worth a read.  To find Tom's notes, go to our comprehensive search feature at the bottom of the E-Fauna BC home page and search for his name.

Here are a few of Tom's photos:

Zebra Sea Hare (Phyllaplysia taylori)

 California Beach Hopper (Megalorchestia californiana)

 Opalascent Nudibranch (Hermissenda crassicornis)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Focus on Fungi

From morels to coral fungi to bird's nest fungi, the fungi section on E-Flora BC is developing nicely thanks to the volunteer efforts of a group of dedicated mycologists--Ian Gibson, Terry Taylor, Michael Beug and Jim Ginns--and several fungi photographers whose submissions really make the fungi come to life.

Ian Gibson has contributed substantially to the E-Flora fungi section.  He is developing our fungi species list (macrofungi only), which includes only species with published verified records for BC.  So far the list includes 1737 species, but it is expected to be updated soon.  (The overall number of fungi species in BC is expected to grow substantially--the actual number of fungi in BC may well be many thousands of species, many not yet documented or vouchered).  Ian has also provided a list of fungi to watch for in BC, species that are likely to be added to his BC list.   In addition to his work on the fungi species list for BC, Ian has also provided E-Flora with species' descriptions for the fungi atlas pages. These are extracted from Matchmaker: Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest, a major non-profit project he has also developed.

Michael Beug has provided a fabulous Introduction to the Fungi for E-Flora. It is well-written and  provides an interesting overview of major fungi groups. He says, "You will discover that fungi rival plants in species diversity and occupy many more ecological roles than any other group of organisms. You will learn how some fungi cause plant disease, others cause human infections, while others like yeast make our bread rise or our alcoholic beverages ferment and still others are the sources of our most important antibiotics and the drugs that help prevent tissue rejection, thus making transplants possible." 

Michael, Terry Taylor and Jim Ginns volunteer their time on E-Flora to identify photo submissions, an ongoing process and one that is growing substantially.  We now have more than 2800 fungi photos in the fungi gallery.  Major fungi photo contributions have been submitted to E-Flora by Jim Riley, Adolf Ceska and Michael Beug--Michael has contributed more than 1200 fungi photos.

Visit our fungi photo gallery

 Astraeus hygrometricus (barometer earthstar), photo by Adolf Ceska

 Tricholomopsis decora (queen's coat), photo by Rosemary Taylor

 Oligoporus caesius (blue cheese polypore), photo by Michael Beug

Visit the North American Mycological Association's poisonings web page

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Profile: Aaron Baldwin, Marine Biologist

 Aaron Baldwin with Bathynomus specimen.

Flatworms, ribbon worms, chitons, crabs, lampshells, acorn worms, jellyfish, isopods, copepods and pseudscorpions--what do these faunal groups have in common?   They are all invertebrate faunal groups we cover on E-Fauna BC, and they all have BC checklists prepared by Alaskan marine biologist, Aaron Baldwin.

Aaron is a Seattle native who is currently a fisheries biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He has completed a master's in crustacean reproductive biology (University of Louisiana) and has started a PhD in shrimp ecology (University of Alaska Fairbanks). He says "I have worked as a professor, a K12 science teacher, a NMFS observer, and am currently a fisheries biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Juneau, Alaska." 

Over the last few years, Aaron has done quite a bit for E-Fauna BC and uses his taxonomic skills extensively. He has compiled species lists for many of BC's marine invertebrate groups, has written introductions to groups (see, for example, his introduction the crabs, shrimps and crayfish of BC), and has submitted more than 1000 photos to E-Fauna's photo gallery.  His photos cover everything, including limpets, crabs, jellyfish, marine fish, dovesnails, and sea stars, often representing his time on ocean-going vessels way up north. Now and then, he also submits photos of terrestrial species. 

Here are a few of examples of Aaron's crab photos, and group that have a special interest for him:

Take a peek at more of Aaron's photo gallery contributions here.

Citizen Science: Water Fleas on E-Fauna BC

 Ian Gardiner with a Bull Trout Salvelinus confluentus in the East Kootenays

E-Fauna BC covers the faunal groups of British Columbia, including vertebrates (mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and ampibians), insects, and many other invertebrate groups that include arachnids (spiders and ticks), crustaceans (crabs, crayfish, cladocera, copepods etc.), cnidarians (jellyfish, sea anemones etc.), annelids (earthworms, leeches etc.), echinoderms, molluscs, porifera (sponges) and more. In addressing these groups in BC, we first work with group specialists to post species lists for the province, then begin to set up atlas pages and add photos. When photos come in, there are sometimes surprises, including new species for BC, and sometimes our photographers become specialists in groups and do much more.

One example of this is the work of Ian Gardiner, a photographer from Calgary, Alberta and retired statistician and IT analyst.  Ian has taken an interest in freshwater crustaceans and has been sampling lakes in BC near the Alberta border. First up for him were water fleas (Cladocerans), and his work has resulted in several new species for the province. As a citizen scientist, he has been working with Gordon Green (retired curator with the Royal BC Museum) to update the species checklist for BC, confirm identifcations and generally fill in photos for this group on E-Fauna.

Water fleas are an interesting group of freshwater crustaceans. Gordon writes about them on E-Fauna BC in his Introduction to the Cladocerans of British Columbia. He says: "Cladocerans are small crustaceans belonging to the orders, Anomopoda, Ctenopoda, Onychopoda or Haplopoda.  Commonly called water fleas, due to their small size and jerky swimming motion, cladocerans are extremely abundant in most freshwater habitats.  There are a few estuarine species but this group has not been successful in the oceans.  Some species are planktonic living in the open water of lakes, while others live on or near the bottom or on aquatic vegetation.  Some species are found primarily in small ponds or saline lakes which lack fish predators."

Water fleas are important in the ecosystem. Gordon also adds: "An important link in food chains of virtually every inland body of water, cladocerans convert phytoplankton, benthic plants and decaying organic matter into animal tissue that can be used by larger animals. In large lakes they are a major food source for many kinds of fish such as sticklebacks, minnows and young Sockeye salmon. Many aquatic insect larvae and other invertebrates also feed on cladocerans"

Water fleas are interesting biologically. They reproduce by parthenogensis, and eggs develop without fertilization under stable environmental conditions.  In unfavourable conditions, males will be produced. 

Between them, Gordon and Ian have now confirmed about 75 species of water fleas for BC and Ian continues to collect and photograph specimens.  You can view his photos here. They provide excellent technical illustrations for this group.

Ian is also working on other groups, including copepods. View his copepod photos here.

This sort of meticulous, well documented work begins to blur the lines between scientist and citizen scientist, and really adds to the significance of E-Fauna BC when we can present current research on a faunal group.

  Dunhevedia crassa, photo by Ian Gardiner

Holopedium gibberum, photo by Ian Gardiner

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Featured Species: The Phantom Orchid

The Phantom Orchid (Cephalanthera austinae) is one of BC's rare orchid species, red-listed in the province and listed as threatened at the federal level under SARA (Canada's species at risk act).  But it's a fun species to search for and is occasionally stumbled upon in the southwestern corner of the province.  You can find it in the Chilliwack area in the Fraser Valley, on Saltspring Island, and around Victoria on Vancouver Island. It is primarily an inhabitant of old-growth forests, but sometimes can persist where old growth once grew. The underground rhizomes and ability to go dormant let it ride out unfavourable conditions and wait for the right ones before sending up new flowering stems.  This ability to persist in unfavourable conditions means that even if you don't find flowering stems, the orchid could still be present.

In British Columbia, we have seen it growing in big-leaf maple stands and beneath western red cedar, primarily shaded habitats that can range from heavily vegetated to sparsely vegetated. It likes limestone and calcareous conditions and has been found on heavily limed compost piles, around limestone quarries, and even on old shell middens.  You wouldn't have known the midden was there until trees were toppled in a storm and the shells exposed.  We have also read about the phantom occurring in the limestone gravel bed of a road in California.

We have even seen the phantom orchid growing inside a horse paddock and a cow pasture, where somehow it survived the trampling and persisted, perhaps benefiting from the nutrient load and lack of competitors. We have encountered other wild orchid species persisting in horse pastures back east so there must be some benefit to the orchids in these situations. Persistence in the face of some disturbances probably depends on the intactness of the underground stems and of the upper soil layers where they occur.

One of the most interesting sites where we found this species was in the midst of a deer bed (black-tailed deer) near Chilliwack.  We flushed two deer that were resting and in the midst of the bed and amongst the deer pellets were scattered flowering stems of phantom orchid.  We frequently encounter it along deer trails, although sometimes the stems have been browsed. 

Although it is a shade-loving plant, there are reports of it growing in sunlight, a population perhaps persisting long after a disturbance or one still struggling to produce flowering stems following changes to its habitat. 

The phantom orchid is an interesting species because it is mycoheterotrophic.  It grows in partnership with a fungus and a tree species.  This means that protecting and managing for this orchid requires protecting and managing the trees and fungus it is dependent upon.

It is also interesting because of the particularly long flowering period here in BC (which is at the northern limits of its range).  We have found it flowering in mid-May, and also found new and emerging flowering stems in mid-July at the same site. As old stems die back, new ones continue to emerge,  probably tied to local microclimate. 

Species like this, occurring at the northern limits of their range in southern BC, contribute to BC's high biodiversity. Our northern populations are the vanguard of the species, ready to spread northward should conditions become favourable.

Phantom orchids in deep shade at Teapot Hill

 Phantom orchid habitat, roadside, Cultus Lake

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Yellow-cedar Die-off in BC

Yellow cedar is declining in British Columbia and elsewhere in the species range.  This is a result of root die-off, which is a result of climate change, and particularly affects cedars growing at low elevation sites close to the coast, which are more exposed and have more variation in elevation.   Learn about yellow-cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) in British Columbia . Read about research on the die-off on the Biodiversity of BC website. 

The drooping branches of yellow cedar are distinctive.


Wooton, Claire E. and Brian Klinkenberg. 2011. A Landscape-level analysis of yellow-cedar decline in coastal British Columbia.  Canadian Journal of Forest Research 41 (8): 1638-1648.

Read the abstract here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

E-Flora BC: Leveraging the plant ID search tool

The new draft vascular plant identification tool on E-Flora BC  is already a fairly versatile and useful addition to the atlas.  Using the tool can you help to find possible matches for plants that you would like to identify by selecting or searching for plant characteristics. These may include flowering period, flower characteristics (e.g. petal number, flower shape), inflorescence type, root type, or growth type (e.g. tree or shrub). The words that you can search for can include any characteristic that is used to describe a species in our atlas pages, which includes the text from the Illustrated Flora of British Columbia--the publication that we use to provide species descriptions on E-Flora.  For example, try heart-shaped to call up species with leaves with heart-shaped bases.

But the tool  is also really useful in other ways, and can help you learn about plants in general. You can use it as a general search tool to call up species by habitat, soil type, and more. A search for a habitat type can help you learn what occurs in that type, and about plant assemblies or groups of plant that grow together.  For example, if you would like to learn about aquatic plant species in the province, you can select or search for the word 'aquatic' and call up listings of plants that are described as aquatic. Or search for 'aquatic' + 'lake' to find aquatic plants that prefer lakes. You can even search for 'floating' to learn which aquatic species float.

Using the tool search feature, you can also call up plants that are found on limestone, or on scree or talus slopes, on gravelly slopes, on sand, on beaches or in sand dunes, on seepage slopes, on cliffs, in alkaline sites, in bogs or even in BC's tundra. You can select the characteristics or features that we present on the tool page, or you can search for other words and terms of your own choosing that may occur in our atlas pages.
This search feature adds quite a bit of flexibility in how we can search and use E-Flora BC.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Biodiversity influences: how deer ultimately affect bird populations

It is well known that the presence of large numbers of deer in an area affects plant species composition.  This is very obvious in eastern Ontario, in places like Rondeau Provincial Park, where deer exclosure experiments showed dramatic differences in species composition inside and outside of exclosures. Depauperate vegetation is common in heavily browsed areas.

 In BC, UBC biodiversity researchers Peter Arcese and Tara Martin studied the influence of deer on vegetation and plant species composition in the Gulf Islands, and noted that, ultimately, deer population density influences bird species composition and abundance.

In their essay on this work, they say: " an extensive survey of 18 Gulf and San Juan islands with different deer densities, Martin et al.5 showed that many species that rely on understory shrubs for feeding and nesting were much less abundant on islands with high deer densities as compared to those with few or no deer.  Examples include: rufous hummingbirds (9 times more abundant on islands with few versus many deer); song sparrows (4 times more abundant); yellow warblers (5 times more abundant); varied thrush (29 times more abundant); orange-crowned warbler (3.5 times more abundant); spotted towhee (25 times more abundant) and fox sparrows (9 times more abundant).  Only one species, the dark-eyed junco, was significantly more abundant on islands with abundant deer, because juncos prefer open forests with little vegetative cover."

Read more in Peter and Tara's essay on deer and biodiversity on the Gulf Islands.  


Arcese, Peter and Tara Martin.  2013. Black-tailed deer, plant and bird populations in the Southern Gulf Islands and Coastal Douglas-fir Zone:  a primer for local communities interested in environmental stewardship. IN Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2013. Biodiversity of British Columbia []. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Alert! Dead crabs herald global warming? Pollution? Learn the truth.

Contributor: Tom Carefoot, the Biodiversity Research Centre, University of British Columbia

Beach-walkers  are starting to see the seasonal influx of dead Dungeness Crabs that occurs at this time of year after storm waves deposit their load of  seaweed  and other litter on the shore.  Included may be tens or sometimes hundreds of apparently dead crabs (only one is visible in the accompanying photograph).  However, if you look more carefully you will see that rather than being a portent of doom, they are a signal that all is well and good with the offshore  Dungeness-crab population.  Use your finger to flip up the carapace from the back, as shown in the inset photo, and you will see that what you have is a cast-off moult.  Crabs and other crustaceans live in what are essentially rigid boxes, or exoskeletons ("outside skeletons"), that they seasonally or yearly outgrow.  At this time, usually in spring when temperatures and light levels are increasing, the crabs grow a new skin, partly from energy material stored in their soft tissues and partly from residues resorbed from  the old skeleton.  The old exoskeleton soon becomes brittle and, by swelling up the body with water and after much wriggling and pulling, the crab breaks free of it and escapes out the back.  All body parts are pulled free.  The large claws, now soft, are extracted through the small joints by much stretching.  Even the eyestalks are extracted, and one clue that what you are holding is a moult, rather than a dead crab, is that the eye-sockets are empty.  Now swollen to the next size up from the original, the animal hardens its new exoskeleton (in private), withdraws the excess water from the tissues, and uses the next growth phase to fatten up from within.  If you would like to learn more about growth and moulting in crabs, go to A SNAIL'S ODYSSEY: LEARN ABOUT CRABS & RELATIVES: MOULTING & GROWTH.

(Click to enlarge)

View our Dungeness Crab atlas page and learn more about the distribution of this species in BC.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Photography Update: photos, photographers and experts

The BC atlases, E-Flora BC and E-Fauna BC, are important for their distribution maps that show where species occur, when they were documented, and who documented them. For many invasive species, they can show when they first appeared in the province, and for rare species they can show just how rare a species is.

But for many of us, it's the photographs that really make the atlases come alive.   They present our flora and fauna in their homes, finding food, flowering or setting seed, and moving about the landscape.  From fabulous photos of Kermode bears to colourful gentians, the photos are a window on our wild species. And it's thanks to a volunteer army of photo contributors that we are able to provide thousands of photos of thousands of species found in British Columbia.  Every photo counts, every contribution counts, and if coordinates are sent in with photos, each photo counts even more.  We can map these photo records and add more locations to our maps, filling in critical knowledge about incoming species, invasive species, range expansions, and new records for new species.  This citizen science component on the atlases is an important hub in data collecting for BC, and an important and growing hub of activity.

The photo sections on E-Flora and E-Fauna BC are growing rapidly, with nearly 23,000 photos now posted on E-Flora BC and nearly 15,000 on E-Fauna BC, and many more waiting for review by experts before publishing. These photos represent the efforts of 494 photographers on E-Flora BC and 394 on E-Fauna. That's a huge cooperative effort on the part of many people, and many photos are now submitted with coordinates so the records can be mapped.  Geographers call this sort of information Volunteered Geographic Information, and it is a rapidly growing component of the atlases.

Who are our busiest photographers?

While we have hundreds of people contributing photos to E-Flora and E-Fauna BC, a few folks lead the pack. Their contributions to our knowledge base on BC Biodiversity are outstanding, and in all cases their photo records represent significant scientific documentation and illustration. On E-Fauna BC, our top two photographers with the greatest number of submissions are Norbert Kondla (butterflies) and Aaron Baldwin (marine invertebrates), each with 1041 photographs now posted on the site.  They are closely followed by Rick and Libby Avis (moths and other insects) with 950 photos.  On E-Flora BC, Jim Riley leads the submissions, with 3451 photos now submitted, followed by Jamie Fenneman with 3086 submissions.  Next up are Adolf Ceska (1341), Curtis Bjork (1305), and Michael Beug (1295).

Who are the experts who help us out?

Identifications of species in all of our photos are vetted by experts who donate their time to the projects to help us make them as accurate as we possible. This can be time-consuming and challenging, as identification from photos can be difficult. It takes an expert often to be sure of what is in a photo before we post it and map the record. We are indebted  for this to a very long list of experts.

E-Flora BC

The following experts provide ongoing identification support to E-Flora BC:  Rene Belland (bryophytes), Michael Beug (fungi), Curtis Bjork (lichens and vascular plants), Kent Brothers (fungi and slime molds), Jamie Fenneman (vascular plants and liverworts), Ian Gibson (fungi), Jim Ginns (fungi), Trevor Goward (lichens), Michael Joya (bryophytes), Frank Lomer (vascular plants), Terry McIntosh (bryophytes), Wilf Schofield (bryophytes), Terry Taylor (fungi).

E-Fauna BC: 

The following experts provide ongoing identification support to E-Fauna BC: Bill Austin (sponges), Libby Avis (moths), Aaron Baldwin (marine invertebrates, marine fish), Robb Bennett (spiders), Mattias Buck (Hymenoptera), Rob Cannings (insects), Cris Guppy (butterflies), Jamie Fenneman (birds), Robert Forsyth (land snails and slugs, bivalves), Jeremy Gatten (dragonflies), Henri Goulet (sawflies), Gordon Green (crustaceans), Patrick Gregory (reptiles and amphibians), Andy Hamilton (cicadas), James Hammond (beetles), Jennifer Heron (insects), Rob Higgins (ants), Andrew Jensen (aphids), Philip Lambert (sea stars), Gerry Mackie (freshwater clams), Brent Matsuda (reptiles and amphibians), Sandra Millen (nudibranchs), Neil McDaniel (sponges), William Moser (leeches), James Miskelly (Orthoptera), Karen Needham (insects), David Nagorsen (mammals), Greg Pohl (moths), Chris Schmidt (moths), David Shackleton (hoofed mammals), Rowland Shelley (millipedes), Eric Taylor (fish), Robbin Thorp (bumble bees), Andrew Young (flower flies).

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The (Ancient) Earthworms of British Columbia

Providing information on the presence and distribution of the faunal groups found in British Columbia is quite a challenge. It requires a cooperative effort with experts who specialize in each faunal group, including groups that most of us might overlook and that are difficult to identify.  This is particularly true of earthworms, a group that requires dissection for proper identification of species.  Fortunately, with the help of earthworm expert John Reynolds, who has provided direction, key literature and maps, we have been able to provide information on the earthworms of British Columbia on E-Fauna BC.

Thanks to John, we now know that twenty-four taxa of earthworms are documented for the province (Marshall and Fender 2007). We also know that most species present in BC (and across Canada) are European introductions and are widespread throughout the southern part of the province (earthworms are limited in their northern distributions).  Only four species are native--the 'ancient' earthworms of British Columbia (Marshall and Fender 1998).  These are species that survived glaciation in unglaciated 'refugias', and today small populations persist only on Vancouver Island (excluding the southeastern part of the island) and in the Queen Charlottes.  These are Bimastos lawrenceae, Arctiostrotus perrieri, Arctiostrotus vancouverensis and Toutellus oregonensis (Reynolds 2009 pers. comm., McKey-Fender et al. 1994). Arctiostrotus vancouverensis is the most widespread of our four native species (Marshall and Fender 1998) and Bimastos lawrenceae appears to be endemic, "known only from a limited area on the west part of Vancouver Island" (Marshall and Fender 2007).
 With John's help, we have been able to provide a checklist of the earthworms of British Columbia, an introduction to earthworms (biology), and an introduction to the earthworms of BC. We also provide atlas pages for our BC species with text/species descriptions adapted from his book on the earthworms of Ontario (with permission of the Royal Ontario Museum).  We have also been able to add photos for many species, thanks to the Earthworm Research Group at the University of Lancashire. Their photos illustrate many of the European introductions.


 Reynolds, John W. 1977. The Earthworms (Lumbricidae and Sparganophilidae) of Ontario, Royal Ontario Museum. 

Marshall, Valin G. and William M. Fender. 1998. Native Earthworms of British Columbia forests. Northwest Science 72. Special Issue 2. Pages 101-102.

Marshall, Valin G. and William M. Fender. 2007. Native and Introduced Earthworms (Oligochaeta) of British Columbia, Canada. Megadrilogica 11 (4): 29-52. 

McKey-Fender, Dorothy, William M. Fender and Valin G. Marshall. 1994. North American earthworms native to Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula. Canadian Journal of Zoology 72: 1325-1339.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia available online

On the E-Flora BC home page, we now link to online copies of the eight-volume Illustrated Flora of British Columbia (by George Douglas, Del Meidinger, Jim Pojar and Gerald Straley). These have been made available by the Province in PDF format. View web site and access the PDFs here.

Opening the PDFs allows users to browse through entire volumes, view family and genus groupings, and access the taxonomic keys. (Note, though, that because these are scanned copies of the publications, they are not 'searchable' PDFs, so the 'find' feature doesn't work). 

The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia forms the bulk of information for vascular plants on E-Flora BC. It is out-of-date--many more species have been added to the flora since its publication and many names have changed. However, it is still the definitive work for BC, and the keys are invaluable in making plant identifications.  While E-Flora BC brings much of it online, the PDFs allow you to view family and genus groupings at a glance, which is helpful during identification work.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

E-Flora BC: Non-established Vascular Plant Species in BC

 The vascular plants of British Columbia, as presented on E-Flora BC, are comprised of species that are considered part of the flora of BC.  This list of species is determined for the province by the BC Flora Committee, which works under the umbrella of the British Columbia Conservation Data Centre (BCCDC). The committee is comprised of a team of expert BC botanists who assess species presence in the province, including assessing accuracy of specimen identification and assessing current literature on taxonomic classification within families, genera and species. Each year the flora of the province is reviewed by the committee and species are either added or removed from the 'official' list.

However, there is a second list of species now maintained by the BCCDC. This is a list of non-established species in the province. Penny et al. (2013) described these as follows:  "...there are also other vascular plants present in the province that are not easily categorized but broadly fit into a classification of 'non-established' taxa. They are not formally considered part of the BC flora until they have been confirmed as regularly-occurring, but these plants have been observed growing without cultivation in the province." 

E-Flora BC now presents a list of these non-established species via a link on the home page.  Atlas pages have been set up with short summary information on the species presence in BC (and collections made), prepared by botanist Frank Lomer. These are garden species that have escaped or arise from garden waste, species that are brought in with agricultural stock, or they may even be incoming species naturally expanding their range. They might, at some future point, become established.

Non-established species in BC can include such familiar food species as the potato (Solanum tuberosum), sugar beets (Beta vulgaris), peanuts (Arachis hypogaea), familiar garden plants such staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), or street trees such as red maple (Acer rubrum).  The list even includes Cannabis sativa (marijuana). Lomer (2013) says of this species: "Cultivated mildly narcotic herb occurs rarely as a casual in waste places. Several collections over the years. (S. Wilcock s.n. @ UBC). Ephemeral."

By including this list of non-established species on E-Flora BC, we hope to increase awareness of them, and collect data.  Let us know if you find reproducing populations of these species, or if you notice other species that you feel are 'establishing', but aren't on our list.  

Read more about non-established species in BC here.

E-Fauna BC: the Millipedes of BC

With the help of millipede expert Rowland Shelley, curator of terrestrial invertebrates at the North Carolina Museum of Science, we have recently added millipedes to E-Fauna BC.  Visit our checklist of the Millipedes of British Columbia, which presently includes 32 species   The list was extracted from Rowland's 2002 paper on millipedes of central Canada (see below).

Atlas pages are now up for this group, although most distribution maps have little or no data at present. One species for which we do have some data is Harpaphe haydeniana haydeniana (Yellow Spotted Millipede),  a common and relatively easy species to identify from photos. Our maps show collection records for this species (Royal BC Museum) from coastal BC: Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands).

Unfortunately, however, many species can't be identified from photos, and require specimens to determine identity.

To learn more about millipedes visit the Myriapoda web site
View maps of family distributions in North America here.


Shelley, Rowland. 2002.  The Millipedes of Central Canada (Arthropoda: Diplopoda) with reviews of the Canadian fauna and diplopod faunistic studies. Canadian Journal of Zoology 80: 1863-1875.

View a complete list of Rowland's publication here.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Vascular Plant Identification Help Tool

We are now developing an identification help tool for vascular plants on E-Flora BC and it needs a lot of testing. If you have time to test the tool, send comments to Let us know what characters you used to try to find matches, and whether or not these were helpful in finding your plant. This information will help us fine tune the tool and ensure that most species are captured in the search.  We can check your plant ID if you are uncertain.

The intent of the tool is to provide users with a set of possible matches to the vascular plants/wildflowers they are trying to identify (note that it is not aimed at finding an exact match).  The possible matches are selected based on 1) search words you enter in the search box, or 2) search terms you select from our character lists, or 3) a combination of both.

The tool will search the content our our atlas pages, the bulk of which is the content from the Illustrated Flora of British Columbia.  The Illustrated Flora, published from 1998-2002, provides a definitive work on the flora of BC. That is, vascular plants that are growing wild in BC, without cultivation. Many new species have been added to the BC flora since their publication, and these are reflected in E-Flora BC

If using multiple characters is not effective in calling up suitable matches, try working with fewer characters, or even one character. Play around with the terms you are using or selecting. This sort of screening can significantly reduce the number of possible plants that could match your plant.

There are some limitations of the tool:

1) the tool is powered by Google Custom Search, which means that Google will only display ten pages of results.

2) sometimes Google displays thumbnails in the search results so that you can quickly browse, but sometimes these are not provided.

3)  because the tool only searches our content, that content may not include some search terms that you enter. If this happens, try different terms.

4) Google displays the results in no particular order.

5) terminology used in the Illustrated Flora is not always consistent within a family or genus. We are working towards adding terminology to the pages in these cases, once we know about them.

6) colour is a difficult term to search for. This is because while you may be searching for a flower colour, such as red, the content in our atlas pages may also use colour for stems, bracts, leaves, or even status (e.g. red-listed).  So search results will sometimes call up unrelated results. We hope to improve on this and exclude some terms.

Even with these limitations, though, we hope the tool will help narrow your identification search. The tool will help you 'see' plant characters that will be helpful in identifying your plant. If the search doesn't call up a possible match for your plant, it may be that it at least brings up similar species.  In those cases, try browsing through other members of a family or genus to see if your plant is among those.

E-Fauna BC: new species pages and sightings...

There has been a lot of excitement in BC about the presence of the Red-flanked Bluetail, a northern European/northern Asian bird species that has appeared in New Westminster--the first record for BC and Canada.  Accidental occurrences like this are often reported, and include last year's sighting in Richmond of a Ribbon Seal, an Arctic/sub-Arctic species.

Recently added atlas pages on E-Fauna BC include:

Conmarginal Bittersweet (Glycymeris keenae), a new bivalve species for BC discovered in 2008 by Bill Merilees.

New! The Biodiversity of BC Blog

There is so much happening on our three biodiversity sites these days, that we realized that we needed a way to let you know what's new and interesting on the sites and in BC biodiversity news.  So today is the launch of the new Biodiversity of BC blog, covering news and updates for the three sites (E-Flora BC, E-Fauna BC, and the Biodiversity of BC umbrella site). 

First up, check out our new Comprehensive Search feature at the bottom of the E-Flora and E-Fauna home pages. This new search tool allows you to search all three of our interlinked biodiversity sites. You can search for species, ecosystems, habitats and more  For example, a search for 'salt marsh' will call up salt marsh plants (e.g. English cordgrass--Spartina anglica) AND salt marsh fauna, including the intertidal pseudoscorpion (Halobisium occidentale) and the invasive Asian Hornsnail (Batillaria attramentaria) (which is now present on southern BC shorelines by the thousands). A great way to learn more about the many interlinked components of salt marshes.

Also, we are busy preparing new updated mapping for E-Flora BC and E-Fauna BC. The mapping software that we use to drive our maps has been updated and we are about to switch our maps over.  The new updated software has more flexibility and is easier to use. ETA, spring 2013.  A part of this work on the mapping includes developing maps that can be displayed on Apple products (e.g. the iPhone).  Apple doesn't allow the display of anything using FLASH, which is what we use to display our maps on the atlases.  UBC geography grad student Jake Wall has been working on developing maps specifically for Apple products. ETA, soon!