UBC biology professors create annual calendar as fundraising project

The American avocet is one of many birds that can be spotted around UBCO's campus.

The American avocet is one of many birds that can be spotted around UBCO’s campus.

Photographers offer a bird or an insect option for 2020

The birds and the bees can mean many things to many people.

For a group of UBC Okanagan biology professors, however, they mean a great fundraising opportunity.

Seven years ago, Professors Bob Lalonde, Ian Walker and Blythe Nilson-all photography buffs-created a calendar using photos of birds living around the campus pond. The goal was to raise money to help offset costs for fourth-year biology research projects.

The calendar proved to be successful, raising more than $8,000 over the years. This year’s 2020 edition-two different calendars in fact-has just rolled off the presses.

“We have been producing a bird calendar for seven years now and will continue to do so as the diversity of birds that visit our campus is amazing,” says Lalonde. “One of our goals is to make people aware of that. Along the same vein, the campus hosts a wide variety of cool insects as the valley has one of the greatest diversity of insect species in Canada. With the increasing interest in conserving diversity of insects such as native pollinators, we thought that we should expand our mission to include these animals as well.”

Lalonde explains the calendars help students cover costs such as lab supplies, and printing expenses for research papers and posters. It also gives faculty members of the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences a chance to get out with their camera equipment, explore the campus and keep track of the particular species known to live nearby.

“The campus is a destination for birders,” says Lalonde. “There is a diversity of sandpipers and their kin visiting Robert’s Lake, bald eagles nest to the north of the campus, great horned owls raise their fledgling babies in the pines on campus every spring. Pygmy nuthatches breed in dying pines pretty much everywhere, and two species of bluebird-the western and the mountain-are common sights here.”

The 2020 insect calendar includes images of mason bees, a sphinx moth, painted lady butterflies and dragonflies. Featured in the upcoming bird calendar are ring-necked pheasants, the American white pelican, western bluebirds, a bald eagle and the ubiquitous Canada goose. For their images, the team of photographers walk the trails of campus, park out at redwing pond and spend lunch hours at Robert Lake.

“These are very common birds on this campus, and the temptation is to take them for granted, but you have to keep in mind that elsewhere in Canada they are not to be found,” he adds. “We also see less common birds on our outings such as red crossbills, common and hoary redpolls, pileated woodpeckers and peregrine falcons who will descend on campus at unpredictable times.”

Their photography work, mostly a hobby, has also unveiled breeding populations of two blue-listed (at-risk of becoming extinct) species: Western painted turtles in the pond and great basin spade-foot toads elsewhere on campus. And it gives the biology professors a good excuse to get out walking when they are not teaching.

“I should also admit that Ian, Blythe and I love exploring the campus and taking photographs,” says Lalonde. “These calendars are a useful result of this activity.”

The calendars retail for $20 each (taxes included) and are available at the university bookstore, located inside the administration building, and at the biology office, room SCI 155, 1177 Research Road, Kelowna.

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

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