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Sunday, August 5, 2018

Who's afraid of a little arachnid?; Go bioblitzing in Ontario Parks


   One-Tank Trip for Aug. 4-18

   (c) By Jim Fox

   It’s a summer of creepy crawlers and learning all about them.
   Most people fear arachnids with their fangs, venom and predatory traits but who’s afraid of a little old spider?
All is told about the fascinating world of spiders at the ROM.
   Learn how to calm your fears – even with some 800 spider species in Ontario alone – at an exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto.
   Then head out into the woods to get down and dirty with critters for “Summer Bioblitzes” at Ontario Parks.
   “Spiders: Fear and Fascination” is the name of the “astonishing exhibition” of more than 400 living, breathing and preserved arachnids at the ROM.

The interesting looking wolf spider lives mostly in solitude and does not spin webs. (Photo by Sean McCann)
   In its North American debut now through Jan. 6, we learn that spiders spin their webs of fear as one “of one of the most successful and misunderstood animals on earth,” said Josh Basseches, ROM director and ceo.
   Developed by the Australian Museum, the exhibition is a window into the world of spiders that spin webs, dance, swim and even grow back lost limbs.
   They inhabit nearly every corner of the globe and the exhibit explores how these extraordinary creatures have evolved and survived from a time long before dinosaurs.
   There are hands-on interactives, augmented reality, challenging a peacock spider to a dance-off and exploring a recreated spider cave.
   The ROM Spider Lab has daily specimen demonstrations including venom milking.

   The feared and venomous western black widow spider is part of the ROM display. (Photo by Sean McCann)
   Visitors come face-to-face with hundreds of arachnid specimens, from tarantulas and scorpions to centipedes, redbacks and the notorious western black widow spider.
   Scientists explain how spiders use static electricity to “fly” and how research is focusing on replicating spider silk for use in heart surgery.
   The exhibition also examines spider species found in North America and looks at the impact of spiders from an art and cultural perspective.
   It shares examples of spiders found in ancient crafts and textiles and examines the place of spiders in Indigenous art, culture and mythology.
   ROM entomologist Antonia Guidotti hopes that people come away with a new respect – even admiration and fascination – for these eight-legged creatures.
   The ROM is offering 20 percent off admission and one-year memberships throughout the Civic Holiday weekend to Aug. 6. Details; rom.on.ca/en/spiders; (416) 586-8000

   Park bioblitzing
      Ontario’s provincial parks are marking their 125th anniversary with stewardship programs to help protect their biodiversity.
Ontario Parks’ visitors can get immersed in learning about stream organisms. (Ontario Parks photos)
   Algonquin, the oldest provincial park, hosts a bioblitz series along with two other parks.
   With more than 1,000 vascular plant species and some 200 vertebrate species that breed within the property, Algonquin is biologically diverse, said Ontario Park’s Jeff Brown.
   The park has a long-standing history of research, science and education, making the bioblitz series a natural fit.
   The public can join park naturalists for weekly programs learning how to identify and inventory different species as well as the importance of “citizen science” in protecting the biodiversity of the parks.
Nice catch of stream ecosystems in Ontario Parks.
   For more than 70 years, biologists from Canada and around the world have visited the park to study the animals that inhabit the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
   This has led to 1,800 scientific papers published on studies in the park that’s home to one of the oldest research stations in Canada.
   The Harkness Laboratory of Fisheries Research was opened in 1936 and the Wildlife Research Station has been collecting data on small mammals since 1952 as one of the world’s longest-running small mammal studies.
   Upcoming events include surveys to identify bog plants and organisms in stream ecosystems; wildflower identification; and a bird hike and count.
   Other bioblitzes taking place are at Killbear Provincial Park in Nobel throughout August and Murphys Point park in Perth on Aug. 18. ontarioparks.com

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Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com
For more One-Tank Trips: http://1tanktrips.blogspot.ca

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