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Two mossy events coming to Cortes Island in November

Researcher Dan Tucker to showcase the island’s moss diversity

Dan Tucker loves moss, and he is hoping to share that love with the people on Cortes Island.

Tucker is a researcher in residence at Wild Cortes, the natural history portion of the Cortes Island Museum. He will be hosting two events on the island in the next few weeks, the first is on Saturday: a guided moss walk, which will be at Kw’as Park at 11 a.m. The second will be a moss talk held a few weeks later at Manson’s Hall on Nov. 28 starting at 1 p.m..

“I’m going to take any local people who want to come out for a walk and really get into the diversity of mosses and liverworts that we have here,” Tucker said. “Which is a lot.”

“It’s really neat. (Mosses are) not the same as other land plants. They don’t have true conductive tissues inside of them. They really just absorb water through their surfaces. They have this really neat ability to colonize habitats that regular plants can’t,” he said. “They can stay in a dry, dormant state for a really long period of time and how they get around is really interesting: by travelling through spores, they go up in the air and travel all around the world just through the jet stream.”

Tucker is a graduate of the University of Alberta, where he got his bachelor’s degree. He has focused a lot of his research on the west coast, however, because of the sheer number of mosses which he can study.

“In B.C. here, we have over 800 species of mosses and it’s really like a tropical rainforest, it’s a super highly diverse area for these plants,” he said. “A lot of people just don’t really realize it. Here, they’re so in our face and I figure it’s something we have to look into.”

He is hoping to pass on some of his excitement about the plants to Cortes Islanders, and help them learn about the local flora.

“It’s important when you’re living in a place to get to know at least some of the biodiversity around you,” he said. “Because we’re in an area that’s such a hot spot for moss diversity, I think it’s important that people can come out and learn about some of the common ones.”

While learning about the mosses, people can also help contribute to a growing body of research. That’s what the second of Tucker’s events will cover. He will be showing Cortes Islanders how using applications like iNaturalist can help with anything from learning about species in your backyard to which species get added to national species at risk lists.

“You have a lot of citizen scientists and amateur engagement in biodiversity. There’s this really cool interface between regular people who are out every day taking photos of whatever they see and actual researchers who are using the apps to track their observations,” Tucker said. “It’s been really cool because you can tag the world expert on some plant group that you’re trying to figure out and they can just come and see your observations and confirm if that’s what you’ve found.”

“On Cortes, there hasn’t been that much research on these plants that I’m interested in here,” he said. “I think we can use citizen science to really amp that up, considering there are so many people here who are keen to get out and look for things.”

More info on the event is available on Facebook. Those interested can register by contacting the Cortes Island museum at 250-935-6340.

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