Sustaining our biological diversity is a shared responsibility of environmental conservation and stewardship. Events on biodiversity can be created to increase awareness, knowledge and to inspire participation in your community.
The basic objective of this 'How to' Guide is to encourage and facilitate the planning, implementation and evaluation of biodiversity events in communities across Canada. Regardless of the type of event your group plans this guide will ensure a safe and enjoyable event for all.
A biodiversity event can be targeted at a specific age group by working through community or youth groups, schools, libraries or community centres. Alternatively, it can aim to attract residents of a particular town or municipality, regardless of age. The choice is yours!
Volunteers and Community Champions
If your group does not have enough members to carry out the activity you have in mind, there may be a need to recruit volunteers. Involving individuals with multiple contacts in the community, such as the chairperson of a local non-profit organization or a representative from the local school, might be key to the success of your event. Other possible sources for volunteers could include groups such as Scouts, Guides, 4-H clubs, service clubs, churches, conservation societies, schools and sports, fishing, or hiking clubs. Depending on your activity, an advance training or safety briefing session might be required to ensure that all goes smoothly on the day of the event.
If possible, plan the event in such a way that volunteers do not work for more than two to three hours. Some form of public recognition for volunteers, such as a picnic or a barbeque to thank them for their time and assistance, is almost always most appreciated!
Check the chosen site out ahead of time:
- Is access easy for everyone? Is there adequate parking?
- Do you have permission from land owners?
- Make sure there are no major hazards, and that there is a means of dealing with any garbage that will be generated by the activity.
- If a specific area is being used, mark it with stakes or use easily-identified landmarks before people assemble
If possible, build some flexibility into the selection of the date for your event into the early stages of your planning, in order to avoid conflict with events being held by other community organisations.
Budget and Funding
Drafting a simple budget, even if your event seems straight forward, can help to avoid unexpected financial surprises and can also ensure that your group focuses on potential costs while at an early stage in the planning process. Categories of expenses might include food and beverages, room or equipment rental, printing and advertising costs, or travel expenses.
Approaching potential sponsors or donors - such as local businesses or grant-giving foundations - with a funding proposal might be one way of reducing these costs. Many event planners also organise community fund raising activities such as thematic silent auctions, the sale of promotional items, or prize draws.
Whatever type of event you organise, try to think of a way to anchor your theme and messages to your community. The variety of activities which could potentially be undertaken to celebrate biodiversity is as wide as your imagination!
Awareness and Educational Activities
- A kiosk with games for children and handouts such as posters, colouring books, tattoos and bookmarks
- Educational games involving the identification of plant and animal species
- A species touch tank
- A display at the local library, school, or community centre, using maps, videos, aerial photos, municipal server plans, and river routes to demonstrate how your community is links with the broader natural environment
- Public lectures by environmental educators on biodiversity-related topics
- A film festival at the local library, school or theatre (contact the National Film Board for possible film titles)
Public Participation Activities
- Play biodiversity bingo, with the proceeds going toward local conservation projects
- Lobby local organisations to work toward adding a municipally-proclaimed event to the community calendar
- Plan a biodiversity parade using a wide variety of costumes to represent biological diversity
- Initiate a marine or terrestrial environment action project with a goal such as protecting the natural ability of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to absorb greenhouse gases or helping isolated species by improving connectivity between fragmented habitats
- Advertise a talent, song, poster or story writing contest with a regional conservation theme
- Undertake a species inventory, and/or participate in The Great Canadian Bio-Blitz
- Monitor and fight the invasion of habitats by purple loosestrife, Eurasian ruffe, zebra mussels, emerald ash borer and other alien plants and animals which are wreaking havoc on native wildlife habitat
- Help protect sensitive aquatic habitat by posting "No Dumping" signs alongside wetlands and rivers, and encouraging local ports and marinas to provide accessible garbage disposal facilities
- Organise a dune grass planting campaign - planting species such as marram grass, sandwort and beach pea on sand dunes reduces erosion and is therefore very important in preserving the dunes
- Plan a clean-up campaign for a local natural area,- it can be fun, simple, and rewarding. (Be sure to get permission from your local municipality to clean up the area you have identified. Some municipal offices may even provide you with the bags and gloves necessary to execute the clean-up of your site.)
- Take the clean up campaign one step further: adopt an area by developing a long-term protection and clean-up plan, assigning specific tasks to various individuals or community groups
- Plant indigenous seeds or trees to improve habitat quality
- Initiate a campaign to promote the naturalization of your local public places
- Establish a suggestion box where community members can voice their concerns relating to environmental issues and biodiversity as well as propose solutions
- Take the lead in getting your community involved in initiatives such as the Frogwatch and Plantwatch programs
Communication and Promotion
Spread the word about your biodiversity event as early and widely as possible! An effective media/communication strategy is essential to informing the public and drawing in the crowds that will make your event a successful one.
- Make a list of the media sources in your region - including newspapers, radio stations, community television stations and local publications like parish newsletters, school newspapers, municipal newsletters and electronic newsletters from environmental organizations - and distribute a press release for publication or advertisement on radio or community television a few weeks before the activity. A press release should be typed, no more than two pages, and should include all the information pertinent to the activity (date, location, time, sponsors, and name and telephone number of contact person) as well as some background information.
- A day or two before the event, contact the media representatives again in order to confirm and remind them of the activity, and to inform them of specifics such as the availability of volunteers to be interviewed.
- Ask elected representatives or other community leaders to assist with or attend the event. The participation of high profile community members will attract the media.
- Using a consistent communications theme or message, events can be advertised through a number of mediums: posted on posters in high visibility areas such as schools, community centres, libraries and local grocery stores, distributed on flyers, or posted on your community's internet homepage.
- Simple posters can be used to indicate the location, date, and time on which your event will take place, along with the name and telephone number of the contact person.
- Local radio stations and newspapers are usually receptive to offers to be interviewed on air, or to the submission of a news release providing the details of what has been planned.
- If your budget allows, distributing small promotional items such as t-shirts, hats, cloth bags, mouse pads, pens or refrigerator magnets in advance is a great way to build local awareness and interest in your activity, and potentially even a means of fund-raising.
Remember to also publicly report on the results after the event!
By combining a bit of common sense with extra precautionary measures, your biodiversity event will be safe, educational, and of course lots of fun!
The safety of all participants and attendees is of paramount concern. Depending on the event, selection of the sites should be selected based on such criteria such as convenience, safety, and environmental significance. Contact your local municipality to determine who owns the property, and get permission from the landowner, as well as any necessary permits, in advance. Depending on the nature of your event - for example, the type of locations being used - it might be wise to look into liability concerns or to consider insurance.
Make sure there are no major hazards - for example, plan your activity when water levels will be safe and predictable, rather than during spring run-off when the levels of rivers and streams can rise suddenly and dangerously. Activities which carry a risk of damaging private property or fragile local habitats should be avoided. Remind participants to handle rocks and plants with care, to avoid trampling vegetation, to give animals space and to leave them where they were found, and to take only pictures and leave the area cleaner than you found it.
The following suggestions should help ensure that your day is safe and enjoyable for all!
- If there are children in your group of volunteers, make sure there is adequate adult supervision.
- Leave pets at home.
- Ensure that volunteers are properly trained. They should ideally have First Aid certification, and should be knowledgeable about the activity they will be leading. If volunteers are leading groups of participants, try to provide a cellular phone and first-aid kit for each group if possible.
- Watch the weather forecast in advance, and adjust your schedule accordingly. For example, if conditions are very warm and humid, reduce your time spent outside to avoid heat exhaustion.
- Advise volunteers to be cautious when near water - even if it appears calm - to avoid rogue waves and incoming tides, and to be careful if handling materials such as medical and hazardous wastes, broken glass, and sharp objects.
- Leave natural materials like plants and shells in place; prevent erosion by staying away from sand dunes and not trampling on vegetation and never disturb breeding areas, especially those of endangered species.
- Some carelessly discarded items (for example, needles, ammunition or hazardous materials such as containers for toxic chemicals) can be very dangerous. Should you find any of these things, DO NOT TOUCH THEM! Instead, report them immediately to your local police, or to the Canadian Coast Guard, Environment Canada or your provincial environment department.
One month before the activity:
- Find the key people to help plan your activity
- Order the necessary materials
- Identify and inspect the site to be used
- Make a list of people to be contacted
Two weeks before:
- Put up your posters to publicize your event
- Contact your volunteers and invite them to participate
- Send media advisories/press releases to the media
One week before:
- bring the team leaders together for an information meeting
One or two days before:
- contact the media to confirm the event
- make sure that you have all the necessary materials
The day of the event
- Bring the volunteers together at the meeting place
- Distribute the necessary materials for the day
- Make safety recommendations to the volunteers
After the event
- Make sure garbage is picked up or recycled
- Collect participants' information for follow-up with media and future events
- Conduct a press conference at the event site
- Thank the volunteers for their participation by organizing a community event
Details - Have you…
- Considered a consistent message that will promote biodiversity at the event?
- Bought insurance (if necessary) and determined liability?
- Determined a budget and allocation of funds to specific activities?
- Contacted potential sponsors, donors and foundations to fund your events?
- Contacted the planning department of your municipality to assist you in choosing a site, or to request media as maps and aerial photos to create a poster for display?
- Contacted local venues for availability and cost?
- Recruited and trained volunteers to lead activities?
- Requested permission to post awareness posters?
- Distributed kits for clean-up campaigns with an information booklet, advertising posters, garbage bags and blue bags?
- Contacted local waste and recycling firms and invite them to participate in a "Pick Me Up" campaign by providing additional waste and recycling bins and collecting/hauling them once the campaign has finished?
- Informed appropriate authorities about the details of your Biodiversity Day activities and, when necessary, arranged to have safety patrol or medical staff present?