Meewasin, the Saskatoon Nature Society, and the Royal Astronomical Society Saskatoon Centre would like to invite the general public to join us in celebrating the International Bat Week with our Dark Skies at the Creek public event at the Beaver Creek Conservation Area on Saturday, October 27th, 2018. Join Meewasin interpreters, astronomers and local naturalists as we learn about the importance of dark skies, learn about the amazing diversity of nocturnal animals, and how both are affected by global light pollution. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore the interpretive centre, meet some nocturnal creatures such as live bats, visit the “Planet Creation Station” to make their own planet, hear fascinating talks about our night sky, and join members of the Royal Astronomical Society to view our night sky with telescopes.
With over 20% of the terrestrial surface of our planet experiencing light pollution in its many forms, we are now beginning to understand the importance of maintaining dark skies for human health, plant physiology and nocturnal wildlife populations. Many studies have identified the negative effects of light pollution on human health, correlating greater light pollution with disrupting sleep patterns, negatively affecting the regulation of a variety of hormones, and lessening memory retention. Light pollution has been shown to negatively affect nocturnal wildlife and ecosystems as a whole by changing animal behaviours, disrupting seasonal movements, and altering the structure of ecosystems. Many native species residing in and around the City of Saskatoon depend on dark skies for their survival. Nocturnal species, such as the endangered common nighthawk and the big brown bat, rely on natural darkness for foraging and movement patterns. Northern leopard frogs and tiger salamanders, both given a status of Special Concern under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), depend upon dark skies for the their normal behaviours, such as the timing of their vocal calls during their reproductive seasons. Smaller aquatic macro-invertebrates that are a vital source of nutrition in wetland environments, depend on light-dark cycles to govern their feeding behaviors. Even small changes to the illumination of our natural areas can drastically affect their ecological health and the survivability of the species that encompass them.
Launched in 2015, the Saskatoon Dark Sky Initiative is both a monitoring and educational program aimed at educating the public about the negative effects of light pollution on nocturnal wildlife within Saskatoon. The program was designed to engage public and students of all ages through in-class programming, Dark Skies at the Creek public awareness events, and citizen science projects aimed at collecting valuable information on local light pollution within the Meewasin river valley.
The Meewasin Valley Authority would like to thank the Saskatoon Nature Society for providing funding for the event through the 2017 Kid’s in Nature grant program. We would also like to thank the Royal Astronomical Society Saskatoon Centre, the Saskatchewan Light Pollution Abatement Committee, our public presenters, and the volunteers for participating in the event.