Students in Brian Mader's biology class participating in an insect assignment

All students and employees at Dawson College are invited to join an initiative to identify 1,000 species in 1,000 days on Dawson’s downtown Montreal campus.

“We believe that identifying 1,000 species is possible but does pose a significant challenge,” said Brian Mader, project lead and a biology teacher at Dawson. “We invite all students and employees to join iNaturalist. The more people from our community who participate, the higher the chances are of reaching our goal. This project will also nurture our Dawson community and encourage people to go outside and enjoy Nature.”

Participating is easy and no prior training or knowledge is required:

  • download the free iNaturalist app on your mobile phone, tablet or device (available on Google Play or the App Store)
  • create your account
  • join the community called: Dawson College – Campus Biodiversity Network Project
  • start posting!

Brian’s tips for posting to iNaturalist:

  • Include a picture, date, location and an identification*
  • Upload multiple pictures from different angles and showcase different features
  • Make sure you are choosing a location within the Dawson campus city block
    • For your post to count towards the 1,000 species goal, your location  needs to be entirely within the Dawson campus city block
  • Keep looking through all the seasons and all the stages of each season

The species count can include all forms of life in all outdoor spaces, including the grounds and rooftops, on Dawson’s city block: plants, insects, invertebrates, bacteria, algae and animals.

Defining well-being for all

“As an educational institution, this project helps define our core value of well-being for all,” said Chris Adam of the Sustainability Office. “Students are engaged and learning, teachers are gaining an incredible outside classroom, other species are benefiting, and group activities foster a sense of community.”

Brian says that “getting students to go outside and take a closer look at the world around them is my absolute favourite thing to do as a teacher. It is extremely rewarding to see the excitement and curiosity on students’ faces as they chase insects through the air with a net, spot a bird through their binoculars, learn the specific characteristics to identify a tree, or lift a dead log and try to count how many different critters scurry away.

“This project will now help by giving anyone the proper tools for identification of these organisms. Not only will we have that excitement, but we will have an efficient and transparent way of proper identification, all while contributing to citizen science, as iNaturalist data is accessible to researchers and institutions. Students should feel proud of every post they make.”

Brian identified three goals of the project:

  • Pedagogical: Teach people about the world around them. Learn about species and the ecosystem services they provide.
  • Sustainable: Use this project to provide microhabitats for species in our urban landscape.
  • Social: Bring people together, collaborate. Get people outside and appreciating Nature.

In November 2022, Dawson committed to being part of the Nature Positive Universities alliance, announced at COP-15 in Montreal in December 2022. Being Nature Positive means Dawson has pledged to halting and reversing Nature loss so that species and ecosystems start to recover. Dawson will work to restore species and microhabitats that have been harmed by the impacts of the College and its activities.

As a response to this pledge, Jennifer de Vera in the Sustainability Office came up with the 1,000 species in 1,000 days goal. Brian recounted that Dawson was first approached by the founder of the Campus Biodiversity Network (CBN), Katherine Collin from Vanier College, to join their international network that works to monitor and protect biodiversity on campuses.

“With the help of the CBN and iNaturalist, we have been able to publish the first photos and data about life at Dawson,” said Brian. “To date, we have been able to upload over 400 species with the help of keen student volunteers.”

Bioblitzes and more coming up

To build momentum, a number of Bioblitzes, events to train participants on identification and use of the iNaturalist app, are planned for Earth Week at Dawson, April 17-28. The launch Bioblitz will be Wednesday, April 19 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. More info and registration here:

“We will have a Biodiversity toolkit available to the community,” Brian said. “This will include, but is not limited to, field guides, insect nets, binoculars and iPads with microscopes. This will be available at events, but equipment will be available for rent for a class or for individuals.”

“We would also like to see teachers using this project in their classes, such as Biology and Physical Education,” Brian said. “Additionally, we would like to train a group of students, faculty and staff as Biodiversity Ambassadors to help run events. We will be regularly running Bioblitzes.

“The landscape master plan will have to play an important role to help as well. By consciously creating more microhabitats on campus, we can hope to attract more species. This will in turn allow for more community engagement and encourage people to go outside and enjoy the nature around them.”

Chris added that: “In the past we have pushed Nature aside…dominated it in a sense…and replaced a biodiverse landscape with cut grass and several trees on the grounds. During the industrial revolution, we even removed the uppercase N from the word and began using a lower case n, as if diminishing the reverence we once had for all life and that which supported it. Attracting 1000 species requires a range of conditions needed for that to happen (sun, shade, water, food, resting places, nesting material, etc.) and it cannot be accomplished without creating a new landscape with diverse natural features. Helping achieve this and being outdoors is restorative, and will help Dawson staff and students alike restore depleted psychological reserves post-COVID. Nature’s ability to reduce stress should not be underestimated!”



The 1,000 Species in 1,000 Days Project was made possible with funding through the Dawson Foundation’s Student Academic Enrichment Fund. To donate, go to:



Last Modified: April 11, 2023