Biodiversity Anyone?

The Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC has been a must-get-too for some time, as various people have been tipping us off that it’s an interesting place to see. Interesting to say the absolute least. Upon arrival, you are greeted with a 25-metre long blue whale skeleton suspended in the air, and your breath is literally knocked out of your body. The enormity of this creature is astounding and even though I was aware prior to the visit that this was, in fact, a real skeleton, I was still uncertain when my kids asked that same question. It’s the largest creature on earth, but that was too hard of a concept for me to grasp because the skeleton of the 10+ year old whale is so massive my small brain can’t imagine how it could actually live on this plant. Mind. Blown.


The museum showcases fossils, shells, insects, fungi, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and plants that have been collected and donated from around British Columbia and the world. The collections started in the early 1900’s and have been added to by researchers to the point that there are now over 2 million specimens. As you walk the darkened aisles of each of the 6 collections, there are rows of animals/reptiles/etc starring at you from behind glass, and every section has an interior space with a large showcase cabinet (for lack of a better word) with pull-out drawers. We loved pulling out the drawers and discovering what specimen was to be found. I’m sure there is a reason everything has been placed where it is, but with two little wide-eyed boys, it’s like a mad dash to open as much as possible and suck it all in… and I will admit that I’d have to spend more time reading the map and labels to come to a conclusion about organization.


There are many tours and family-centred activities, including a story-telling time that take place hourly, and usually meet “under the whale.” We spent a ton of time in the “Discovery Lab” at the back of the museum. In this area, you are able to use microscopes to look more closely at many creatures, from a field mouse to a sharks jaw. We also made a flower-pressing book and walked away with a clear set of instructions on how to press flowers and what species to avoid because they could be poisonous. Apparently we are now looking for poisonous plants after dinner… I’m not sure they quite understood that she had issued a warning and not a mission.

This is a highly recommended trip. You can expect to spend at least an hour there, but that’s if you are keen to just graze and not dive in completely. Biodiversity is the driver of evolution of species, and is an important concept for kids to grasp because it’s in our hands to protect it. This visit was more of a “let’s go check it out” – and we will be back for more soon. Let’s call it a biodiversity appetizer, but my kids, especially the older of the two, at eight, definitely started asking questions about what it meant to be extinct as opposed to endangered. Usually I’d pull out my pal Google to show him examples, so having the “content” right in front of us was a new experience for both of us.


The total cost was $26 for the three of us – and that’s because I am a “student from another institution” (this graduate degree is really starting to pay off financially). Not cheap, but well-worth it for the learning since my kids have been out of school for too long and have nothing but summer on their minds.