Kevin Bouliane is biking across Canada and visiting Key Biodiversity Areas., Kevin Bouliane
Kevin Bouliane is biking across Canada and visiting Key Biodiversity Areas. © Kevin Bouliane

"You don’t need to be an expert to care about the natural world”


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Youth

Published

2024-07-04

Kevin Bouliane is a cyclist on a mission: to visit as many Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) as possible by cycling across Canada.

Kevin Bouliane is a cyclist and environmental advocate behind the Biodiversity Bikeride. By biking to Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) across Canada, he aims to raise awareness about KBAs and biodiversity loss, raise funds for the KBA Canada coalition, engage with conservation experts, and inspire others to connect with nature. Organizations across the KBA Canada coalition including WCS Canada, Birds Canada, and BC Nature are helping connect Kevin to experts and provide advice on his route.

Read on for a Q&A session with Kevin to learn more about his inspiring journey and insights from the road.

What was the motivation behind initiating the Biodiversity Bikeride?

It started with a desire to merge all of my loves into one pursuit. I hate leaving parts of me behind. When I realized that biking could allow me to travel, get into nature, and of course bathe in exercise endorphins, I knew I was on to something. The only thing left was to infuse biking with a purpose.

Like most people, I had the intuitive understanding that the world needs as many wild places as possible. I’m not an ecologist, a climate scientist, or even a birder, but I reasoned that you don’t need to be an expert to care about the natural world and want to protect it. I began researching places that were perhaps most important ecologically, and that’s when I came across Key Biodiversity Areas. I was surprised I hadn’t heard of them before, and I had a good feeling that visiting KBAs could bring the purpose that biking would be missing on its own.

Can you describe some of the most interesting experiences you have encountered thus far on this journey?

I think the most interesting thing that has happened to me has not been one discrete experience, but more a perspective shift from living in this unique way. If you’ve ever felt invisible or anonymous walking through city streets, try loading up your bike with bags! People are always coming up to me with curiosity and encouragement. I think when you do something unique, as much as it breaks you out of your routine, it also breaks others out of theirs. People notice, and they want to help. I’ve had numerous complete strangers become friends and even simply hand me money to help out. It’s been incredibly heartwarming. The only time I didn’t want help from a stranger was when I noticed that the stranger ambling toward me was a bear. Maybe a bit closed-minded on my part, but I said that I didn’t want any donations or even to chat, thank you very much.

How do you prepare for such a physically demanding bike trip across KBAs?

Aside from being a casual city cyclist, I didn’t prepare! Don’t get me wrong - I knew that biking around the country would be tough. But fitness is built day after day throughout the journey. And I can honestly say that the biking is the fun part. When I’m biking, my silly little worries and anxieties turn off, and I can just take in the sensations all around me. I also don’t put much pressure on myself to cover massive distances. I take breaks and go slow!

What have been the major challenges you’ve faced throughout this journey, both emotionally and physically?

The biggest challenge has just been planning the project and getting started. Even after I had the idea, I still felt resistance pulling me back into my comfort zone. It’s hard to describe how scary it was for me to commit to living like a nomad without the comforts of a regular home or regular income. However, with every tiny step forward it felt easier to take another. I also have amazing loved ones who encouraged me relentlessly to keep the dream alive. Ironically, leaving these loved ones behind is the other major struggle. It gets easier over time, but starting out on your own is a bit of an abyss.

What factors do you consider when choosing your routes and destinations?

What I love about chasing KBAs is that I get to see wild places that I might never have known existed, and I certainly wouldn’t have appreciated them for their uniqueness. In other words, my destinations are simply KBAs. My priority is visiting “accepted” KBAs and adding on Candidate KBAs (areas that are still being assessed for their KBA status) whenever convenient or recommended by others. Uncle Google is my guide, and he rarely leads me astray! Whenever possible, I prefer to take backroads and trails that get me off of major highways. Drivers almost always move over for me so I feel quite safe, but the bliss of a quiet path is hard to beat.

Can you share some insights from conservation experts you've met so far?

This one comes from Anne Murray, an award-winning conservationist, author, and lifelong birder I spoke with. What a lot of people like about birding is the gamification of nature. It can be far more interesting to look for different species and learn about their habitats and unique behaviours as a birder than to simply be in nature without an objective. Finding different species is kind of like coin collecting, leading people to look for, and value, different species (especially rare ones). In some ways, it’s the same principle that I followed when starting the Biodiversity Bikeride. Life is more fun and interesting when you can connect what you do with a goal or a purpose of some kind. So leaning into the fun and the challenge of birding (and this could be extended to all animals and plants), could be a way to get more people to reconnect with nature and care about conservation.

How do you document and share your journey?

The digital home base of my project is biodiversitybikeride.com. On there, people can learn more about me, keep up to date with the KBAs I’ve visited, follow the route I’ve taken, and support the project in various ways. I also post updates to Instagram as frequently as I can. Stay tuned for my forthcoming blog on the website where I’ll share more about my trip, the places I visit, and the people I meet along the way.

Have you learned any interesting facts about the KBAs you’ve visited thus far?

After visiting Burns Bog in the Fraser River Estuary KBA, I learned that bogs are even better at sequestering carbon than forests. And in the 1990s, a young man in the tractor-stealing business learned that bogs are also incredibly effective at sequestering tractors.

What tips would you give to someone looking to embark on a similar path or make a meaningful contribution to conservation efforts in their own way?

Whatever project you have in mind, make it your own. To the best of your ability, bring your personality to the work you do. We don’t need copycats. The environmental challenges we face need everyone’s contributions to address, so being your authentic self will make others feel welcome in the movement. I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face: aside from the basics, I actually don’t know much about plant or animal species, or biodiversity in general. But the way I see it, everyone is needed, and everyone can learn. Whatever makes you unique and wonderfully weird can be your calling card!

What do you hope to achieve through your efforts, and how can others get involved or support your mission?

First and foremost, I want more people to know about KBAs and to value biodiversity and conservation as a major priority. We can’t mow down the natural world at the rate that we do and expect to be immune from consequences.

I am also raising funds to support the KBA Canada coalition. My goal is to raise $250 for every one of the 142 KBAs in Canada at the time I started pedalling. This works out to $35,500 total. Links to my fundraiser can be found at biodiversitybikeride.com/support or in the link in my Instagram bio, @biodiversitybikeride. Your support would mean the world to me. Also, please reach out and say hello!

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