Friday, June 17, 2011

BioBlitz 2011

Students from Community Preparatory
School look for wildflowers.
Joslin Farm in Scituate, R.I. hosted the 2011 RINHS BioBlitz, an event in which scientists, artists, and avid outdoor enthusiasts survey the area in an attempt to create a list of existing species within the boundaries.  A 24-hour event, the BioBlitz began at 3pm on June 10 and ended on Saturday, June 11.  Participants were given specific groups of animals or plants to identify such as birds, bats, and butterflies.   The Rhode Island Natural History Survey hosted the event that drew a crowd ranging from third graders to senior citizens.  It served as an example of how wildlife can interest anyone at any age and from any walk of life.  
Boys from Central Falls School look at
mushrooms under microscopes.
Amongst those participating in the taxonomic survey, were a group of students from Central Falls and a group of sixth grade girls from Community Preparatory School in Providence.  The girls and boys were excited as they began identifying species and anxiously awaited their sleepover in tents.  Wildflowers were a popular draw amongst the Community Prep students.  The younger students use simplified taxonomy books to make their identifications.

The ZooCrew were drawing what
they saw under the microscopes.
Tents peppered the area around
Science Central.
Susannah Brooks, director of ZooCrew,
and ZooCrew volunteer, Carina Barceline,
sign in for the night.
Members of the Roger Williams Park Zoo’s ZooCrew also showed up to provided assistance in the identification. The ZooCrew is comprised of over 60 youth members who commit 50+ hours of their time every summer to volunteer for environmental causes.  
Kai and Lori-Anne sign-in eager to start
finding crickets and other bugs.
For Kai Lima, attending with his mother Lori-Anne, it was the prospect of finding crickets that he found exciting.  Frances Toppings, a member of the RINHS, looked forward to not only identifying species, but also sketching them.  Carl Sawyer, an expert plant identifier, enjoyed his job and described it by saying, “the more I do this, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”  He kept busy checking off identified species on the master list, which reached a total of 914 species.   This year the ants/bees and wasps categories totaled a record of 12 and 24 species respectively.  More than 83 types of beetles were identified compared to a previous record of 69.  

Insect identification occurred under
the Science Central tent.
As we wandered though the various tents, we came upon one spider specialist identifying a Wolf Spider with an egg sack that he explained held up to 200 eggs.  As he examined the spider another spider crawled up his leg.  Interestingly, most spiders must be dead in order to be identified because one must be able to identify mouth structures and other body parts and that is often impossible when a spider is crawling around.  

190 outdoor enthusiasts registered to participate in the event with approximately 150 people on-site observing or recording at any given time.  About 40 of the participants were students between 3rd and 12th grade.  Providence Water hosted and Roger Williams Park Zoo sponsored the event.  Bioblitz has been an annual event in different locales since 2000.

If you are interested in learning more about BioBlitz, check out the following articles.
In 24 cold, wet hours, R.I. BioBlitz counts 906 species on Scituate watershed land / Video, Providence Journal

Also be sure to visit the RI Natural History Survey Facebook page!

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