My 2015 Bioblitz

The first UPenn Bioblitz at Rushton Woods Preserve in early June of 2015 was truly an experiment and a success. When I first spoke to Lisa Kiziuk, WCT Bird Conservation Director and Penn Lecturer, about my capstone and what I was interested in doing, she suggested a bioblitz as a way to collect a lot of data in a short time and effectively take a snapshot of Rushton’s biodiversity. After some research involving contacting others who had conducted bioblitzes, it seemed like it would be a great approach to documenting the fauna and flora at Rushton Woods Preserve and a lot of fun. The whole point of doing a bioblitz at Rushton was to both establish a baseline for future comparison and to explore what we already suspected – that Rushton Woods Preserve’s Rushton Farm, a small-scale, organic operation, coexists with and benefits wildlife and plants. This is important when considering how harsh conventional, large-scale agriculture is on the land. If research can demonstrate that a small-scale, sustainable operation is better for ecological health, as well as productive and profitable, there could be a shift towards more environmentally-friendly agricultural practices.

I started my Master of Environmental Studies degree at Penn in the spring of 2015, and am now in my second and final year – I expect to graduate in December of 2016. As soon as I started my Masters coursework, I got to work with Lisa and Blake Goll, Nature Education Coordinator, on figuring out the dates and logistics. I received a lot of help from my peers in organizing the appropriate data sheets and from Sue Costello, GIS Coordinator, in making a map to pinpoint survey points for birds and plants. However, it was more than just birds and plants we intended to survey – mammals (including bats), reptiles, amphibians, aquatic invertebrates, insects, and fungi would also be sought out during the nearly 24-hour bioblitz. The bioblitz ran from 6:00PM on Friday, June 5, with a 5- hour break from 12:30am-5:30am, until 4:00PM on Saturday, June 6.

This bioblitz was completed with the assistance of 30 volunteers whom I recruited through Penn, my alma mater Juniata College, various online list serves, and just good old fashioned word-of-mouth (or rather sometimes, word-of-email). Volunteers were affiliated with following the institutions and organizations: University of Pennsylvania, Juniata College, Willistown Conservation Trust, University of Delaware, Millersville University, Villanova University, PA Amphibian Reptile Survey, Pennsylvania Master Naturalists, Delaware Department of Natural Resources, Warwick School District, and New Jersey Certified Volunteer Master Naturalist.  This truly was a remarkable group effort motivated by the enthusiasm, curiosity, and expertise of many people, I could not have done this alone.

The 2016 field season should be as productive, and likely busier, than in 2015. I have planned two bioblitzes at Rushton for June 3-4 and September 9-10, in order to compare results between June 2015 and June 2016 and to capture seasonal differences between early summer and early fall. In addition, there are plans to conduct a bioblitz at a conventional, large-scale farm using the same methodology in order to compare biodiversity with that observed at Rushton in late June 2016. I welcome additional help.  If you’re interested in volunteering or have any questions, please contact me at upennbioblitz@gmail.com.

 

Willistown Conservation Trust

University of Pennsylvania

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