BioBlitz: A Race Against Time

A group walk to the HEEP wetlands near North Campus during BioBlitz 2015 on July 25, 2015. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)

SHARELINES

A group of BioBlitz participants and volunteers walk to the Hillside Environmental Education Park wetlands near North Campus on July 25. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
A group of BioBlitz 2015 participants and volunteers walk to the Hillside Environmental Education Park wetlands near North Campus. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)

During a 24-hour survey of biodiversity on and around the Storrs campus, UConn scientists and the public tallied nearly 1,200 species.

Species count (1,181 total):
Algae                                      91
Birds                                      80
Bryophytes (such as moss)  42
Fish                                         6
Fungi, including lichens    147
Herps (reptiles, amphibians) 20
Invertebrates                        43
Insects                                222
Mammals                              24
Spiders                                  46
Vascular plants (trees, flowers) 460

And that’s not counting the more than 6,000 species of microbes (microscopic bacteria and single cell organisms called archaea) collected and identified by scientists using DNA sequencing during a concurrent activity.

Sponsored by graduate students in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, BioBlitz 2015 engaged dozens of nature lovers and future scientists in a world that goes largely unnoticed by many, but one that is teeming with life if you know where to look.

“[The BioBlitz] is a race against time to record as many species as possible,” said Uzay Sezen, postdoctoral fellow in ecology and evolutionary biology, and one of the organizers of the event.

Over a period of 24 hours, beginning 4 p.m., Friday and concluding the following afternoon, those with a keen eye and an ear attuned to the call of the wild were invited to observe everything from tadpoles to white-tailed deer to insects, ferns, and fungi.

Visitors were able to watch professional scientists as they identified and categorized flora and fauna; and children ages 10 and over took part in a Science Exposé that involved supervised collections in the Hillside Environmental Education Park near North Campus.

James Farkas, left, and his mother, right, came from Manchester Vt. to participate in BioBlitz 2015 on July 25, 2015. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
James Farkas, left, and his mother came from Manchester, Vt. to participate in UConn’s BioBlitz 2015. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
Alexander Fang, right, and his mother, left, consult with Jean Laughman, a UConn vounteer during BioBlitz 2015 on July 25, 2015. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
Alexander Fang, right, and his mother, left, consult with Jean Laughman, a UConn volunteer, over the identification of an insect. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)

People from as far away as Manchester, Vt. and as close as Mansfield Center, Conn. explored fields and wetlands, forests and ponds, and participated in activities such as a nature photography walk, a moonlit ‘owl prowl’ near the Fenton River, and a stroll through the UConn Forest.

Amanda Caskenette, a post-doctoral fellow in ecology and evolutionary biology and one of the event organizers, said one of the goals of the Science Exposé was to get children interested in the natural world and ultimately inspire some of them to pursue careers in science.

Children and adults joined scientists in observing and cataloging nature during UConn's BioBlitz, July 24-25, 2015. (Ryan Glista '15 (CLAS)/UConn Photo)
Four-year-old Declan of Mansfield was among those who joined scientists in observing and cataloging nature. (Ryan Glista ’15 (CLAS)/UConn Photo)
Zach Sobel-Pressman, left, and his brother Ari both of West Hartford learn about ants exploring space during BioBlitz 2015 on July 25, 2015. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
Zach Sobel-Pressman, left, and his brother Ari, both of West Hartford, learn about ants exploring space during BioBlitz. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)

“We think it’s important that kids ask ‘why?’ and not just accept what they see at face value. We want them to think about why a particular species is present, what makes a good environment, and why a particular species may either decline or increase in numbers,” she said. “This part of BioBlitz is a little different from what has been done in the past, and it’s a great way to get kids involved in science while they’re having fun.”

On the lower end of the attendees’ age range, four-year-old Declan from Mansfield announced to his mother that he ‘loves science’ – and that’s what BioBlitz is really all about.

A northern saw whet owl brought by Horizon Wings rehab center seen during BioBlitz 2015 on July 25, 2015. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
A northern saw whet owl brought by Horizon Wings rehab center and on display to the public. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
A swallowtail butterfly seen near Swan Lake during BioBlitz 2015 on July 25, 2015. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
A swallowtail butterfly seen near Swan Lake on July 25. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
Sarah Johnson an eighth grader from Asford, left, and Caty Cooley, 12, of Mansfield, collect species at the HEEP wetlands near North Campus during BioBlitz 2015 on July 25, 2015. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
Sarah Johnson, an eighth grader from Ashford, left, and Caty Cooley, 12, of Mansfield, collect species at the Hillside Environmental Education Park wetlands. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
Louanne Cooley, an adjunct instructor of EEB, looks at aquatic life at the HEEPS wetlands near North Campus during BioBlitz 2015 on July 25, 2015. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
Louanne Cooley, an adjunct instructor in ecology and evolutionary biology, looks at aquatic life at the Hillside Environmental Education Park. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
Jan Tomanelli, a teacher the Charles H. Barrows STEM academy in Windham looks at insects at the HEEP wetlands near North Campus during BioBlitz 2015 on July 25, 2015. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
Jan Tomanelli, a teacher at the Charles H. Barrows STEM Academy in Windham, looks at insects at the Hillside Environmental Education Park. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
Looking at a mushroom collected during BioBlitz 2015 on July 25, 2015. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
Examining one of the mushrooms collected during BioBlitz. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
Kassie Urban-Mead, a forestry student at Yale University counts invertebrate species during BioBlitz 2015 on July 25, 2015. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
Kassie Urban-Mead, a forestry student at Yale University, was among the volunteers helping count invertebrate species. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
Graduate students tally the number of species observed during BioBlitz 2015 on July 25, 2015. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
UConn graduate students tally the number of species observed during the BioBlitz. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
Graduate students tally the number of species observed during BioBlitz 2015 on July 25, 2015. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)
Graduate students confer, as they tally the number of species observed over the 24-hour period. (Sheila Foran/UConn Photo)