BioBlitz finds 368 species and counting at Weir Farm

With much anticipation leading up to the occasion, BioBlitz at Weir Farm was a resounding success. The park well surpassed its goal of recording 100 species. As of Wednesday morning, 368 species were identified.  

This year, more than 250 parks across the country have participated in a series of BioBlitz events to celebrate the National Park Service’s centennial. The cornerstone BioBlitz event in Washington, D.C., along with more than 100 other BioBlitz events, also took place this past weekend. More than 6,300 species were recorded nationwide.

Families in Fairfield County and the surrounding area came out on Saturday to take nature walks, sketch local wildlife, and get up close and personal with native species like the spotted salamander and Christmas fern. Upwards of 150 participants roamed the park and recorded observations throughout the day, with the assistance of 35 volunteers ensuring the event ran smoothly. A BioBlitz was scheduled for Friday night at Woodcock Nature Center but was canceled due to low enrollment.

More than 375 school children from Ridgefield Public Schools participated in BioBlitz, some of whom discovered a nesting wild turkey tucked away in the park.

In addition, 25 scientists and experts donated their time and talents to lead walks and identify species.

Woodcock Nature Center brought a variety of critters to BioBlitz, including turtles, salamanders and frogs. Friends of Weir Farm NHS, the Weir Preserve, and the Town of Ridgefield Conservation Commission also helped organize the event. Nine local businesses donated food to supply lunches to volunteers and naturalists.

According to National Geographic’s website, BioBlitz is an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time. Scientists, families, students, teachers, and other community members are encouraged to work together to learn more about local ecosystems and appreciate the beauty of the national parks. The goal is to count how many animals, plants, fungi, and other organisms live in a particular place.

Using the mobile app, iNaturalist, participants in BioBlitz were able to compile their results and view tallies of the number of species discovered during the event.

The iNaturalist app enables nature enthusiasts both young and old to record observations, share discoveries, and discuss findings with others. Observations are shared with repositories like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to help scientists find and use this data.

According to the The National Park Service’s website, biodiversity is critical because it provides drinking water, oxygen, food, medicine, decomposition of waste, and helps the planet withstand natural disasters. Events like BioBlitz inform people of its importance and encourages the practice of conservation in order to continue the promotion of biodiversity.  

Since the beginning of 2016, iNaturalist has had 60,861 observations recorded with 6,847 species found. Top participants have made upwards of 1,200 observations in this year alone.

As the data from Saturday’s BioBlitz at Weir Farm is further compiled, the count of recorded species will likely rise. Naturalists and wildlife enthusiasts alike are hoping some participants will have recorded sightings of threatened and endangered species like the sharp-shinned hawk and barn owl.

BioBlitz events will continue across the country throughout 2016.