More than 1,200 species were identified in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore bioblitz this weekend.
The number is expected to rise significantly as scientists crunch data and examine specimens in laboratories in coming weeks.
In the shallows of Lake Michigan an invasive species of fish, the round goby, which is believed to have come from Russia in ship ballast water in the 1980s, was found to have displaced native benthic fishes–indicating a loss of species for the park.
A small number of hatchlings of spotted turtle was seen, Watkins said. The turtle is rare and, in the state of Indiana, is regarded by conservationists as a species of special concern.
“What’s encouraging is that the find is an indication that there is a breeding population of this turtle in the park,” Watkins said. “That’s very good news for both the turtle and the park, and a tribute to the dedication of the scientists and citizens who took part in the bioblitz.”
Watch this video to hear Stuart Pimm, professor of conservation biology at Duke University, North Carolina, explain why the Indiana Dunes bioblitz was so important.
video by David Braun
Database for Research
When the bioblitz data is completed and verified, the full list of species, and their locations will be secured in NPSpecies, a National Park Service database, where it will be a reference for future surveys and additional research.
Organized jointly by the U.S. National Park Service and the National Geographic Society, the 24-hour event, that ended midday Saturday, was the third in a series of ten bioblitzes in urban parks.
The first two bioblitzes were held in Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park in 2007 and in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in the Los Angeles area last year. The tenth and last bioblitz in this series is scheduled to be held in 2016, the 100th anniversary of the U.S. National Park Service..
This year’s bioblitz was held in the dunes on the southern shore of Lake Michigan within sight of Chicago. More than 150 scientists from across the U.S. participated, among them botanists, entomologists (insect experts), ornithologists (birds), herpetologists (reptiles and amphibians), ichthyologists (fish), mycologists (fungi), myrmecologists (ants), and various mammal specialists.
The experts, ably assisted by some 2,000 grade school students and other members of the public, fanned out across much of Indiana Dunes’ 15,000 acres of forests, wetlands, prairie, streams, sand dunes and lake shore.
Heavy Rains, High Winds
By day and by night, and at times in heavy rain and high winds, the army of professional and citizen scientists looking for species waded into marshes, bog, and lake shallows, crawled over towering dunes, scratched in leaf litter, poked the soil, and peered up tall trees and under rocks and logs.
“A bioblitz is always an adventure, and this one was no different,” said John Francis, National Geographic Vice President for Research, Conservation, and Exploration, who went out on as many as he could of the 176 scheduled scientist-led forays to look for species.
“We had drenching rain and rivers flowing through our base camp, but science was undaunted,” Francis added. “The bioblitz helped put Indiana Dunes further on the map as a national park important for its extraordinary diversity of species.
“The big turnout of scientists, students, and families showed how excited people are about this place. This can only help build the community that supports this park, not only in the minds of the local population but also nationally.”
Planning for the fourth bioblitz in the series, in Florida’s Biscayne Bay next year, started earlier today, Francis said.
“The next bioblitz is likely to be even bigger and better than the first three because with each one we learn how to do them better, and more people are becoming aware of how important and fun they are. Bioblitz fever is alive and well.”
Under consideration for the 2010 bioblitz is a Web component that will allow students across the country to not only follow the event in Florida but also to emulate it with mini bioblitzes in their own communities.
For more details and updates, please visit the official National Geographic BioBlitz Web site.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Superintendent Costa Dillon (left) and National Geographic Vice President for Research, Conservation, and Exploration John Francis at a social reception on the eve of the bioblitz.
Photo by David Braun
Mike Thomas (left), of the National Park Service, and Mark Christmas, National Park Service contractor and former National Geographic staffer, guided the installation of the event. This included the erection of an outdoor stage and more than 40 tents covering 14,000 square feet. The largest tent provided shelter and work stations for scientists and data entry. The installation took three days, through severe weather that included heavy rains and wind gusts up to 55 mph.
Photo by David Braun
Conservation biologist Stuart Pimm (watch his video above) and blogger David Braun (right) take a break during the bioblitz in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on Friday night.
Photo by Mark Christmas