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It's a BioBlitz!

Monday, July 21, 2014
By Greg Redling

On Sunday, June 29th, I visited SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Adirondack Interpretive Center located in Newcomb, NY. There I joined many students, professors, biologists, ecologists, and nature lovers from all walks of life at the All-taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) 2014 Bioblitz.

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Adirondack Council Intern, Greg Redling
(2nd from left) &
Council Board Member,
Larry Master (3rd from right)
participate in the BioBlitz

Inside the visitors’ center, specialists set up small exhibits to share with the group. These included different species of mushrooms and fish tanks containing turtles, salamanders, snakes, and frogs. There was also a covered mesh clothes hamper that contained several large moths, one of which I could identify as the Luna Moth, and many more fascinating displays to look at. After a short introduction by Ecologist and Professor, David Patrick of Paul Smith’s College, and Ezra Schwartzberg, a passionate entomologist and owner of Adirondack Research, LLC, we broke up into smaller groups and prepared for the first few hours of “BioBlitzing.”

A BioBlitz is an event where scientists and volunteers get out into the field and identify as many species as possible… all taxonomic groups. These events are being held all over the world and are quickly gaining popularity. When a species is observed or identified, it is then uploaded into a database which captures the species found, the date and time and the location where it was found, and even a picture if possible. This information serves as baseline data which can then be accessed and compared to similar data in the future. It is all part of a field of science known as Phenology, which studies cyclic plant and animal phenomena which are influenced by seasonal patterns and changes in climate… like the budding of certain plant species or the emergence of amphibians from their winter hibernation homes.

Although I’m not an expert at identifying species, I had to choose a taxonomic group. Knowing I’d probably have to get dirty or wet if I chose fish, amphibians or reptiles, I went with the bird group lead by Brian McAllister of Paul Smith’s College. I was paired with two others and assigned a specific section of the map. And before I knew it, I was walking down a dirt trail listening intently for bird calls.

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Winter Wren
Photo by Larry Master

My two other group members, Bernie and Mary Beth, were older than I and likely had twenty years or more of birding experience. Bernie asked me “how long have you been birding?” and I reluctantly replied “this is my first time.” Thankfully he didn’t seem too disappointed as we moved slowly down the trail towards a peninsula jutting out into Rich Lake. We quickly reached an overlook with sitting benches where Bernie and I sat quietly. Mary Beth looked out across the lake. Only a few minutes went by before they both identified almost eight different bird calls. I took out a pen and paper and began writing them; “Black Throated Green Warbler, Song Sparrow, Junco, Winter Wren, Red Breasted Nuthatch, Broad winged Hawk, Common Yellowthroat Warbler, Northern Parula.” I was amazed that what sounded so indiscriminate to me were actually the songs of so many different birds.

After three hours or so, the bird calls began to die down as the sun rose higher in the sky. We headed back to the Interpretive Center where we met up with others from the bird group and shared what we had heard. I was so impressed with the knowledge these people had as well as the passion demonstrated as they were so excited to learn what each other had found. They began trading pictures and stories and spoke almost affectionately about the birds they were so happy to have heard that day.

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Black-Throated Green Warbler
Photo Courtesy of the
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Events like these are wonderful opportunities to encourage public involvement in the scientific community. Encouraging recreationists and passionate individuals to share their findings not only taps into a world of incredibly useful and valuable information, but it also promotes stronger relationships between people and their natural surroundings. Instead of just merely traversing through a landscape to view and admire its aesthetic qualities, these people are implored to go deeper by interacting with the many elements within, to look, listen and feel the many changes and cycles constantly taking place. These events should happen more often as they cultivate a more comprehensive understanding and appreciation for our natural world, especially for people like me who had little professional experience.

After this experience, I will no longer walk through the woods blind to the many different birds and other species calling and crawling around me. I am glad to have had the chance to walk with Bernie and Mary Beth and to see the world through their perspective. I look forward to the next Bioblitz in 2015. A little birdy told me it may be at Paul Smith’s College next year. I’ll see you there!

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Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/BioBlitz Blog/Greg.jpgGreg Redling is the Adirondack Council's Clarence Petty Intern working in our Elizabethtown office. He is a graduate from Paul Smith’s College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in GIS. At the Council, Greg works on many of the conservation issues facing the Park today, including acid rain and invasive species. When not working, Greg enjoys kayaking, hiking, camping, and singing.


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