Hundreds of tiny plants and animals live in our city parks. But most people are too busy enjoying themselves to bother thinking about the critters… let alone to get down on their hands and knees and look for them. Now a campaign is underway to get people to take a closer look at what’s living in their neighborhood parks. The effort is called a “BioBlitz.” It pairs volunteers with scientists. They go into natural areas and see how many different species they can identify. The idea is to show the important role city parks can play in preserving diverse wildlife. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Patty Murray attended a BioBlitz and has this report:
Hundreds of tiny plants and animals live in our city parks. But most
people are too busy enjoying themselves to bother thinking about the
critters… let alone to get down on their hands and knees and look for
them. Now a campaign is underway to get people to take a closer look at
what’s living in their neighborhood parks. The effort is called
a”BioBlitz.” It pairs volunteers with scientists. They go into natural
areas and see how many different species they can identify. The idea
is to show the important role city parks can play in preserving diverse
wildlife. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Patty Murray attended a
BioBlitz and has this report:
A small crowd of people is gathered around a table at a picnic shelter.
They’re not reaching for the mustard. Instead they’re watching Bob
Howe open a metal, shoe box-shaped trap… to see what comes out.
“Yeah, there he is, a masked shrew.” “Wow.”
Howe is a Professor of Applied Science at the University of Wisconsin,
Green Bay. He’s at Baird Creek Park… dumping the little, brown
masked shrew into a clear plastic display cage. It darts under a pile
of grass, probably wondering what the heck’s going on.
“There he is wow, he’s tiny.” ‘What is he?’
“He’s called a masked shrew. Sorex cinereus. It’s our smallest mammal in
Wisconsin. A very common species though most people never see them.”
The shrews are apparently rarely seen because they’re so small… not
even half the size of a toy rubber mouse you’d give your cat to play
It’s obscure animals like this that the BioBlitz is all about.
Organizer Tammy Lee is with the group Great Lakes Forever. She wants
people to take time out from barbecuing… and think about the other
beings that share the park with them.
“And just to make them say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that yellow billed
cuckoo exists here or that salamander.'”
Lee says BioBlitzes are deliberately staged in urban or suburban parks –
not wildlife sanctuaries -to drive home the point that wildlife doesn’t
stay within the boundaries of a preserve. It’s in our own backyards.
“Somewhere that they can walk to, something they can go to, not
necessarily to look for biodiversity, but they might come here to play a
baseball game or play on the playground.”
“Hey do you guys want to help me catch some bugs?”
Volunteer Joan Berkopec is corralling a young brother and sister team.
hands the kids cloth nets and leads them beyond the merry go
round and the slide to a patch of waist high wildflowers.
They make a few sweeps with the nets, then sit on the grass to see what
came up with.
“Oh Lydia! You have a bunch of stuff in here. You have a
“Oh… everything’s getting away!”
The nature hunters lose a few flying insects out of their nets, but in
a matter of minutes they’re able to grab five or ten other funny
looking bugs and put them in sample jars.
They’ll take the bugs back to the Park Shelter where professional
will identify them. By the end of the 12-hour BioBlitz in the park
have identified 571 different species.
Professor Bob Howe, recovered from the excitement of the masked shrew
discovery, thinks this park harbors more than 800 different types of
wildlife depending on the season.
“Well, one species that we suspect is nesting there is Wilson’s fowler, which
is a species found in just a few places in the entire state. We’ve also found
a number of what’re called forest interior bird species like scarlet tanager and wood thrush.
That indicates this forest is intact and quite a good habitat for breeding
Not bad for a city park.
Howe says it’s important to have a lot of different species living
Without certain trees, some birds wouldn’t come around. Without the
birds… certain insects would proliferate… and so on. Also, Howe
says city parks filter out all sorts of pollutants such as fertilizers
before they get
into lakes and streams.
More BioBlitzes are going on in Wisconsin this summer. The events have
been held in places like Chicago and in New York’s Central Park.
Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Patty Murray.