Bioblitz transforms the park into science, research laboratory | Zechariah

A walk in the park turned out to be more about science and nature than about swings and skateboards. Naturalists and citizen scientists gathered on April 17 for Bioblitz, the annual weekend dedicated to recording as many species as possible in a designated place and time.

BREC’s fifth Bioblitz took place at Zachary Community Park and included workshops, species identification and a series of nature walks on the park’s perimeter trails. Planned activities were canceled on April 16 when thunderstorms brought heavy rains to the area, but participants equipped with raincoats and rain boots took part in the events and workshops on Saturday.

Bioblitzes are a national trend that inspires the public to connect with the environment while generating useful data for science and conservation. They are also an opportunity for naturalists, scientists and residents to meet in the middle of nature.

Command Central was installed near the entrance to the park and housed a mini zoo of biological specimens found in the parish and stations for participants to submit data and results. Amanda Takacs, BREC’s deputy director of natural resource management, said the exhibits and finds were meant to provide an organic snapshot of the surrounding region.

“The idea behind Bioblitz is that we want to document the lives of these guys in the mini zoo – we capture them, we keep them so people can see them up close, and then we release them in the same place we found them. “She said.” So we take very detailed notes on when we found them, where we found them, and then we sent them back. “

The snakes on display in the mini zoo were popular with citizen scientists, including children and teens, who were able to observe and sometimes hold the slippery samples. Takacs said these snakes and other samples on display tell an important story about the biosphere that surrounds this community. “Most of them are native and obviously we want people to have a better understanding of the native plants and animals that we have in the parish,” she said. “At the same time, we have alien species here and we also want to document them in order to understand the potential management strategies we need to move forward with.”

Not all species found will be beneficial. BREC Conservation plays an important role in finding and controlling invasive plants, animals and insects that can be harmful to native species.

“This event isn’t just about highlighting the good stuff, but it gives us data that we can use moving forward to maybe help get rid of the bad stuff and it gives us a baseline. “said Takacs. “Maybe there is something going on here that is causing a decline in native species and we need to figure out what it is.”

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Guided survey hikes were held during the Bioblitz, which allowed participants to meet scientists and learn about various groups of species on the Zachary Nature Trail. The four types of hikes focused on plants, aquatic plants, insects and spiders, as well as reptiles and amphibians. Nature hikers used the iNaturalist phone app to document findings on the trail.

The Bioblitz workshops offered a classroom study (in tents) of the areas covered by nature hikes, but with precise details. Naturalist Kenneth LeCroy, Conservation Officer at BREC, led workshops that explored identifying bird calls and “Binoculars and Bird Watching,” a workshop that covered both the proper use of binoculars and how to recognize common bird species found in the area.

LeCroy had paper samples of birds laid out in the trees to help participants learn how to use the binoculars, but a realistic paper cardinal even duped a real cardinal who seemed overwhelmed by the invasion of his territory. LeCroy offered general categories such as size, color, and characteristics to help identify birds.

“What you want to do first is get the overall size of the bird,” he said. “And you can make comparisons from that – bigger than a robin, but it’s not as big as a hawk. You can sort of adjust the size from there.

Other categories to aid in identification included body shape, beak appearance, and color. “So with the cardinal, red narrows your list, but there are other birds that are red,” LeCroy said. “The next thing we got was the crest. The crest is going to be the great gift because a lot of the red birds don’t have the crests on them.

The work of Takacs and LeCroy highlights an evolution in parks and recreation services. BREC’s conservation department, associated with natural resource management, has joined forces to protect local habitats and biodiversity. “So we manage the trails, we collect data, we control invasive species and we do kind of like the science behind the scenes stuff,” Takacs said. “And then Kenneth’s band takes care of the programming.”

Conservation staff develop programs – nature walks, bird watching and fishing – that engage patrons from across the parish. “We take their information and develop it into something where you can all use it,” said LeCroy.

To learn more about BREC’s conservation and natural resources programming, visit https://www.brec.org/index.cfm/subhome/conservation.

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