NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Across New Jersey, Rutgers University has more than 24 properties and campuses, and on those lands people have recorded more than 1,600 animals, insects, plants and other life forms.
“I don’t know of any other university that has a growing species list on such a large scale for all their campuses and properties, such as within an entire U.S. state,” said Lena Struwe, a professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources and Department of Plant Biology at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
People have recorded the diversity for the new long-term “Flora and Fauna of Rutgers University” biodiversity project that Struwe launched in January.
As the university describes it, the project is citizen science-driven, generating data for the global research community, and encouraging people to reconnect with nature and the animals that live around them. It is an effort to enhance student learning and promoting environmental awareness and protection, the professor said.
"We have all these species that we share the campus with,” Struwe said. “This is their home. We share the space and our lives with them. This helps science and helps society understand the need to protect the environment.”
Among the specific species and animals and vegetation that participants have so far observed are American kestrel, the smallest falcon in North America; the Chinese mantis, a species of the praying mantis native to Asia, and Candleflame lichen, a yellow-green member of the Fungi kingdom.
Struwe initiated this effort through iNaturalist, a website where people can report observations at Rutgers-owned properties, including campuses in Newark, Camden, New Brunswick and Piscataway, and along with off-campus farms, field stations, coastal research labs and nature preserves.
The listing includes discoveries of plant and animal life that people observed years ago. One participant uploaded a 1997 observation in 2017, Struwe said.
“You don’t need to know the species name,” she said. “That is the beauty of iNaturalist, since other iNaturalist users anywhere in the world can help you figure out what it is.”
So far, more than 500 people have made more than 11,600 observations of plants, animals, insects and other species.
Anybody walking through the university properties can submit entries to the listings.
The list dovetails with the sixth Personal Bioblitz, which is scheduled for March 1 to May 15. The Bioblitz seeks participants who record their observations of wild and naturalized species that survive without human assistance anywhere in the world.