CLARK, NJ - Bio-Blitz 2014 kicks off at 5 p.m. today at Oak Ridge Park in Clark. This free annual outdoor event organizes teams of plant and wildlife specialists to scour two Union County parks in search of plants and animals over a 24-hour period. This year’s event will focus on Oak Ridge Park in Clark and the adjacent Ash Brook Reservation in Scotch Plains.

Plant, fungi, insect, fish, bird, mammal, amphibian and reptile experts, plus water monitors and amateur naturalists will collect and identify species from the parks. Teams will return to Bio-Blitz Central, an outdoor, tented field lab and exhibit space in Oak Ridge Park, 136 Oak Ridge Road in Clark, to sort and count what they find.

The Bio-Blitz provides a snapshot of the biodiversity in the parks. Its goal is to raise public awareness of the importance of parkland as a wildlife habitat and outdoor classroom.

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“The Bio-Blitz is a great opportunity for the community and visiting scientists to learn more about the natural places that make Union County a special place to live,” said Freeholder Chairman Christopher Hudak. “Although these parks are surrounded by suburban development, Oak Ridge Park and the Ash Brook Reservation are perfect examples of how green spaces can provide a haven for people and wildlife.”

Free nature-related programs for all ages will be offered throughout the event, including evening programs from 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. on Friday, June 13, and from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 14. Free shuttle buses will be available to get participants to and from program sites. Programs will include: Mammal Tracking, Frog Slog; Owl Prowl; Star Watch; Stream Sampling; Wild Edible Plant Walk; Live Hawk & Owl Talk; Early Morning Birding, and more.

Bio-Blitz Bingo will offer younger “scientists” an opportunity to record their findings and enter a drawing to win nature-related prizes. A Junior Scientist tent will have young naturalists interacting with hands-on activities related to the natural environment. Union County’s Trailside Nature & Science Center staff also will be on-hand to offer guided walks and provide live animal exhibits.

For more information, visit the Union County Parks website: Bio-Blitz 2014