Nature lovers of all ages will have the opportunity to get up-close and personal with wildlife in their own “backyard” during Bio-Blitz 2014, beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 13. The annual outdoor event will organize teams of plant and wildlife specialists to scour two Union County parks in Clark and Scotch Plains in search of plants and animals over a 24-hour period.
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 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.”
The primary purpose of Bio-Blitz 2014 is to gain a “snapshot” of the biodiversity (or richness of species) in these adjacent Union County parks. Another important goal of the event is to raise public awareness of the importance of parkland as wildlife habitat and outdoor classrooms.
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 Central, the hub of the event, will be located at Oak Ridge Park in Clark. The large field tent will house team “labs” where scientists will sort and identify their findings. Live fish will be on display along with plants, insects, fungi, and amphibians and reptiles.
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.
Gardeners and homeowners who want to attract wildlife and increase biodiversity in their own yards will have the opportunity to learn all about invasive and native plants through exhibits by the NJ Invasive Species Strike Team and the Native Plant Society of NJ. Native plants will be on sale by Toadshade Farm.
Bio-Blitz 2014 is sponsored by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation, Kean University and the Rahway River Watershed Association, with partial funding provided by PSE&G. Team volunteers will be fed and “watered,” caffeinated and “clothed” thanks to generous donations from ShopRite of Clark; Starbucks of Westfield; N.J. American Water & Whole Foods of Union. Additional donations will be provided by the Rahway River Watershed Association, Reed Writers, Wild Birds Unlimited, Jenkinson’s Aquarium of Point Pleasant, Staten Island Zoo and other area vendors.
Other partner organizations include the Arthur Kill Watershed Association, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Friends of Lenape Park, New Jersey Mycological Association, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Fish & Wildlife, the NJDEP AmeriCorps Watershed Ambassador Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Plant Protection and Quarantine Programs.
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