Bioblitz results

Well, it’s a little belated to report, but the 2019 Indiana Academy of Science (IAS) Bioblitz is a wrap! On June 29-30, we had over 30 scientists come from across the state (actually, as far away as North Dakota) to count & collect as many species as they could in 24 hours.

Dr. Jeff Holland, a Purdue forest beetle entomologist, was the bioblitz chair for IAS. I wish I could work with him every day! He is seen here 2 weeks prior to the event, setting up beetle pheromone traps that he would examine the day of the blitz.

This event was a dream of Sr. Mary and myself since the day I started 3 years ago. We were so honored to be selected as hosts for this special event.

When you see this license plate, you know that you’re hangin’ with the right crew.

Lindenwood graciously opened up their doors to host scientists so that they could be well-rested after some brutally hot hours in the field. Our dining services prepared a great evening banquet that the scientists enjoyed out under the tent on the MoonTree prairie. MoonTree staff rolled out the red carpet on snacks, set-up, tear-down, and all manner of logistics. I couldn’t have asked for a better team!

The temperature soared to 90 degrees, but we kept the ice water flowing and made sure folks took breaks.

We gathered at noon on Saturday and made introductions, looked over property maps, and split into teams according to taxa.

Over at the kids table, my little ones were busy painting with plants and making music with natural instruments, thanks to Elsa, one of our Maria Center residents.

From mid-afternoon through the evening, we had tours and talks scheduled for the public. We wanted to provide opportunities for people to engage with scientists in a relaxed environment.

Despite a lot of planning & great efforts made by our marketing staff, we just didn’t have much of a crowd. It was a little discouraging, but I was reminded that our primary goal was to facilitate the work of the scientists and make sure their quality work can go down in the literature for future students of our natural communities. That is something our team did very well, so I was pleased.

Jeremy Sheets, Senior Wildlife Biologist with Orbis Environmental Consulting, shows off the net he uses to trap and study bats.

After dinner, I put the drone up to take a few shots from above.

I even happened to come across the cows going back out to pasture after taking a drink. It made for an interesting aerial shot. I’ve noticed some very interesting patterns in vegetation at the border of grazed and ungrazed areas that are separated by a fence. Another thing to study someday!

We got ready for the evening by – what else? – making some s’mores. MMMm!

As the light died down, the efforts continued. The entomology team set up a couple lights, including a giant 1,000 watt light on a 10 ft pole at the highest point on MoonTree. What happened next was breath-taking (and, you had to be careful not to open your mouth when it happened!)

As much as we might dislike having creepy crawlies inside our home, they are indispensable members of the web of life (outdoors), and human life would simply not be possible without them.

There is increasing evidence that insect populations are facing severe challenges worldwide. It’s ever more urgent that we advance education on insects and press for their preservation.

Dr. Holland reported that this bioblitz was probably the best night he had ever had with the bug light. That made me incredibly happy and certainly made all the effort in setting up this event worthwhile!

The plant team surveys the western shore of Lake Galbraith on Sunday morning.

Sunday morning saw the field crews out and about again, while some others spent the morning looking at specimens under field microscopes in the tent.

Spiders, spiders everywhere! We estimate around 80-100 species sampled from just a small area.

Dr. Holland mounted up several beautiful specimens for us to see under the microscope, like this Ghost Tiger Beetle.

We used the iNaturalist smartphone app to encourage people to log their sightings on our shared project. We could then look at each other’s observations at a single online location. 15 observers logged a total of 120 species, as shown in this screenshot.

We had a great naturalist by the name of Carl Strang, who put in a great effort to survey the singing insects. His meticulous records and photos are a valuable contribution to the scientific record. He recorded a new species for Marshall County in the process, the eastern striped cricket. He also picked up counting the Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) and Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), as we didn’t have anyone counting those. Be sure to see his reflection (and photos) on his blog here.

Grape plume moth (Geina periscelidactylus) by Carl Strang
The Hebrew (Polygrammate hebraeicum) by Carl Strang

Tim Rice counted and photographed birds for us. You can see his photos on his Flickr page here.

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) by Tim Rice

We gathered one final time, at noon on Sunday, to talk about preliminary species counts and interesting observations. Unsurprisingly, we found that with the cold, rainy spring, some species seemed to be appearing later in the season than average (we heard a Fowler’s toad calling, which was very rare for late June).

We finished the weekend exhausted, but thankful that we could see so much of Creation on display, in the nooks and crannies and hidden places that we are often too busy to see.

I’ll have to leave you in suspense for the final species count. We won’t really have a good idea until the data can be reviewed during the rest of the summer. Eventually, we’ll put it all together and publish a report in the Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science

Until then, keep your eyes and ears open! Expect the unexpected.

The Unexpected Cycnia (Cycnia inopinatus) feeds on Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) at MoonTree Studios.



3 Replies to “Bioblitz results”

  1. Claire Whalen

    What an experience for you and all involved! To know the diversity of “bugs” must have made such a new appreciation for God’s creation and for the treasures of this piece of land that you take care of. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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