BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Monday, BREC's naturalist Amanda Takacs and co-worker Matthew Herron were pleased to be digging through mountains of information collected Saturday at the "Bioblitz" conducted at Forest Community Park.
The BREC park located at 13900 South Harrell's Ferry Road, near the intersection with Millerville, was site of an event kind of like a census of every living creature, insect, plant.
The public was invited to accompany naturalists, botanists and others as they scoured the park's nooks and crannies. Amanda Takacs says that samples could be taken on the edges of a parking lot, that every inch of space was under careful eyes.
"Forest Community Park is around 115 acres," Takacs explains, "And there is a combination of different amenities at the park, in addition to the dog park, softball field, there's also some forested area so that we protect a salamander that lives there. Their breeding grounds are very, very important because we have so few of them. They require very specific types of area to breed, which are these seasonal pools in a relatively un-impacted area. This happens to be one. It's a variety of species that they found out there. It's kind of exciting, for experts in this field to find it in this area amidst all the development. "
Takacs says her partner really worked hard "I would say doubled it in size this year as compared to last year, and Matthew Herron did a lot of the work. He's done a great job of networking with the scientists and getting everyone excited about it."
"We had a little over 100 people attend which included families, college student volunteers and scientists and experts from local interest groups and universities. Of these were numerous groups including a class of college students under Dr. Philip Stouffer who are researching the fauna of the park as part of their Renewable Natural Resources class. There were also representatives from BREC's Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center, the LSU Museum of Natural History, Wings of Hope and the Capitol Area Native Plant Society just to name a few."
Takacs says they actually had Johnathan Carpenter of Biodiversity Schematics out of Tennessee. Carpenter came to help with plant and insect identification, but is actually an expert at bioblitzes. He's in the process of consulting, and is preparing for a multi-year tour around the country with an RV fully outfitted to assist with Bioblitz Coordination.
Getting very specific, Takacs says she had experts for all our great Baton Rouge fungus species.
"We had Patricia and David Lewis from the Gulf States Mycological Society in Texas. They are leaders in their field of mushrooms and fungi."
The experts/scientists were dispatched in teams according to their interests because counting and sampling would be different for each kind of census.
BREC had invited the general public to get in on the data collection and in the publicity, suggested that citizens download a cell phone app. It was for "taking pictures and logging finds through the iNaturalist app. Results will be monitored in real-time via iNaturalist to see how many observations and species have been documented."
Takacs says one family asked for jars and basically went out, caught a few things, and brought them back to the reporting area for experts to identify.
The bioblitz continued on into the evening where, from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., they used "black lights" to study moths and nocturnal animals.
Throughout the day, there were squeals of delight from children who examined the many exhibits featuring live snakes and other interesting things.
Matthew Herron had made sure there were fascinating exhibits for families to see. There were tables sponsored by BREC's Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center, the Baton Rouge Butterfly Enthusiasts, LSU Ag Center and Natural History Museum, the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Wings of Hope Wildlife Sanctuary, Gulf States Mycological Society, Capitol Area Native Plant Society and the Louisiana Geographic Alliance.
So far, they have identified 395 species for the day within that 115 acres of the park.
Now, it may not be fair, but I insisted they tear out their tally and let us get a feeling for how many species were found Saturday, and here is their preliminary list: (keep in mind that "herps" are relatives of the snake and "Arthropods" are anything with a hard skeleton on the outside of their bodies, from spiders to mudbugs)
Yes, we have lots of "fungus among us" in South Louisiana.
Takacs says this is only the second Bioblitz BREC has staged. Last year, they did it for Blackwater Conservation Area. BREC uses the information to develop its plan to manage those areas.
Takacs says the information is valuable. Besides, "No other event are you going to get this many scientists in one group. It's really cool!"