Do you find yourself unnerved by the onslaught of news about heads of science-based federal agencies like the Department of the Interior, NASA and the EPA being replaced by people with no scientific background, simply because the new appointees are willing to embrace the Trump Administration’s stances on climate change, toxic waste regulation, land us, endangered species classification, fossil fuel transport and the like? It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but there is something that a single private individual can do to help stem the tide of misinformation: Volunteer to do a bit of citizen science now and then. Regular data collection is an essential weapon in the long-term battle against willful ignorance and uninformed decisionmaking.
In the past, efforts like these have mainly manifested as events like the annual Christmas Bird Count, which were as much social outings for nature geeks as they were serious field research. They’re still fun to do, but the stakes are much higher now. The Mohonk Preserve, known for its rigorous longitudinal recordkeeping of natural phenomena on the Shawangunk Ridge since the late 19th century, recently got involved in a program of the National Phenology Network called “Nature’s Notebook,” which recruits civilian volunteers to collect data on flora and fauna at different times of year at specific locations. Now it’s time for the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development and the Woodstock Land Conservancy to do the same for the Catskills, so lace up your boots and come out to BioBlitz 2017!
From 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. this Friday, July 28 and again from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 29, citizen scientists of all ages (no special training or experience necessary) will be teamed with scientists and expert naturalists to study the wildlife, plants and biodiversity at the Catskill Center’s Thorn Preserve, a beautiful 60-acre locale containing a stream, pond, wetlands, forest and open meadow. This third annual event is free and open to everyone. Last year more than 280 species were identified at the preserve.
Volunteers are asked to bring their smartphones and put them to use cataloguing and photographing the species of the Thorn Preserve. You’ll learn about life in the stream, birds, trees, wildflowers, reptiles and amphibians, butterflies, bees and, on Friday night, bats and owls. This is a great learning opportunity for individuals and families and a fun day out in the field (kids are welcome, dogs are not). A “base camp” tent will offer a place to gather, relax, peruse guidebooks, play BioBlitz Bingo, collaborate, discuss finds and compile data.
Biodiversity is a powerful indicator of environmental quality. An ecosystem under any kind of stress, such as pollution or habitat fragmentation, will show a drop in biodiversity. Data collected at the BioBlitz will be used to study the changes that occur at the Catskill Center’s Thorn Preserve over time and to make thoughtful management decisions to preserve the biodiversity of the habitat.