Sunday, June 29, 2008


A bioblitz is when a group of biologists with numerous different fields of expertise get together to find and catalogue as many different species as possible, in a designated area in a twenty-four hour period. The list ranges from the tiniest of invertebrates through all forms of plant life, algeas and lichens and all the groups of vertebrates. And this is what I was doing from 4.30pm on Friday.
Some groups have an easier job then others, the birders for example just stroll of with binoculars and spotting scopes and list all the species they see or hear. Others have to work a little harder to find their species.This is Natalie from the Natural History Survey Team wading out to check her turtle traps! By the way, this is something she does five days a week as part of her job and does it as 'matter-of-factly' as the rest of us would cross the street! As you can see it is not exactly crystal clear water we are talking about here!
And this is Jamie from the Nature Museum struggling to find any aquatic life in one of the streams. Unfortunately, as with so many water courses these days, it had been adversely affected by pollution and/or fertiliser run-off further up stream so the pickings were slim. She managed to find a couple of species of fish and a small mussel though so every little helps.
I was with the 'herps' team, (reptiles and amphibians) which included Natalie and her turtle team and the rest of us staying more on terra firma! We had various boards in place around the area. (These are just sheets of plywood which are laid flat in the grass and left alone) they are very appealing as shelters for snakes. Our most common find was Garter Snakes Thamnophis sirtalis, as you can see, there was no shortage of them.
A more unusual find, one that we hoped for but could not guarantee was actually found by one of the 'bug guys' at 1.30am when he found it sliding across the path in front of him(!) is the Milk Snake Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum this is the only member of the King Snake family found in the Chicago region. The reason the King Snakes are so called is because they eat other snakes - hence the reason that this individual was not found under the boards with all the Garter Snakes!
We had already found the Red-bellied Snake, (as shown on the previous listing) so there was only one more expected species to find and we would have to wait until Saturday afternoon for that little beauty to be found. The Smooth Green Snake Opheodrys vernalis, it was particularly rewarding to see this species as it is becoming seriously threatened in many areas. It is insectivorous and so is being badly affected by the widespread use of pesticides.
As the afternoon wore on, some extremely large black clouds started to build up, but they did have the good manners to hold off until our twenty-four hours were almost up, which wasn't bad considering we had been forecast to have violent thunder storms during the night. Not the most appealing prospect when sleeping in a little tent!
So with almost one thousand species catalogued, everyone packed up their equipment, returned all specimens to their previous locations and beat a dignified retreat before the storm.

Photo Credits - Jamie Stubis and CJT


Rambling Woods said...

I watched a program on PBS about a the snakes here...

Celeste said...

Michelle - I have lots of snakes at work, it is always fun to see people overcome their natural fears and discover the delights of these fascinating creatures.