Event showcases the state’s biodiversity

Bioblitz 2007 offers researchers a chance to study Minnesota’s environment.

Mike Rose

It was a naturalist’s version of a time trial last weekend as scientists raced against the clock at Bioblitz 2007.

The Bioblitz is a national event that started in Connecticut about 10 years ago, said Jennifer Menken of the

Bell Museum. Scientists identify as many species as possible within a 24-hour period, while the public watches them work and learns about different species and environments.

On Saturday afternoon, scientists scrambled to identify everything before the 5 p.m. deadline.

“It’s always pretty hectic,” Menken said. “Everybody wants to have the highest number.”

Since 2004, Minnesota has hosted a Bioblitz each year at different sites. Menken serves as event coordinator, selecting sites and helping bring together the wide array of participants, including

the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and individual researchers and scientists.

“It’s a huge collaborative event,” Menken said.

She said the two main goals of a Bioblitz are to gather and provide solid scientific data, while also giving the public a glimpse into Minnesota’s vast biodiversity.

This year’s Blitz took place at the Warner Nature Center in Marine on the St. Croix.

“It’s the best site we’ve had, in terms of natural habitat,” Menken said.

Ron Lawrenz, director of the Warner Nature Center, said he liked the idea of giving the general public one-on-one contact with scientists.

This year’s Blitz kicked off Friday night with a hike to survey frogs, owls and insects.

Saturday’s events started with a 6 a.m. bird-watching session. Scientists also went on hikes designated for surveying mammals, reptiles, amphibians and wetlands.

Meanwhile, bird experts gave bird-banding demonstrations to show how birds are tagged for tracking purposes.

Carol Carver, a long-time volunteer at Warner, did most of the banding.

“(A band is) kind of like a collar on a dog,” she said.

Ethel Shubat, a 36-year volunteer at the center, set nets to catch birds for banding.

Shubat said she liked being the “net-runner” and enjoyed spending time at the Warner Nature Center.

“My first love is nature,” she said.

At Mays Lake, boats collected fish specimens. The boats had mini booms that sent electrical shocks into the water. The shocks caused the fish to swim toward the boat.

Konrad Schmidt, a DNR fish expert, brought a bucket of fish on shore to show the public.

Schmidt identified large-mouth bass, black crappies, bluegills and sunfish, which are the dominant species of fish in the lake. Schmidt also found a few hybrid species.

Schmidt, who had never surveyed Mays Lake before, said he would like to see even more DNR involvement with the Bioblitz in the future.

“(It’s an) incredibly beautiful lake Ö crystal clear,” Schmidt said.

Inside the Warner Center, Mark Edlund, an adjunct professor of geology and natural resources at the University, studied diatoms under a microscope.

Diatoms are a group of microscopic algae that have cell walls made out of silica or glass, Edlund said.

Past Bioblitzes did not survey diatoms, which Edlund said may be one of the most diverse species.

“If we had more people, we could maybe compete with the insect people,” he said, in reference to having the most species identified.

Claire Bleser, a University graduate student studying water resources, worked alongside Edlund.

“I’m just helping out, and we’re trying to identify as many diatoms as we can,” she said.