Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve BioBlitz Reveals Great ‘Bayou Diversity
Thousands of Scientists, Students and General Public Converge on Park For Scientific and Personal Discovery
NEW ORLEANS — After two days of exploration and documentation, the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve BioBlitz held on May 17 and 18, 2013, captured a vivid snapshot of the plant and animal diversity in Jean Lafitte’s Barataria Preserve. Led by more than 100 scientists from around the country, thousands of amateur explorers, families and students on school field trips conducted an inventory of the plants, insects, mammals, birds and other creatures that inhabit the 23,500-acre preserve.
• More than 3,000 people, including more than 1,500 schoolchildren, participated in the BioBlitz and the concurrent Biodiversity Festival.
• The initial scientific species count as of the 4:30 p.m. closing ceremony Saturday was 458, with well over 1,500 observations made over the two days. Organizers expect the number to increase significantly over the next few months as state-of-the-art testing of the collected samples continues.
• During the two-day, 24-hour (noon-to-noon) inventory, the Louisiana State University arthropod team processed more than 400 distinct insect species. Many are known to the park, but never documented. Several new invasive insects were also among the finds.
• A rare Louisiana milk snake was discovered, and possibly one new fish, Fundulus herteroclitus (mud minnow), will be added to the park’s species roster.
The festival grounds were brightened by dozens of flags created by students at area schools that featured local species like alligators, snapping turtles, ducks and dragonflies.
• The Biodiversity Festival included a wide variety of music, nature-inspired activities, talks, art, live animal demonstrations and hands-on science activities. The festival emphasized biodiversity and encouraged the public to do its part to protect the environment. Many visitors interacted with representatives of science, nature and environmental organizations at more than 40 booths.
The BioBlitz was part scientific endeavor, part festival and part outdoor classroom. Participants combed the park, observing and recording as many plant and animal species as possible in 24 hours. Activities included counting alligators, catching insects, spotting birds, exploring and examining aquatic invertebrates and using technology to better understand the diverse ecosystems of this unique park.
“This is the first time anyone has done this level of work on a bottomland, hardwood, freshwater system like this,” said Victoria Bayless, curator at the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum. “Everything we can document and share is really important right now.”
“This was a fantastic opportunity for the public to meet and work with scientists and to understand and appreciate what makes Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve’s Barataria Preserve such a special and biologically rich place,” said Lance Hatten, acting superintendent of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve and New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. “For many people, especially schoolchildren, this was their first visit to the park, and it was exciting to have them experience it with amazing scientists and naturalists as their guides.”
“Watching scientists, students and the general public in the field exploring and making discoveries put a smile on my face,” said John Francis, National Geographic’s vice president for Research, Conservation and Exploration. “Scientists joined students and residents from the surrounding communities and celebrated their unique roles as members of the natural systems where they live. It was also exciting to see new technology and smartphone apps being used in the field to document and identify species finds.”
In his closing remarks, Francis invited all to join the National Geographic Society’s Great Nature Project. The project encourages people from around the globe to go outside, explore, document plants and animals with cameras, and upload them to share, using the hashtag #GreatNature. The goal is the largest photo album of plants and animals, capturing the rich biodiversity of Earth and raising awareness about protecting the planet. The weeklong quest will take place Sept. 21-29, 2013, and is part of the National Geographic Society’s 125th anniversary yearlong celebration. Learn more at greatnatureproject.org.
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve BioBlitz was the seventh in a series of 10 annual BioBlitzes to be hosted by National Geographic and the National Park Service leading up to the National Park Service centennial in 2016. During closing ceremonies the BioBlitz flag was passed to Aaron Roth, deputy superintendent of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, where the eighth BioBlitz will take place March 28-29, 2014.
The first BioBlitz was held at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., in 2007; the second took place at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California in 2008. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was the site of the third BioBlitz in 2009; Biscayne National Park, outside Miami, was the 2010 site; Saguaro National Park in Tucson hosted the 2011 BioBlitz; and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado was the 2012 host park.
The Jean Lafitte BioBlitz was made possible through the generous support of corporations, foundations and state and local agencies. Corporate support came from Southwest Airlines. Foundation support was from the Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation, the National Park Foundation and the National Park Trust. The Louisiana Office of State Parks and Jefferson Parish also provided support.
National Geographic has had a close relationship with the National Park Service since the Service’s inception; the Society helped draft legislation to establish the Service in 1916. National Geographic has given grants to establish or sustain national parks and has extensively covered the parks in its media for nearly a century.
NOTE: Images are available at http://ftp.nationalgeographic.com/pressroom/bioblitz.
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