Tarleton’s first-ever BioBlitz invites the public to become ‘citizen scientists’ for a day

STEPHENVILLE (April 5, 2018) — You don’t always have to be a botanist or zoologist to contribute to science. Thanks to Tarleton State University’s Department of Wildlife, Sustainability and Ecosystem Science (WSES), anyone can play the role of scientific observer.

The WSES department will hold an intense, 12-hour biological survey in an effort to record all of the living species within Hunewell Ranch as part of its first annual BioBlitz from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 21.

The community is invited to participate and explore the biodiversity surrounding them. To register as a volunteer for the event, sign-up online at www.tarleton.edu/ecosciences.

Hunewell Ranch, located at 4999 County Road 182 off of FM 205, eight miles east of Stephenville, encompasses approximately 1,170 acres and is used by Tarleton for a variety of educational endeavors. The property is also home to Tarleton’s Observatory, a facility used by the university’s Program for Astronomy and Research.

For directions to Hunewell Ranch, go to https://www.tarleton.edu/observatory/map_observatory.html.

A BioBlitz, also known as a biological inventory or census, is a scientific survey focusing on discovering and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area during a short period of time. They occur every year in many locations around the globe and benefit the scientists who participate, the managers and caretakers of public lands and preserves—and particularly, those who attend, allowing everyone to have a much better understanding of biodiversity.

“As we see continued loss of biodiversity around the world and close to home, citizen scientists will play a larger and larger role in nature conservation,” said Dr. T. Wayne Schwertner, head of the WSES department. “They say you won’t protect what you don’t love, and you can’t love what you don’t understand. We are excited about this opportunity to host Tarleton’s first BioBlitz, to connect people with nature and promote that understanding.”

Groups of experts, students, faculty and community volunteers will participate in the half-day survey, including representatives from Tarleton’s chapters of the Fisheries Society, Entomological Society and Wildlife Society. The public is invited to attend—whether as participants or interested citizen scientists who want to witness the gathering of biological diversity within Hunewell Ranch.

All participants are encouraged to download the iNaturalist app for their smartphones prior to the event, said co-organizer Seth Hamby, WSES graduate assistant and president of the Prairie Oaks Master Naturalists Chapter. The app, available for free on Google Play for Android and Apple Store for iPhone, will be used to assist in documenting species during the BioBlitz.

“This event serves as an excellent opportunity for folks to become a citizen scientist,” Hamby said. “When you’re out in the field, it’s easier to see the many connections in the natural world. As we learn how to see even the tiniest of organisms during the BioBlitz, we begin a journey to try and make sense of those observations. I hope this event promotes a sense of wonder in participants to better understand the intricate and interconnected systems of the world around us.”

Several sessions are scheduled during the BioBlitz, each led by various Tarleton faculty and graduate students. Sessions are:

• 1st iNaturalist Mini-Blitz, 9-11 a.m. – Small groups collect photographic documentation of species;

• Herpetology Outing, 9-11 a.m. – Participants learn the basics of “herping” in a field setting;

• Plant Walk, 11 a.m. – noon – Small groups learn the basis of plant identification;

• Lunch, noon – 1 p.m. – Hosted by the WSES Department;

• Observatory Tours, 1-3 p.m. – Participants see the inner-workings of Tarleton’s 32-inch reflecting telescope within the observatory dome;

• 2nd iNaturalist Mini-Blitz, 1-3 p.m. – Small groups collect photographic documentation of species;

• Fish Shocking, 3-4 p.m. – Participants learn the basics of fish shocking and identification in a field setting;

• Aquatic Macroinvertebrates, 3-4 p.m. – Participants learn the basics for collecting these tiny organisms and identification procedures;

• Algae and Diatoms, 3-4 p.m. – Participants learn the basics of algae and diatom collection in a field setting;

• 3rd iNaturalist Mini-Blitz, 4:15-6:15 p.m. – Small groups collect photographic documentation of species;

• 4th iNaturalist Mini-Blitz, 6:30-8:30 p.m. – Small groups collect photographic documentation of species;

• Mothing Demonstration, 7:30-9 p.m. – Participants find and record moth species using a light and white backdrop; and

• Closing and Data Entry, 8:30-9 p.m. – All observations are uploaded to iNaturalist.

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