Friday, June 11, 2010

BioBlitz Competitors to Examine Jamaica Bay by Ivan Pereira -

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It will be all fun and games this weekend as scientists and environmentally active volunteers descend into Jamaica Bay for an exploration of its diverse ecosystem.

Brooklyn College will be hosting a BioBlitz competition in the 39-acre greenspace from Friday afternoon into Saturday.

The competition, which has 35 volunteers from the college, other schools such as Queens College and agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will enable visitors to view and classify the fauna and flora in the bay hands-on, according to the event’s co-coordinator, Rebecca Boger.

“It gives a snapshot of what is living in the park,” said the Brooklyn College associate professor, who holds a doctorate in marine science.

“It’s part scientific endeavor and an outreach endeavor for people to learn about science and the park.”

The teams will meet at the aviator center at Floyd Bennett Field at 3 p.m., where a base camp will be set up for the competitors. There the teams will be led by professional experts like Boger and will collect and classify the some 200 different fish, birds and other wildlife they discover over the next 24 hours.

“They’ll get whatever they can find,” she said of the species thriving in the bay. “Insects, you’re going to get a lot.”

Boger said the participants have told her they are excited about the event, which was last held in the fall of 2007, because they have never been to a wildlife ecosystem before. She noted Jamaica Bay is a wonderful spot for an environmental scientist who is studying in the five boroughs.

“It is such a unique park in the sense that it is close to the New York City metro area and  it can be accessed by public transportation,” she said.

The bay has been under the microscope for the last couple of years because of an ongoing ecological problem affecting its saltwater marshlands. Due to an excessive amount of nitrogen in the water, the marshes have been deteriorating at a exponential rate over the last half century.

Federal, state and city environmental agencies have been trying to combat the deterioration, which imperils the wildlife that lives in the bay, through various projects including a restoration of the wetland.

In February, the city Department of Environmental Protection announced it would spend more than $100 million over the next decade to upgrade its wastewater treatment plants located around the bay so the facilities would discharge less nitrogen.

Although the BioBlitz will not focus on the marshland situation, Boger said the participants will gain some knowledge about the bay and it might bring them back to explore it in more depth.

“By indirectly gaining an appreciation for the resources and seeing the importance of these resources, I think that will have a powerful impact,” she said.

For more information on the BioBlitz, send an e-mail to