For 24 consecutive hours, volunteer students and residents, led by wildlife experts, hiked around the wetlands surrounding Floyd Bennett Field in this year's BioBlitz, counting and identifying hundreds of animal and plant species that call the New York City area home.
The June 11-12 wildlife census was organized by Brooklyn College and the National Park Service. The NPS oversees the entire 26,000-acre Gateway National Recreational Area, which stretches from the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens along the Brooklyn and Staten Island shorelines to Sandy Hook, N.J.
Professor of Geology John Marra, who helped organize the event, said that the partnership between the College and the NPS made perfect sense. "The Park Service has the facilities, and the College has the scientific interest and the labor.
"While we are helping the NPS monitor what they have," he added, "we are also providing good research education for our students."
"For us, the BioBlitz has two objectives," said Barry Sullivan, NPS's superintendent for the Gateway region. "The first is to sample the biodiversity that we have here within the boundaries of New York City. The second is to get citizens out and involved in counting and recording plants, animals and other creatures."
Sullivan added, "If Teddy Roosevelt were still alive, he would be here with us today." Roosevelt was a noted conservationist who established five national parks during his terms as U.S. president (1901-09).
President Karen Gould kicked off the event on Friday afternoon. She said she was "very proud" of the College's partnership with the National Park Service. "It is a way of engaging the real world in learning," she noted.
The final species counts for this year's event should be completed within a few weeks, according to Assistant Professor of Geology Rebecca Boger, who also helped organize the event. "We're very pleased with the results," she said. "Our initial species count was over 500, and we expect the final tally to pass 600."
Previous tallies from the 2009 and 2007 BioBlitzes have shown that the Gateway area shelters more than 330 species of birds. That figure is more than all the kinds of birds found in Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks combined and is nearly half of all the 700 bird species that inhabit North America.
A number of other institutions, including the Brooklyn Children's Museum, New York City Audubon Society, Hofstra University, College of Staten Island, American Museum of Natural History, New York Aquarium, Fordham University, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Environmental Protection Agency and New York City Mycological Society, supported this year's event.