Friday, June 18, 2010

Marathon BioBlitz Makes Eco-History in Jamaica Bay by Shavana Abruzzo -

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Nature Lovers Record Plant, Animal and Marine Life

More birds flock to Brooklyn — naturally!

The borough’s prime location on the eastern Atlantic seaboard draws more than 300 species a year — even more than in Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, according to the National Parks Service!

Blue herons, Savannah sparrows and egrets were among the 500-plus types — and still counting — of plant, animal and marine life located and identified during a 24-hour BioBlitz, coordinated by the agency and Brooklyn College inside Gateway National Recreation Area’s rich ecological kingdom.

Professional and amateur scientists teamed up with birders, students, families and volunteers for the marathon biological and educational treasure hunt at Jamaica Bay, making eco-history by venturing into the grasslands, salt marshes, woodlands, and waters of Floyd Bennett Field, Plumb Beach and Dead Horse Bay to document living critters before returning them to their natural habitats.

“You think of Brooklyn and you think of concrete, but many people don’t realize that our thriving salt marshes are like a nursery that support a variety of animals,” said Gateway Acting Public Relations’ Officer Jennifer Wolff, whose agency provided permits for the fabulous forage after receiving clearance from the Department of Conservation.

Among the hefty haul were crab spiders, Eastern box turtles, spring peeper frogs, tadpoles and toads, and organisms called plankton which drift in the water column of oceans, seas and fresh waters. Plus, abundant plant life, from wildflowers, brushes and sedges to a bounty of hardwoods, including honey locusts, oaks and maples trees, said Wolff.

After the rummage, came the inspection, and participants brought their findings to a temporary on-site science lab set up at Floyd Bennett Field’s Aviator Sports and Recreation Center on Flatbush Avenue. There, huddled over microscopes, they identified specimens brought in from the field with a team of environmentalists, including Gateway Superintendent Barry Sullivan, Science Advisor to the Director of the National Park Service Gary Machlis and Brooklyn College Geology Professor Rebecca Boger.

The excitement only mounted as night fell, said Wolff, because visitors “had a chance to observe moths, nocturnal bats and animals that are much more active at night.”