2012-03-08 / News

Jamestown will be home to 2012 BioBlitz

BY TIM RIEL

All organisms living on the outskirts of North Road from Great Creek to South Pond should be prepared to come under close scrutiny in June. The reason: the Rhode Island Natural History Survey (RINHS) has chosen Jamestown to host its 2012 BioBlitz.

The BioBlitz is an annual event where scientists and volunteer naturalists scour a particular parcel of land for 24 straight hours. The goal: to tally every plant, animal and fungus. According to the RINHS, the event is designed to increase awareness of the variety of life that surrounds Rhode Islanders on even the most mundane looking land, and of the value of these species to the quality of residents’ lives.

“I’ve been trying to get the Rhode Island Natural History Survey to do Jamestown for a while now,” said Chris Powell, chairman emeritus of the town’s Conservation Commission. “We ended up convincing them that it would be a great place for the BioBlitz.”

Before the RINHS chose Jamestown there had to be a local group that was willing to take responsibility for logistics. Along with Powell, the Conservation Commission has been tasked with the duties. Without sponsors, the cost of the event would be around $5,000. To curtail the costs, Powell said he hopes to find supporters. One tent has already been donated, and he hopes to get another. The tents will be used to shelter microscopes and other scientific instruments. Also, a camping area will need to be set up and portable toilets will have to be on location.

Powell said he is hoping that people will register for the event. (There will be more information on how to register at a later date.) The cost will be around $20 per person, which will cover meals and coffee breaks.

Not everyone needs to be a zoologist or botanist to participate. Groups will be set up for each organism and a specialist in that particular field will accompany the cluster.

“We want people to sign up and participate,” Powell said. “There will be teams established for fish, birds, beetles, flowers, trees and everything else. Each team will have an expert in that particular field.”

The area that will be covered will include the Watson, Dutra, Neale and Hodgkiss farms, the Great Creek area, the Conanicut Island Sanctuary and the South Pond reservoir. More than 600 acres in all will be combed.

The RINHS said that Jamestown was chosen because of its diverse habitats, which includes a tidal creek, a salt marsh, coastal shoreline with a small barrier beach, extensive fresh water wetlands with wooded swamps, wet meadows and vernal pools, a reservoir, coastal scrub shrub, herbaceous uplands, forested areas, open fields, pastures and actively farmed areas.

Along with Powell, Conservation Commission Chairwoman Carol Trocki will oversee the event.

This is the 13th straight year that the RINHS has sponsored the BioBlitz. The inaugural event was held at Roger Williams Park in 2000 and 33 volunteers participated. Last year more than 200 naturalists were on hand for the BioBlitz that took place at Joslin Farm in Scituate. Other past locations include the Corn Neck area of Block Island, the Sprague Farm in Glocester, the Grills Preserve in Westerly, Trustom Pond in South Kingstown, the Cumberland Monastery and the University of Rhode Island’s Alton Jones Campus.

The BioBlitz will take place in Jamestown on June 8-9. An orientation will be held at the environmental education center at Roger Williams Park Zoo on May 3 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

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