Loyola University Leads BioBlitz New Orleans City Park; Entergy Gives $66K Grant For ‘Citizen Science’
NEW ORLEANS – Following a smash hit summer event that drew more than 300 participants, Loyola University New Orleans is once again hosting BioBlitz New Orleans City Park. Volunteer scientists, coastal researchers, naturalists, teachers, students, families and interested residents of all ages are encouraged to join the event on Saturday, Oct. 21, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., or to participate in a special evening bat watching event, in which participants will track, monitor and identify bats in the area using bat tracking devices.
A BioBlitz, also known as a biological inventory or biological census, is an event or intense period of surveying that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time.
An ongoing effort conducted in partnership with New Orleans City Park planners and a host of naturalists, BioBlitz New Orleans City Park is designed to assess the full range of species in the 1,300-acre park, which includes lagoons, historic oak trees, fishing ponds, fields and botanic gardens, and is home to the world’s largest collection of mature live oaks and some of the city’s most important recreational facilities, from Storyland to the New Orleans Museum of Art.
The “Citizen Science” project invites citizens of all ages and levels of expertise to engage in the process, thus either sharing their expertise or expanding their knowledge by working hand-in-hand with a variety of scientists. The aim is to identify as many species as possible and enlarge an existing list of both native and introduced flora and fauna. Data gathered will build upon existing data listed by the Louisiana Master Naturalist program and will be used by City Park to prepare for the future.
A generous $66,000 grant from Entergy Corporation supports the project.
“Information gathered during the summer event, and since, has helped to show where native species may be disappearing and where invasive species may be gaining traction,” said Robert A. “Bob” Thomas, professor and director of the Loyola Center for Environmental Communication, as well as board member of the City Park Improvement Association and the New Orleans Botanical Garden Foundation. “Through the upcoming BioBlitz New Orleans City Park, we hope to expand that knowledge. With the help of volunteers and scientists, park management and city leaders are gaining a better understanding of the biodiversity at one of the nation’s largest public parks, and that information is already helping them to make better decisions about how City Park is managed and developed.”
“This is a great opportunity for those interested in nature to gain field experience working side-by-side with entomologists, bird experts, coastal scientists, and other experts in their fields,” said Aimée Thomas, lecturer and assistant professor of biological sciences at Loyola. “We will casually walk through Couturie Forest and learn how to look at nature.”
Led by professors in Loyola University New Orleans’ Environmental Sciences program, the Oct. 21 BioBlitz will engage scientists and naturalists from universities throughout the region in leading teams of volunteers, as they gather observations and information on plants, birds, insects, reptiles, mammals and other wildlife in the area including invasive species.
More than 20 experts from Loyola, University of New Orleans, Southeastern Louisiana University, and Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, as well as the Audubon Institute, the Lake Foundation, the Natural Heritage Program, New Orleans Botanical Gardens and New Orleans City Park will lead groups focused on specific topics, from birds to butterflies. Participants will seek and document species in the park’s Couturie Forest, the Wisner Track, prairie and grassland areas, aquatic areas, Scout Island, levees, mixed deciduous areas, and the park’s golf, disc golf, soccer and softball courses.
The Oct. 21 BioBlitz event at New Orleans City Park is free, and the public is invited to attend.
Participants are asked to register for the event here