Bioblitz comes to Berne

Enterprise file photo — Tim Tulloch
Young expert: Aaron Carr, a Berne-Knox-Westerlo sixth-grader, told the Berne Town Board in December about his plan to restock the Switzkill Farm ponds with native fish. On Saturday, he will be leading a group counting pond lice in Switzkill Farm’s Bioblitz, which will use both volunteers and experts to tally up wildlife in the town-owned property.

BERNE — An all-day species count of various plants and animals will take place at Switzkill Farm in Berne on Saturday.

Known as a Bioblitz, the event is organized by the town’s conservation board and Switzkill Farm Board.

“We’ve been wanting to do this for some time,” said Kathleen Moore, the chairwoman of the conservation board. “It actually seemed like a fun idea.”

A Bioblitz involves groups of both experts and volunteers working to count the number of various species in an area. Moore said it is fairly common among wildlife organizations — she learned about it from a friend who had worked for Audubon International in Troy, which had participants track bird species at golf courses in the area.

“You can do it in an urban area, you can do it in a park,” she said. “It’s really about raising awareness.”

For Berne’s Bioblitz, various experts will lead groups of volunteers to find specific types of organisms, said town councilwoman and Switzkill Farm Board liaison Karen Schimmer. The categories are reptiles and amphibians; arthropods; birds; moss, lichen, and liverworts; pond lice; and woody and herbaceous plants.

“We have the environment and an area where we can do the best species counting,” she said.

Schimmer emphasized that this is an all-ages, all-abilities event.

“You can be an expert, you can be an enthusiast,” she said.

While Schimmer said the main goal is to enlighten participants about the wildlife in their area, she said she hopes the species count can be used in a brochure about Switzkill Farm, possibly as a way for visitors to go to certain areas to find specific creatures.

Doug Frasier, a former chairman of the conservation board and a retired professor from Siena College, will provide his expertise on reptiles and amphibians, said Moore. Judith Henningson, who has a background in entomology and taught biology for 22 years at the LaSalle Institute, will lead the group looking for arthropods.

Despite the various experts, Moore — who studied forest biology and botany — said the point is not to have them there as much as it is to have anyone come and look for wildlife.

A sixth-grader from Berne, Aaron Carr, will be leading the group counting pond lice, said Schimmer. Aaron presented a plan to restock the ponds at Switzkill Farm with native fish at a town board meeting this past December.

Participants will be equipped with field guides, some hand lenses, nets, a microscope, and a berlese funnel to look for insects and other arthropods in the soil, said Moore.

“I think it’s a good place — it’s a good place to start for environmental education,” she said.

“Bring shoes and a willingness to learn,” Moore added. “And keep your eyes open.”


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