Saturday, January 3, 2009

Long Island Press, July 17, 2008 - "The Bio Blitz Is Coming"

By Erik Badia

September on LI traditionally means one thing—summer is over and it’s back-to school time. This year, however, the month gets an organic and bipartisan twist. Nassau legislators, educators and environmental group representatives are organizing a massive “BioBlitz.”

Nassau Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) and Legis. Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), who helped hatch the plan, and Ray Ann Havasy, Ph.D., director and founder of the Center for Science Teaching and Learning (CSTL) in Port Washington, announced the eff ort at a July 15 press conference at Hempstead Plains, near Nassau Community College. The Meadowbrook BioBlitz will serve multiple purposes, they said, including creating a management plan for the area, something Denenberg said other state officials have failed to do.

“We hope they hear us loud and clear in Albany,” declared Denenberg while holding a snapping area resident: an Eastern box turtle. Event organizers are hoping to solicit volunteers, raise funds, and make this event—expected to be the largest ever in the Northeast—happen. A BioBlitz is an eff ort that combs an area, collecting and cataloging its biodiversity. Those involved say that over a 24-hour period, volunteers will thoroughly inventory one corridor’s plants, wildlife and all other living organisms. A BioBlitz also raises public awareness of the area’s ecology and the science involved.

The effort takes place on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 19 and 20, and runs along a 7.5-mile section of the Meadowbrook Parkway, stretching from Hempstead Plains in Garden City to the Great South Bay.

Havasy, the event chair, describes the BioBlitz as multidimensional and benefiting all Long Islanders. Based upon their findings in the corridor, they can “create a…management plan that helps preserve it while utilizing it,” she explains. The area faces pressures from expanding development, and they want to have a database—for the first time—of exactly what is living there, she adds.

There will be plenty of living things to investigate. The corridor includes wetlands, spring-fed streams, ponds, a forest and the 73-acre county-owned Roosevelt Preserve. Havasy explains that due to the corridor’s enormity, the area will be divided into three sectors.

Hofstra Associate Professor of Biology Russell Burke, who has participated in earlier BioBlitzes, agrees, saying, “Logistics is always the most difficult part.” He adds that he is confident, however, that the event will be successful, thanks in part to his university students who will lend a hand.

Program organizers expect several hundred volunteers, ranging from biologists and environmentalists to students and residents. The event will be a great way for Long Islanders to experience nature first hand, notes Havasy. “It’s a way for them to be in the middle of it all, kind of an immersion.”

No experience is necessary, and volunteers can sign up on the event website. The event isn’t only for adults, though, as Havasy points out: “It’s a great learning tool for kids.” She mentions an added bonus: teacher-ready lesson plans will come out of the event, so that schools can make use of the BioBlitz’s discoveries about the Island’s living things. “ That’s the first time that’s really ever been done,” Havasy states proudly.