May 23, 2007

CONTACT: Tom Plante, 908-527-4746
Seb D’Elia, 908-527-4419


‘Bio-Blitz 2007’ in Union County’s Watchung Reservation
Needs Scientists and Volunteer Naturalists, June 15-16

Hawks and other birds, fish and amphibians, plants and other wildlife will be the focus for scientists, teams of naturalists and public volunteers during “Bio-Blitz 2007” which starts at 5:00 p.m. Friday, June 15, and continues until 5:00 p.m. Saturday, June 16, in the Watchung Reservation. But first, the scientists and naturalists preparing for the third annual Union County Bio-Blitz are looking for a few more volunteers to help out with this exciting environmental event in Union County’s largest park.

“A Bio-Blitz is a 24-hour sampling of the flora and fauna in a particular location,” said Freeholder Chairwoman Bette Jane Kowalski, liaison to the Union County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. “Its twin goals are to study the biodiversity that can exist even in a park located in an urban or suburban environment and to make the public aware of that diversity.”

In each of the two previous Union County Bio-Blitzes – the first at Lenape Park in Cranford and the second at the Ash Brook Reservation in Scotch Plains – scientists identified more than 650 different species. The 2,065-acre Watchung Reservation, which like the other two is part of the Union County Park System, is by far the largest site studied to date.

During the Watchung Reservation event, as at the previous two Bio-Blitzes, members of the public will have the opportunity to go on bird walks and nature walks led by experts who will identify specimens that they find. At Bio-Blitz Central, a field lab and display area located under a tent, samples of flora and fauna found by the scientists and their teams will be on view. Visitors to the Bio-Blitz can rub elbows with scientists and naturalists as they work to identify their finds.

Bio-Blitz Central will also be the meeting location for educational programs, including evening bird, owl and bat walks on Friday night and bird walks, pond searches, fish explorations and plant talks on Saturday given by some of the Bio-Blitz leaders. On Saturday afternoon, talks will be presented on biodiversity and the Bio-Blitz in general.

In preparation for the event, sponsored by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Union County Department of Parks, Recreation and Facilities and the Rahway River Association, the science teams and other volunteers have made a series of pre-blitz scouting visits to the reservation. On the fourth such site visit, teams identified a Cooper’s hawk and dozens of other specimens, including frogs and salamanders, tiny yellow violets and bush honeysuckle, and praying mantis egg cases.

Additional experts and amateur naturalists are still being sought for the program. Anyone interested may contact Betty Ann Kelly, Environmental Specialist in the Union County Department of Parks, Recreation and Facilities, at or (908) 527-4231.