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


Volunteer Scientists Needed for ‘Bio-Blitz 2008’

ELIZABETH, NJ – Where can you find fiddler crabs, salamanders, snakes, owls, fish, peregrine falcons, micro and macro fungi, wildflowers, oak and sycamore trees, salt marsh grass, butterflies, bees, red foxes and white-tailed deer? Some wilderness area? Well, would you believe the Elizabeth River? No kidding! On June 13-14 you can see for yourself.

Scientists and skilled naturalists, assisted by community volunteers, will fan out in the Elizabeth River Parkway located in Elizabeth, Union and Hillside over a 24-hour period during June 13-14 in a race against time to identify as many living creatures as possible during Union County & Kean University’s 4th annual “Bio-Blitz.”

A bio-blitz is an intensive effort to identify every living plant or animal found in a given area – in this case, the 312-acre Union County park that buffers the Elizabeth River. Areas to be included are: Mattano Park, the Pruden, Ursino, Chatfield-Woodruff, Salem and Lightning Brook sections that stretch along the river.

“Although the Elizabeth River Parkway is surrounded by urban and suburban development, it is a perfect example of how urban green spaces can provide a haven for people and wildlife,” said Freeholder Rick Proctor, liaison to the Union County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. “The Bio-Blitz is a great opportunity for the community to learn more about the natural places that make Union County a special place to live.”

The “blitz” will start in the Elizabeth River Parkway at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, June 13, with staff and scientists on hand throughout the night. Other volunteers will work in shifts throughout Saturday, June 14, until 5:00 p.m.

“Bio-Blitz Central” will be located on Kean University’s East Campus (off North and Irvington Avenues in Hillside). It will feature a large tent that will house a field lab for scientists as well as live exhibits including reptiles, amphibians, fish and plants. Event-day results and identifications will be posted at the tent and the public is encouraged to “rub elbows” with scientists in the outdoor lab. Public programs and workshops will be offered, including: an owl prowl, stream search, birding for beginners, a nighttime awareness walk, a family nature awareness daytime hike and much more. The event is free to all.

The Elizabeth River Parkway was acquired in the 1930s and designed by the Olmsted Landscape Architect Firm (whose other projects included Central Park, Prospect Park, the Emerald Necklace and the Washington Memorial) as a passive use park. The Parkway is an important link in a chain of historically important parks that form a greenway along the river.

Bio-Blitz 2008 is sponsored by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Union County Department of Parks and Community Renewal, Kean University and Kean’s Institute of Urban Ecosystem Studies. Partial funding is being provided by the Schering-Plough Corporation.

The sponsors also are partnering with many other organizations, including the Arthur Kill Watershed Association, Auburn University of Texas, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Columbia University, the Colonia High School Fishing Club, the Friends of Lenape Park, Groundwork Elizabeth, National Biodiversity Parks, Inc., the New Jersey Mycological Association, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection – Division of Fish & Wildlife, the NJ DEP Americorps Watershed Ambassador Program, the Staten Island Zoo, the Torrey Botanical Society, the Union County Parks Advisory Board, the Union Garden Club, Wild Birds Unlimited, and WildMetro.

The goal of this effort is to raise awareness of the diversity of life in this park and the wonderful resources the Elizabeth River Parkway offers for recreation and as an outdoor classroom and science lab. Specialists have already been recruited to identify the hundreds of species that exist in the park but many more naturalists are needed in areas ranging from butterflies and dragonflies to fungi, grasses and other vegetation as well as birds and mammals. Along with woodland, stream, river and field habitats, this year’s Bio-Blitz will offer unique salt marsh and tidal-influenced habitat that may yield shorebirds and other wading birds and fiddler crabs among other wildlife.

Although it may be difficult to top last year’s list of 683 species that were seen, collected and identified in Union County’s 2,065-acre Watchung Reservation during Bio-Blitz 2007, the Bio-Blitz 2008 Committee is certain that most visitors to this year’s event will be pleasantly surprised at just how much wildlife exists in this urban “backyard.” To receive a Bio-Blitz 2007 Results Brochure call 908-527-4032 and leave your email address or pick one up at Trailside Nature & Science Center at 452 New Providence Road in Mountainside.

Scientists, naturalists and amateur nature lovers who are interested in participating should call Kristin Beebe in theUnion County Department of Parks and Community Renewal, (908) 527-4032 to register and receive a brochure.