Great Swamp Watershed Association: 24-Hour BioBlitz Will Unearth All Creatures Great and Small

BioBlitz 2009.
Photo courtesy of Great Swamp Watershed Association

Great Swamp Watershed Association in partnership with Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, and The Friends of Great Swamp, is holding the area’s third Great Swamp BioBlitz —  a snapshot survey to identify as many species as possible within a 24-hour time period  — which will take place at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge beginning 5pm Friday, June 17 and running until 4pm Saturday, June 18.  The public is invited to participate in many planned outdoor activities during the BioBlitz.

Nature author David Wheeler will be giving a presentation on his book "Wild New Jersey: Nature Adventures in the Garden State" at this year's BioBlitz. Come hear him tell stories of his exciting wildlife encounters on Saturday, June 18th at 12:00 PM at the Helen C. Fenske Visitor Center of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
The BioBlitz team will work together to make this 24 hour survey of every living thing that walks, crawls, flies, hops, slithers or grows within the refuge a success!   The Helen Fenske Visitor Center, on Pleasant Plains Road will serve as the BioBlitz hub and center of activities for the 24 hour long event.  A BioBlitz is a great way to bring together biologists, to race against the clock and try to find as many different species within a 24-hour period within the Great Swamp Refuge.

"The Great Swamp national Wildlife Refuge is a green gem in the heart of the Watershed, with a broad range of habitats for Biologists to survey.  We are excited to see all that we will find during our second survey, and are hoping for a great deal of biological information to be collected, in a short time” said Hazel England, Director of Education and Outreach for the GSWA and the events lead organizer.

In 2009, the event tallied 612 species, and now the third BioBlitz will hope to add to that total!  The main focus of a BioBlitz is its goal of taking a snapshot of the diversity of animal and plant life in a given area, in this case Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.  "While the final tally number is what makes the news, it is the chance to survey and make interesting discoveries which drives the various taxonomic leaders to participate.  You never know when you might make a fantastic rare species discovery” said Emile DeVito, Biologist with New Jersey Conservation Foundation, and a participant on each of the previous BioBlitz’.

In 2009, more than 60 biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NJ Endangered and Non-game Species, Rutgers University, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, and more participated. Some set up insect traps that they tended all night, harvesting the many species of night flying moths that inhabit the refuge.  A dozen biologists combed the refuge for reptiles and amphibians, returning tired, bitten, scratched, soaking wet and covered in mud, but having found a fascinating and sometimes surprising array of species.  The BioBlitz hub was certainly a hive of surveying activity and 2011 will be no different!

In 2009, more than 240 people took part in wildflower walks, owl prowls and early morning bird hikes to increase their own knowledge under the tutelage of area experts.    This year there will be even more programs offered for the public to enjoy.  More than 15 walks, talks and programs to highlight local biodiversity and natural history, and the public are welcome to attend. “This is a great opportunity for kids to get excited about real science, and for them to see how the scientific process can garner much useful information.  It is also a fantastic opportunity to showcase the Wildlife Refuge System, without which there would be no Great Swamp to Survey!” said Dorothy Smullen, an Educator with the Friends of Great Swamp, who will jointly sponsor the event. 

As well as gathering data on what is living and growing within the forests, swamps, marshes and wildflower meadows of the 7,700 acre National Refuge, in the heart of Great Swamp Watershed, a BioBlitz is a great chance for the public to see first hand what real scientists do, and to participate in educational events with an emphasis on natural history and biodiversity. 

The public can interact with scientists as they undertake the work of identification at the BioBlitz hub, observing first hand how the identification process occurs, and they can attend the many free walks and talks on particular areas of natural history interest which will be held throughout the twenty-four hour event.  Programs will include owl prowls, bird and wildflower walks, insect identification programs, radio tracking demonstrations and evening bat, frog and owl survey hikes around the BioBlitz hub.  Attendees can even take part in their own mini BioBlitz observation activity, along the publicly accessible trails of the refuge. The programs begin Friday evening with an evening insect walk along the road trails of the refuge.

For more information about the BioBlitz and a full list of activities please visit GSWA’s website at 


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