It's a BioBlitz: Volunteers and Scientists Document Wildlife in Madison Park

Jun 22, 2018

This weekend at Lake Farm County Park in Madison, dozens of volunteers will join a handful of scientists in a 24 hour effort to document plants and wildlife in the park. The Milwaukee Public Museum is organizing the BioBlitz for the fourth consecutive year, though this will be the first event in Madison.

Last year's event was in Waukesha County's Fox River Park. Reflecting on the event a year later, Julia Robson - a conservation biologist for Waukesha County Parks and Land Use - says the BioBlitz proved a valuable tool for informing the natural resource management of the park. 

She explains, "Because natural resources don’t just consist of vegetation - it’s the wildlife and other species that are using that natural area." 

Robson says the information from last year's BioBlitz "allows us to put the science behind the conservation actions that we’re already doing." She explains that over the past year, the park has worked to increase the forest buffer by reforesting some areas with native trees and shrubs. Increasing the buffer helps sensitive local species like the scarlet tanager, which depend on the interior forest for nesting. 

Planting trees at Fox River Park to increase the forest buffer.
Credit Julia Robson / Waukesha County Department of Parks and Land Use

Because of the scientific value of these events, Wisconsin parks are lining up to host the next BioBlitz events, according to Ellen Censky, senior vice president and academic dean at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

"Especially at a time when there is so little money to spend on surveying... it's a good snapshot and we get a lot of scientists out looking and they usually find stuff that we didn't know about," she says. 

Beyond the scientific benefits to the park itself, the BioBlitz generates other benefits for the participating parks. Robson recalls the excitement and passion of citizens who joined last year's efforts.

She says, "The BioBlitz opened the department's eyes to... the value of incorporating and engaging the community in this process."

"Especially at a time when there is so little money to spend on surveying... it's a good snapshot and we get a lot of scientists out looking and they usually find stuff that we didn't know about."

Citizen science projects like the BioBlitz provide a "great opportunity for scientists and students to actually intetract with the public," and "show their excitement," according to Censky.  

Robson believes collaboration between scientists and the public increases the visibility and accessibilty of science. She says, "It's not something that happens in a far-off preserve or back in a corner with lab coats. It's also something that's very much present for everybody every day of their life basically."

The 2018 event will take place Saturday, June 23 at Lake Farm County Park, where the public is invited to come learn about Wisconsin native plants, help collect species, and take a guided prairie and bird walk. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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