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SEP. 14, 2015

Bio Blitz Cornerstone

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Ted Wesemann, Natural Science & History Teacher

Fecund, from the Latin fecundare, I believe, which means to make fruitful. I’ve never cared for this word, it seems awkward to me, but it shows up in natural history readings a lot because it is the first requirement for the processes of natural selection to function. Lots of babies, as we say in Natural Science class here. Charles Darwin came to understand from his reading of Thomas Malthus that organisms use excess calories to make all the babies they can which tends to flood the market, providing excess energy to others which powers the food web and biodiversity – the economy of nature as they called it in Darwin’s day.

So, last Friday, we waded into the Eagle’s Nest economy of nature and took a stab at identifying our diversity of life. These marathons are sometimes called BioBlitzes, or Inventories of Life and they are tackled regularly in National and State Parks. We had six groups: Vertebrates, Invertebrates, Flowering Plants, Trees, Non-flowering Plants, and Aquatic Life. I think it’s safe to say that above all we concluded that this task is complex and difficult. The Flower team got bogged down on goldenrod hybrids; the Aquatic folks found it’s really hard to actually catch organisms in the canoe lake and in the Little River, much less identify minnows; the Vertebrate researchers found they don’t know their bird calls very well; the Non-flowering Plants team threw up their hands in the face of the moss diversity; and the Invertebrates squad were simply overwhelmed by the number of taxonomic groups and the subtle genera identifications of things like little brown moths.

bio blitz 2

Not to say we didn’t have some success stories. We found we have otters in the Little River, a species that is slowly rebounding in the Blue Ridge; at least some of us have a handle on mushroom identification; the Flower team knows a dozen or so species now without the field guide; we have a good start on the spiders in our neighborhood; praying mantises are abundant at the end of the summer here; and a few of us know the major tree species in the mountains. For a first effort I think we learned quite a bit and we’ll be more prepared next time.

It’s certainly accurate to conclude that we were pretty impressed by all the flora and fauna on this little patch of the mountains, even if we had trouble identifying most of it. And I think we were encouraged to find that with good field guides and a little focus, those identifications could eventually come our way. The economy of nature seems to be quite burgeoning and busy here when one swings a collecting net or gets on their hands and knees with a magnifying lens. Little brown moths look out!

Ted Wesemann, Natural Science & History Teacher