Just how many species of animals, birds, plants, amphibians, reptiles, etc., are there at Sandy Hook in Gateway National Recreation Area? A 24-hour "Bio-Blitz" later this week will provide some insights to that question.
The biodiversity inventory is to be conducted from 3 p.m. Friday to 3 p.m. Saturday with help from the American Littoral Society. If you're willing to help with this "wildlife census," park officials would be happy to have you.
"Naturalists with any level of experience can become 'citizen scientists' for a day at Sandy Hook's Bio-Blitz," explained Superintendent Linda Canzanelli. "The data you gather will help Gateway decide how to protect Sandy Hook's important ecosystem, both now and for years to come."
Registration is open and can be completed by visiting http://nbii-nin.ciesin.columbia.edu/sandyhook/bioblitz/SandyHook.jsp
For younger scientists, Gateway and the American Littoral Society will host several activities for children and their parents where they can have fun while learning about nature alongside experts. Activities include a sunset seining event, a moonlight moth hunt and a "biodiversity fair."
Saturday's programs include:
* Tour of Sandy Hook's Holly Forest Ramble: Visitors can explore Sandy Hook's 64-acre holly forest, the largest maritime holly forest on the east coast of the United States and will learn how these amazing trees have adapted to sand blasting and salt spray through time. (10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.)
* What's Alive on the Old Dune Trail? Learn about the barrier beach ecosystem of Sandy Hook including the maritime holly forest, dune system, swale habitat and brackish pond. (11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)
* How to Build a Piping Plover Exclosure: These cage-like devices prevent both predator and human disturbance for the endangered Piping plover, a native shorebird species protected under the Endangered Species Act. (12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.)
* Junior Bio-Blitz (for teenagers): Sponsored by the American Littoral Society, this activity offers teams of up to 20 teens a chance to compete as they identify species from prepared lists. Teachers or leaders that want to register a group to compete should email Stevie@littoralsociety.org. Pre-registration for this event is required.
This is the fourth Bio-Blitz for Gateway but the first to be held at Sandy Hook. Last year's Bio-Blitz at Gateway's Floyd Bennett Field identified nearly 500 species of plants and animals, a surprising amount of species diversity to be found in a former municipal airfield
The idea of the Bio-Blitz was developed by entomologist Edward O. Wilson. Today, Bio-Blitzes offer citizen scientists a chance to take a "snapshot" of wildlife at natural areas throughout the world.
Sandy Hook's Bio-Blitz will engage nine teams of biologists including university professors, advanced amateur scientists and naturalists, college students and interns in 24-hour race to see how many different species each team can identify in their area of expertise. More than 70 scientists and volunteers have signed up to participate. Interested parties can register at http://nbii-nin.ciesin.columbia.edu/sandyhook/bioblitz/SandyHook.jsp.