bioblitz 2016 weblogo

Join Us for the
2016 Sandy Hook BioBlitz


Scientists, naturalists, and nature Lovers: Join us September 23 - 24 as we take a snapshot of Sandy Hook's biodiversity.

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The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th birthday with more than 100 BioBlitzes around the country and we need your help to make the 2016 Sandy Hook BioBlitz a success.

Gateway National Recreation Area and the American Littoral Society are teaming up again this year to host a BioBlitz at Sandy Hook on September 23-24, 2016. A BioBlitz is a biological inventory where volunteers work alongside scientists and expert naturalists to find and identify as many species as possible over a short time period. It is a celebration and exploration of biodiversity.

Volunteers will have the opportunity to work alongside scientists and expert naturalists to conduct biological surveys and provide a snapshot of biodiversity in the park. Volunteers are also needed to assist at the "Base Camp" with general information, registration, food preparation, GIS, photography, and social media.

You can also join in interpretive programs that will be held throughout the 2 day event to explore the marshes of Plum Island, discover the plants and animals living in Sandy Hook Bay, view the Sandy Hook night sky, and experience the park's maritime holly forest.

All events are free and open to the public. Additional information and registration is available at the event website: 

Hope to see you there.
Find more information about this event here or contact Stevie Thorsen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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Special thanks to OceanFirst, premier event sponsor for the Sandy Hook BioBlitz.


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2015 Sandy Hook BioBlitz 

September 18th - September 19th

jeff seining

On September 18th, 2015, the American Littoral Society, in partnership with the National Park Service, hosted the second Sandy Hook BioBlitz. Over 150 scientists, naturalists, and volunteers raced against the clock to identify as many species as possible during the 24-hour period. In addition to collecting important scientific data, the BioBlitz demonstrated the importance of Sandy Hook as a habitat to the many members of the public that visit the park. Adults and children of all ages took part in aseining programs, a tour of the holly forest, and a night time sky watch. There were also many opportunities for the public to interact with the scientists and naturalists participating in the species count.



Some of the highlights of the event included:

    • Dr. Richard Lathrop of Rutgers University, led the mammal team and used an app to identify bats during a nocturnal prowl. Five species of bats were identified including Eastern red, hoary, evening, little brown, and silver haired. He also set camera traps which captured a family of raccoons in the holly forest.
    • Insect collectionThe bird team was also very successful with a total of 75 species identified. Fall migration is in full swing at Sandy Hook and many warblers were observed.
    • Jeff Dement, the Littoral Society’s Fish Tagging Director, along with Thomas Grothues lead the fish team. Students from MAST and Rutgers University were eager to join in on the fun, and were not disappointed. Large juvenile black drum were caught in the 50 foot seine net as well as some rarities including crevalle jack, half beak, and mojarra.
  • Dr. Russel Burke’s team from Hofstra University successfully doubled the reptile count from the last BioBlitz from 1 to 2. A diamondback terrapin and a snapping turtle were observed. He noted that a spring BioBlitz might offer better conditions for a reptile and amphibian count.
  • Denise Gemmellaro of Rutgers University spent the evening hours in the dark dungeon like conditions of Mortar Battery. She returned with an array of critters such as cave crickets and centipedes. She brought the species back for identification and we are eagerly
    awaiting her final count.

swallow migration

The Littoral Society thanks Park Service and the many scientists and volunteers that made this event possible. We are still awaiting a final count, but so far, 271 species have been identified. Our insect team leader, Denise Gemmellaro, brought back about 150 species to her lab to identify, and we are awaiting her results. We also expect 50 – 100 additions to our plant list, from Daniel Atha and his team at the New York Botanical Garden. Check back for updates!



 Results so far:

Birds – 75
Fungi/Lichen – 12
Fish – 21
Reptiles/Amphibians - 2
Marine Invertebrates – 44
Insects – 2
Mammals – 13
Aquatic Plants – 15
Terrestrial Plants - 87

 The BioBlitz was conceived by world renowned entymologist, Edward O. Wilson. It is part scientific endeavor, part festival, part competition and part educational event. A Bioblitz takes a snapshot of the biodiversity of a specific geographic area, counting how many different species can be found rather than the size of specific species populations. 



In 2010, we partnbioblitz2ered with the National Park Service and Rutgers University to hold the first ever BioBlitz of Sandy Hook, part of Gateway National Recreation Area in Highlands, NJ. Over 150 scientists, naturalists, and volunteers raced against the clock to see which team could identify the most species in a 24-hour period. In addition to collecting important scientific data, the BioBlitz demonstrated the importance of Sandy Hook as a habitat to the many members of the public that visit the park.

We used Littoral Society HQ as base camp, with our members and volunteers helping to feed and assist those working in the field.

During this first BioBlitz we identified 433 species! Most of the identified species were terrestrial plants (155 in total) on Sandy Hook. This is in part due to the fact that we had more volunteers for the plant team than any other team. We also had some amazing botanists including Dr. Lena Struwe (Rutgers University), Nancy Slowik, Dave Taft, and Bill Shadel (American Littoral Society).
The bird team was also very successful with a total of 104 species identified. The weather conditions (which were cold and windy) brought in a lot of birds, warblers in particular, that we don't normally see. Sandy Hook is a major stopover for migratory birds. When inclement weather makes flying too difficult, birds will take shelter on the Hook. Some interesting finds included a caspian tern and a blue-winged teal.
Hurricane Irene brought in a few tropical fish that were identified by our seining team. Permit and flagfin mojarra were two fish that the team did not expect to find this far north. A second year winter flounder was caught during a night-time seining session. This had fisheries biologists raising eyebrows. Winter flounder are known to spend summers off shore and do not return to the estuaries until later in the fall. This fish either spent its summer in the estuary or returned quite early.

We were also able to identify 83 insects and other terrestrial invertebrates. This is a particularly difficult area of identification and most of the identification was done by Dr. Louise Wootton's zoology class. This group of college students dedicated many hours to collecting and identifying insects for the BioBlitz.

The tally for major categories is below. To see all the identified species, click here.

151 - Plants (Terrestrial)
104 - Birds                     
  83 - Inverts - Terrestrial
  31 - Inverts - Marine      
  22 - Fungi                      
  21 - Fish                        
  10 - Aquatic Plants & Algae
  10 - Mammals                      
     1- Herps
433 - TOTAL

In addition to the valuable data collection, we also had many opportunities for the public to participate in the fun. On Saturday we held Biodiversity Festival which featured some great local organizations including NJ Sea Grant Consortium, NJ Audubon Society, Wild Birds Unlimited, and NJ Mycological Association.
You can view all the BioBlitz pictures (and upload your own) here.
(Photos courtesy of Francesca Simondi).
This event was made possible by the generous support of many New Jersey businesses and organizations. We especially thank our lead sponsor, PNC Bank.