2015 Sandy Hook BioBlitz
September 18th - September 19th
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:
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 partnered 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
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.