BioBlitz 2014: Science Research Comes Alive in Forest Park

Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.
— Henry David Thoreau 

When you ask some St. Louisans about Forest Park, their thoughts may drift to the time they enjoyed a drink during a beautiful Boathouse sunset or the brisk breeze that stung their face as they slid down Art Hill after a fresh snowfall. 

But in recent years, an increasing number of people are experiencing Forest Park not just as a place for recreation and leisure, but as an ‘outdoor classroom’ ideal for scientific exploration of flora and fauna. Case in point: BioBlitz, a two-day event held in Forest Park in late September organized by the Academy of Science – St. Louis. Forest Park Forever was thrilled to again take part in the annual event, interacting with students and guiding special tours. 

A BioBlitz is a 24-hour event in which teams of volunteer scientists, families, students, teachers and other community members work together to find and identify as many species of plants, animals, microbes, fungi and other organisms as possible. These explorative adventures happen across the globe, typically in national parks, so it’s only natural that Forest Park would serve as the backdrop for such a fun and informational activity in our region.

The BioBlitz at Forest Park, held September 26 and 27, was a scientific slumber party composed of biologists, naturalists and environmental enthusiasts who searched natural areas, listing as many different species as theycould find. Close to 1,000 species have been cataloged since 2004!

Led by the Academy of Science – St. Louis team, staff from Forest Park Forever, the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Saint Louis Zoo planned this year’s student BioBlitz activities, including tracking turtles and collecting data on frogs, snakes, birds and plants.

“Area teachers were thrilled to have their students participate in the Academy of Science – St. Louis’ BioBlitz,” said Peggy Nacke, Director of Special Projects and Events for the organization. “For students, this authentic science research ties into the life sciences that will also be covered this year in school. BioBlitz also gives students a front-row seat to the science careers as their leaders — who are professionals in their field — led their exploration in Forest Park. BioBlitz even sparked some project ideas for the upcoming Academy of Science - St. Louis Science Fair!” 

This year, the staff at Forest Park Forever had a great time taking such an interactive role in working with the 28 teams of more than 200 volunteers. Leading activities such as frog inventory and basic tree identification, FPF’s Land Management and Education staffers invited participants to partake in the splendor of the grounds we take care of every day, sharing our skills and expertise — all in the name of science. Staff also took the time to learn and collaborate with experts from some of the regions leading scientific institutions.

“BioBlitz reminds us all of the scientific potential of Forest Park,” said Forest Park Forever Education Coordinator Jean Turney. “Forest Park truly is a laboratory. The strong health of the Park’s biota is an affirmation of our daily hard work here at Forest Park Forever.”