Exploring Forest Park's Biodiversity with BioBlitz

Every year, the Academy of Science – St. Louis hosts BioBlitz, an exploration and inventory of the biodiversity of urban parks. This year's event returned to Forest Park, with over 400 people participating to learn about and explore the Park's diverse ecosystems. This event is not only a way to educate people about various flora and fauna found in urban parks, but it also provides an opportunity for ordinary citizens to contribute to the scientific knowledge about what species can be found there.

BioBlitz is a great community learning event, and when it takes place here in Forest Park — a natural learning lab — it is such a benefit. We use the data to help us monitor the health of our wildlife habitat and shape our improvement plans for the Park’s natural areas.
— Jean Turney, Forest Park Forever Education Coordinator

On Friday, September 23, 117 students from 5 schools participated in the round-robin education portion of BioBlitz. School groups were led by staff from organizations including Forest Park Forever, Missouri Department of Conservation, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Saint Louis Zoo and Missouri Botanical Garden. The participating middle and high school students were able to learn about various topics while trying to find and identify as many plants, birds and herps (reptiles and amphibians) as possible. 

On Saturday, the public portion of BioBlitz kicked off with expert-led teams exploring Forest Park's Nature Reserve to look for birds, mammals, frogs, insects and butterflies. Teams also learned about wildflowers, grasses, trees and nature photography. Free and open to the public, this day of scientific exploration welcomed people of all ages, with many families participating.

A rather significant highlight this year was the addition of over 30 spiders to our list of species found in Forest Park. Until now, we were only aware of three spiders calling the Park home. David J. Bruns, M.A., C.I.G. from the Missouri Department of Conservation, was busy Friday and Saturday trapping and identifying spiders in Deer Lake Savanna and Kennedy Forest. Forest Park Forever Nature Reserve Steward Josh Wibbenmeyer had the opportunity to join him in the Deer Lake Savanna to look for spiders, where he was pointing out species in the distance just by looking at the web.

Forest Park Forever is always excited to participate in BioBlitz — and we were thrilled to welcome the event back to Forest Park. Our thanks go to the Academy of Science – St. Louis for once again organizing a wonderful event and adding to our knowledge about what species can currently be found in Forest Park! We are proud that our work during the past three decades has improved the biodiversity here, and we eagerly await the event's next installment.

Photos above by Benjamin Scherliss.