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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

BioBlitz at URIs Alton Jones Campus to feature free nature walks to see birds, frogs, plants, bugs, more

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

24-hour event June 18-19 aims to count all species on site

KINGSTON, R.I. -- June 2, 2004 -- In an effort to tally as many species of plants, animals and other organisms as possible in 24 hours, volunteer scientists and naturalists from throughout the region will participate in the fifth annual BioBlitz on June 18-19 at the University of Rhode Island's W. Alton Jones Campus.

The public is invited to participate in the event by joining in a series of nature walks at the 2,300-acre site off Route 102 in West Greenwich on Saturday, June 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The walks are designed to point out birds, amphibians, bugs, plants and other creatures, as well as to understand the health and ecology of the forest.

"We usually hear the word 'biodiversity' in reference to rainforests, with their vast number of species, yet the diversity of life in our own neighborhoods is phenomenal," said Lisa Gould, executive director of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, which is based at URI and organizes the BioBlitz. "We take for granted the clean air and water and the fertile soil, but they are all the result of working ecosystems filled with species that perform these tasks. Most people rarely get to see most of these species, however, so what better way to address this topic than to invite people to share in 24 hours of discovery?"

The nature walks will start at the W. Alton Jones Environmental Education Center and will be led by staff and volunteers from the Center, the Natural History Survey, the Nature Conservancy, and the Southern New England Forest Consortium.

The 24-hour BioBlitz officially begins at 3 p.m. on Friday, June 18, when approximately 100 scientists and naturalists will search the wide variety of habitats in the area for as many species as possible. Participants have expertise in such wide-ranging subjects as snakes, lichens, spiders, birds, beetles, mushrooms, slime molds, butterflies, worms, mosses, bats, trees, algae, butterflies and moths, dragonflies, mammals, frogs and more.

At 3 p.m. Saturday June 19, a final tally of all the species found will be announced. A prize will be awarded to the person under age 16 who comes closest to guessing the number of species counted.

The first BioBlitz was held in Roger Williams Park in 2000 and tallied 665 species. Since then, the event has been held on Aquidneck Island (774 species), at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island's Eppley Wildlife Preserve in West Kingston (912 species), and on several protected properties in Tiverton (850 species).

The schedule of public nature walks is:

10 a.m. Birds and Herps
Family Nature Walk
11 a.m. Bug Walk
Family Nature Walk
Noon Forest Ecology
Family Nature Walk
1 p.m. Wild Plant Walk
Forest Health
2 p.m. Bug Classification
Family Nature Walk

The 2004 BioBlitz is sponsored by the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, the University of Rhode Island, The Nature Conservancy of Rhode Island, the West Greenwich Land Trust, and Largess Forestry. For more information, visit www.rinhs.org or call the Natural History Survey at 401-874-5800.