Another Successful BioBlitz!

May 27th, 2016 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant

By Alicia Blood, Youth and Family Programs Supervisor

It’s hard to believe it has been 3 weeks since UW Botanic Gardens staff, taxa experts and community volunteers joined forces in our 2016 BioBlitz.  It was an amazing weekend full of sunshine, teamwork, and exploration. The Washington Park Arboretum, and Foster Island in particular, was abuzz with the opening day of boating season festivities, but that didn’t stop our dedicated crew! In all, we had over 86 people take part in our weekend BioBlitz events, including an entire University of Washington Entomology class.  Here are some of the highlights from the weekend:

DSC_0346smallWe started our weekend with an introduction to a BioBlitz for families on Friday evening. Participating families explored what a scientist does during a BioBlitz through a variety of hands-on stations. Children participated in a variety of activities which showed them how to think and act like a scientist, including creating a plant field guide and observing aquatic macroinvertebrates. In addition, families had the opportunity to join in on a few guided group hikes to find birds and pond life. We had a great time practicing our skills and learning about what a BioBlitz is. In fact, a few families returned the following day to put their new skills into action in one of our taxa groups!

BatsFriday evening kicked off our first official taxa group – bats! Michelle Noe from Bats Northwest brought a crew out to collect acoustic data, allowing us to listen to bat calls. Our experts then used the data collected to reveal that there were 5 different species of bats on Foster Island that night!   We also led a group of families on a bat focused night hike where they learned about bats, played a few bat games and had the opportunity to see bats flying overhead.

DSC_0426After a quick night’s sleep, we returned early Saturday morning to start off our day with our birds taxa group at dawn. This group of dedicated volunteers arrived bright and early (with children in tow) to beat the Boating Day foot traffic on Foster Island. With the sun recently risen, they headed out to the northern-most point of the island to begin their observations. Surrounded by springtime bird behaviors, this group had the opportunity to clearly view the Bald Eagle’s nest, stand by while a marsh wren went about its job protecting its nest, observe a Virginia Rail, and see many baby birds and ducklings.

While our birds group was out exploring Foster Island, volunteers were arriving at the Graham Visitors Center and gearing up to head out in our morning taxa groups. Teams assembled to collect data on lichens, bryophytes, noxious weeds and insects. Included in this group were college students enrolled in an entomology course at the University of Washington taught by Dr. Patrick Tobin, who added great energy to the morning. Teams spread out across Foster Island and went to work finding 16 species of bryophytes, 21 lichens, 25 noxious weeds, and a lot of insects! The noxious weed group found an interesting specimen. While the ID has yet to be verified, we think it might be Lonicera maackii or Amur honeysuckle, an invasive plant native to the NE United States.

DSC_0495smallOur final groups, arrived in the afternoon, eager to take a look at our plant collections as well as explore the waters of Foster Island in search of aquatic macroinvertebrates and mussels. Team Water headed all the way out to the furthest point on Foster Island and got right in the water to examine who was enjoying life in Lake Washington. Their investigation was highlighted by an abundance of sunshine and the festive Opening Day of Boating Season Boat Parade (I heard they got to sing along to the Love Boat song 6 times)!  Meanwhile, Team Plant was out checking plant collections on Foster Island, noting tree sizes, condition and tracking any trees that were not recorded on our 20 year old maps. Through these observations they noted an extreme increase of native species along the edges of Lake Washington.

DSC_0461 (2)When the day was over, our basecamp was packed up and our volunteers and taxa experts had departed, we had a moment to reflect on our accomplishments. With a wild Boating Day weekend on Foster Island, we were sure we would run into some challenges, but in the end everything seemed to run along as smooth as can be. We had 86 people participate in our weekend BioBlitz including many young and eager future scientists! Staff had a blast working alongside experts and volunteers and especially enjoyed sharing the wonders of nature at the Arboretum. With BioBlitz 2016 barely in the past we are now looking forward to our next event – stay tuned for fall 2017.  In the meantime, make sure to check out our data here, and don’t forget to make time to come out and explore the UW Botanic Gardens!

DSCN0663A BioBlitz is an intense period of biological surveying in an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area. Groups of scientists, naturalists and community volunteers conduct an intensive field study over a continuous time period. The University of Washington Botanic Gardens has completed four BioBlitzes at the Washington Park Arboretum over the last six years.

 

 

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2016 Bioblitz

April 15th, 2016 by Sasha McGuire, Education Program Assistant
Jenni Cena and Liam Stacey, guest entomologists, examine a catch at our 2013 Bioblitz

Jenni Cena and Liam Stacey, guest entomologists, examine a catch at our 2013 Bioblitz

Coming up on May 6 and 7, the UW Botanic Gardens invites you to join our 2016 BioBlitz at the Washington Park Arboretum! A BioBlitz is an intense period of biological surveying in an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area. Groups of scientists, naturalists and community volunteers conduct an intensive field study over a continuous time period. Sign up this year and help us look for bats, birds, insects, lichens, weeds, and mussels at the Arboretum’s Foster Island!

On Friday night, you can partake in “Introduction to BioBlitz” activities, as well as walks with our naturalists for families with kids ages 4 to 11. Stop in any time between 4 and 7 p.m., and we will also stay out late to look for bats from 8 to 10 p.m.

On Saturday, we’ll be searching for birds at daybreak, insects, lichens and noxious weeds in the morning, then plants and freshwater mussels/macroinvertebrates in the afternoon. The BioBlitz is open to everyone, whether you are a newbie or a seasoned naturalist, and children are welcome in all groups.

So if you’d like to join other students, citizen scientists and families for a rewarding, hands-on weekend of discovery, you can RSVP online for an organism group (or taxa), by phone (206.685.8033), or by email (uwbgeduc@uw.edu).

Hope you can make it!Andrew_Westphal_by_Christina_Doherty

US Forest Service honors Rare Care for monitoring rare species

June 27th, 2015 by Jennifer Youngman, Program Coordinator

Trifolium thompsonii (image by Julia Bent)The US Forest Service recognized Washington Rare Plant Care and Conservation – including hundreds of trained volunteers from all parts of the state who, in the past 14 years, have participated in the rare plant monitoring citizen science project – by awarding Rare Care its Regional Volunteer Award for Citizen Stewardship & Partnerships.

When Lauri Malmquist, district botanist with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, nominated Rare Care, she wrote, “As staffing and funding to the Botany/Ecology Program on the Okanogan-Wenatchee NF continue to decline, [Rare Care’s] rare plant monitoring program has played a vital role in continuing the monitoring necessary to provide critically needed information on the status of Washington State’s rare plant species. . . . Many rare plant populations have not been visited in a decade or more due to diminishing Federal funding and capacity. The scarcity of updated information on these plants puts them at risk of extirpation as a result of development, invasive species competition and other threats. All USFS Forests in Washington State have benefitted from this volunteer effort. . .”

Toward the end of each year, Rare Care consults with federal, state and other public land managers across the state to develop a list of the most urgent monitoring priorities for the coming year. Then each volunteer chooses an assignment and sets off at the proper season in search of one of Washington’s 3,500 rare plant populations. Finally, Rare Care compiles their data, maps and sketches and distributes them to the appropriate land managers and the Washington Natural Heritage Program (WNHP). Land managers use the data in making land use decisions. The WNHP maintains the state’s rare plant database and determines the status of each species.

Gentiana glauca (image by Brenda Cunningham) & Iliamna longisepala (image by Gail Roberts)This year, Rare Care volunteers are searching in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest for the threatened Thompson’s clover (Trifolium thompsonii) and the sensitive obscure paintbrush (Castilleja cryptantha), longsepal globemallow (Iliamna longisepala) and Seely’s silene (Silene seelyi), among other species. To prepare for their field visits, they pore over previous reports, maps and other documentation. But there’s a catch. The documentation comes in many degrees of specificity! Plus, things change over the years. Roads are decommissioned. Trails are rerouted. Invasive species crowd out native species. Native vegetation grows into tangles of underbrush. Logging operations and fires change the face of the landscape.

Last year in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, with only vague location information to go on and crossing snowfields and camping along the way, three volunteers relocated a two-square-meter population of glaucous gentian (Gentiana glauca) that hadn’t been documented since 1966. Two years ago, two volunteers traipsed through underbrush in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest to find a single Wenatchee larkspur (Delphinium viridescens) remaining at a site that had grown into a young forest since the population was previously observed.

Rare Care is delighted to receive this US Forest Service Award in recognition of these dedicated volunteers and their substantial achievements.

Delphinium viridescens (image by Betty Swift) and Silene seelyi (image by Rod Gilbert)

One weekend, two dozen rare plant surveys

November 3rd, 2011 by Jennifer Youngman, Program Coordinator

by Wendy Gibble [edited for the web; see complete article on page 3 of the Rare Plant Press]

Twenty-five volunteers, agency partners and Rare Care staff gathered in Klickitat County in mid-June to monitor known populations of rare plants in the Klickitat Wildlife Area, Conboy National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas. We knew from the outset that our survey plans had to be adjusted. Late wet spring conditions caused as much as a one-month delay in the onset of flowering for many species. We were too early to catch the long-bearded sego lily (Calochortus longebarbatus var. longebarbatus) in bloom. But we caught the tail end of Baker’s linanthus (Leptosiphon bolanderi), a tiny spring annual that normally blooms in April and May. Our timing was perfect for finding Pulsifer’s monkey-flower (Mimulus pulsiferae), another tiny annual found in seasonally moist areas that seemed to have benefited from the spring moisture.  

Barrett's beardtongue, photo by Janka Hobbs

Barrett's beardtongue closeup, photo by Betty Swift

Klickitat County was an ideal location for Rare Care’s fifth annual monitoring weekend. It’s at the east end of the Columbia River Gorge, a region that hosts some of the state’s most diverse flora. The Gorge is one of the few places in the northwest where moist Pacific air meets dry Columbia Basin air near sea level, providing a corridor for migration and a refuge for relict populations from previous glacial and interglacial periods. The Columbia River system also provides a significant corridor for species movement from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountain ecoregion of British Columbia, through the Okanogan highlands, Columbia Basin shrub-steppe, and east Cascades, and out to the wetter ecoregion of the west Cascades. The convergence of these topographic features is likely a major factor in the high number of endemic species found in the vicinity.

Keying rare plants on a steep slope, photo by Julie Bresnan

Gooseberry-leaved alumroot, photo by Julie Bresnan

Twenty-four surveys were completed over the three-day campout, including new populations of rare plants such as oblong bluecurls (Trichostema oblongum), western ladies-tresses (Spiranthes porrifolia) and common bluecup (Githopsis specularioides). Regional endemics such as Barrett’s penstemon (Penstemon barrettiae), gooseberry-leaved alumroot (Heuchera grossulariifolia var. tenuifolia), and Suksdorf’s lomatium (Lomatium suksdorfii) are locally common on the cliffs and steep slopes of the Klickitat River. We monitored several populations of each and documented several new sites while surveying for other rare plant populations. We also monitored blue-flowered diffuse stickseed (Hackelia diffusa var. diffusa) and the very rare Ames’ milk-vetch (Astragalus pulsiferae var. suksdorfii), found in Washington only from an area around Conboy National Wildlife Refuge.

Diffuse stickseed, photo by Julie Bresnan

Identifying rare plants in a cool June, photo by Bev Linde

Although we accomplished so much in the short three days we had, we wrapped up the monitoring weekend with the impression that there is still much ground to cover in the region. We look forward to more explorations in the basalt canyons and pine woodlands in the coming years.

Images from top left:

  • Barrett’s penstemon, photo by Janka Hobbs
  • Barrett’s penstemon, photo by Betty Swift
  • Keying gooseberry-leaved alumroot on a steep slope, photo by Julie Bresnan
  • Gooseberry-leaved alumroot, photo by Julie Bresnan
  • Diffuse stickseed, photo by Julie Bresnan
  • Monitoring rare plants in a cool June, photo by Bev Linde

You may view additional photos on Rare Care’s page on Facebook.

 

 

BioBlitz reveals potentially rare stinging ant, mushroom, spider & possible new plant invaders

May 29th, 2010 by Jennifer Youngman, Program Coordinator

With more than 100 citizen scientists, university students and professionals scrutinizing Washington Park Arboretum’s nooks and crannies during Seattle’s first BioBlitz, there were bound to be a few surprises. A potentially rare native stinging ant, a potentially rare Amanita (mushroom) not often seen on the west coast, a potentially new species of spider and a couple of unexpected plants displaying suspicious behavior are just a few of the discoveries. Plus, a spider that is regionally rare appears to be common on Foster Island.

The inventory of the Arboretum’s birds, bats, lichens, fungi, reptiles, amphibians and plants (not counting the Arboretum’s plant collection, which is already documented) started at 3:00 PM May 21 and lasted 24 hours, including night-time shifts for cataloguing nocturnal life. One nocturnal lesson: participants collected regurgitated barred owl pellets, dissolved all of the material but bones, and identified bones and skulls to determine that the Arboretum’s owls dine primarily on Norway rats.

BioBlitz plants & animals mapped using handheld devicesThe après-BioBlitz is now in session. Data is being processed. Plant and invertebrate identification continues. Rare species are being confirmed. And plants such as Lonicera periclymenum, an ornamental Eurasian vine not known to be invasive here but found scrambling over plants, will be investigated to see whether they are potential new invaders in this region.

BioBlitzes have served as vehicles for biodiversity data collection for several years in locations ranging from the Nisqually Delta to Cape Cod and New York City’s Central Park. Seattle’s BioBlitz will be useful in establishing baseline data before the Highway 520 bridge project gets underway. Dr. Sarah Reichard, professor and co-associate director of the UW Botanic Gardens, worked with the Washington NatureMapping Program to organize this major undertaking, and the Arboretum Foundation funded it. Although insects were underrepresented due to cold weather and no bats were netted, more than 400 species of plants, animals, lichens and fungi were recorded. View the species tally to date and a list of predicted vs. observed birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

Check out the photo gallery accompanying this Seattle Times article. Thank you to all who contributed time, effort, expertise and enthusiasm to the BioBlitz.