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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A glimpse into the past – a very low tide on Foster Island

November 4th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John Wott, Director Emeritus

For many years both Lake Washington and Union Bay had variable water levels throughout the year.  The Army Corps of Engineers allowed the water of the Lake Washington system to drop several feet in order to have enough capacity for heavy spring rains and snow melt.  This frustrated many dock owners and also led to significant shoreline erosion.  Today they try to maintain a steady level, although it is difficult to predict both rainfall and rate of snow melt.

The photograph taken on September 12, 1958, show an extremely low water level on the north end of Foster Island. Currently the water level is usually near the top of the large stone works.  The gentleman standing there gives a perspective of at least a six foot drop.

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Low tide on Foster Island in September 1958.

Looking west is the University of Washington Stadium, which depicts only the southern section (now demolished and rebuilt in 2012). The campus buildings are quite low and mostly indistinguishable, and the smoke stack from the UW heating plant has been replaced with the newer large one.

Foster Island landscaping prep work begins 12-18-2013

December 17th, 2013 by UWBG Communication Staff

Foster Island Landscaping – Dec. 2013 preliminary fieldwork

What is the work and why is it being done?

  • Crews will conduct archeological evaluations on Foster Island in the Washington Park Arboretum to prepare for landscaping improvements that will be implemented as a part of the SR 520, I-5 to Medina: Bridge Replacement and HOV Project.
  • Landscaping improvements will include planting native plants in the area.
  • WSDOT is assisting with landscape improvements in coordination with the Arboretum as part of a mitigation plan for effects to Foster Island developed in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
  • This work is necessary so crews can better understand sediment profiles that will help inform additional archeological investigations in spring 2014 for the proposed landscaping improvements.

How will the work be done and what will I see?

  • Work is planned for Dec. 18, 2013. In the event of poor weather conditions, work could be delayed up until Jan. 31, 2013.
  • Crews of approximately three people will be on site using small diameter hand augers to examine soil samples. A maximum of ten auger test bores will be placed.
  • This fieldwork will be completed within one day.
  • No trail closures or other public space closures will be required to perform this work.
  • Crews will re-fill the sample areas and replace sod at the auger locations.

What are the next steps?

  • The next phase of archaeological work required for the proposed landscaping treatments is planned for spring 2014. Crews will fence off work areas during this time.

Who can I contact for more information?

  • SR 520 contact information:
    • 24-hour construction hotline: 206-708-4657

Foster Island spider appears to be new species

February 16th, 2011 by Jennifer Youngman, Program Coordinator

You may recall that last spring’s BioBlitz in the Washington Park Arboretum resulted in some interesting finds, thanks to the efforts of more than 100 citizen scientists, university students and professionals. Here’s an update on one of those discoveries.

Foster Island Philodromus spiderRod Crawford, Curator of Arachnids at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, reports, “I just finished fully curating the spiders from last May’s Foster Island bioblitz. The unusual Philodromus crab spider from the Waterside Trail, is not P. imbecillus nor is it P. insperatus (only member of the imbecillus group known from Washington). It is very similar to an Atlantic-states species Philodromus marxi, but is more likely to be an altogether new species. Full confirmation will have to await more specimens including males, but we can tentatively consider it new.”

The Foster Island female spider’s reproductive organs don’t match those of Philodromus insperatus, a spider found in this state but mainly in sagebrush country. And the Atlantic states’ P. marxi’s body coloration is metallic, very different from that of the spider found on Foster Island. And so the research continues.

Rod Crawford maintains a website called The Spider Myths Site. Interestingly, two of the myths are “Spiders are easy to identify” and “The spider you found has to be a species you’ve already heard of.”

Photograph by Rod Crawford

WSDOT conducts cultural resources study on Foster Island

July 28th, 2010 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

WSDOT Foster Island Study Area map

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is conducting a cultural resources study on Foster Island as part of the I-5 to Medina: Bridge Replacement and HOV Project. This important safety and mobility project will build a safer floating bridge and give new options to people crossing Lake Washington.

Foster Island Study Fact Sheet