Natural connection: BioBlitz returns to Odiorne State Park

On Saturday, Sept. 21, the Seacoast Science Center’s annual BioBlitz event is back at Odiorne State Park, with unique opportunities to explore local wildlife and habitats. The event is meant to be a creative way to get community members actively thinking about the biodiversity around them.

“Bioblitz is one of my favorite events of the year, and it’s such a fun way to inspire people to connect to and appreciate nature,” Director of Mission Kate Leavitt said. “We love being able to offer this unique opportunity to people of all ages.”

What makes this event different from most is that attendees are given the chance to assist local biologists with research and add their own contributions to a working database. Odiorne State Park consists of 135 acres and seven distinct habitats that allow ample room for exploration and discovery. According to the Center’s website, over 2,300 species have been identified since 2003, and that number only continues to grow. Last year alone, 350 participants identified over 500 different species, 21 of which hadn’t previously been discovered in the area.

“We now have a 16-year dataset of the biodiversity of Odiorne,” Leavitt said. “This information helps us to track change over time, and better informs our understanding of the complex webs of interactions that exist here, and the important services they provide to not only the local ecosystem but to our own health.”

The Center stresses the importance of events like this one, where participation by local community members helps to not only monitor biodiversity but also provide educational opportunities for families and generations to come.

“It’s a great way to get curious children and adults involved in scientific research. They’re able to make discoveries, share them with experts, and contribute to the overall results of our BioBlitz,” said Leavitt.

For those not interested in getting their hands dirty, the Center’s Gregg Interactive Learning Studio will have plenty to explore indoors. Attendees can learn about the identification process and use microscopes to examine insects, seaweed, and other samples of species that have been collected by local naturalists.

This year participants will have another opportunity that’s even more hands-on. For an extra $5 visitors can learn about the anatomy and physiology of squid during a guided dissection session.
“It’s fun to go into the learning studio and see kids and visitors hunched over the scopes and talking with the scientists and trying to key out different species,” Leavitt said.

The day’s schedule is packed with fun and educational activities from 6 a.m. until 3 p.m., and the Center wants to engage as many community members as possible. Regardless of interests, there’s an event for everyone.

“We go tide pooling, we go out to the salt marsh, we hunt for mammals and mushrooms and insects, we check out the freshwater pond. It’s just an amazing opportunity to check out the biodiversity that exists here in our coastal park,” said Leavitt.

According to Leavitt, one of the day’s most popular events is always birdwatching, when some of the more eager attendees rise at the crack of dawn to gather at the park and attempt to identify a handful of the area’s many bird species. Leavitt says this event isn’t only about the birds, however, but also a chance to bond with other like-minded individuals during one of the most peaceful moments of the day.

“It’s fun to ride the sun. It rises right over the water. We all kick the day off with coffee, watching the sun rise, and then the birders start their walk,” she said.

Anyone interested in attending BioBlitz can register on the day of the event at the Seacoast Science Center or ahead of time online at seacoastsciencecenter.org. Fees are $10 per individual or $30 for parties up to six people. For more information, email e.carey@sscnh.org or call 436-8043, ext. 17.

As part of a lesson on responsible research and leaving no trace, participants are asked to bring reusable water bottles and containers in an effort to make the event zero-waste.

— Elyse Carmosino

 

BioBlitz Event Schedule:

  • 6-7am – Birding
  • 8am – Seine Netting
  • 9am – Plants
  • 10am Tide Pooling/Seaweed
  • 11am – Pond/Insects
  • Noon – Lunch/Special Program
  • 1pm – Mushrooms/Beach Clean-Up
  • 2pm – Mammals
  • 3pm – Salt Marsh/Squid Dissection
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