SIU’s 2nd Saluki BioBlitz Calls on Citizen Scientists to Study Wildlife on Campus

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Brent Pease, right, assistant professor of forestry in the School of Agricultural Sciences, works with graduate forestry student Elaine Metz during the first BioBlitz at SIU last year. This year’s one-day effort is scheduled for Aug. 26 on the SIU campus, with dozens of volunteers registering as many species as possible. (Photo by Russell Bailey)

August 09, 2022

SIU’s 2nd Saluki BioBlitz Calls on Citizen Scientists to Study Wildlife on Campus

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Illinois – Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the surrounding community are set to learn more about their wildlife “neighbors” as a researcher prepares for a second public survey of the flora and fauna that will populate the campus.

The second annual 24 hour Saluki BioBlitz is set for August 26, rain or shine. A BioBlitz is a concentrated effort to record as many species as possible in a designated location and time period, which can vary from a single day to an entire month. The designated location can be anywhere, but it is usually a clearly defined location such as a park or a college campus.

During last year’s inaugural effort, 145 volunteers filed about 1,350 sighting reports, which identified more than 300 species of plants and animals living in the area. Plants made up the vast majority of species observed, followed by insects. Fungi and mammals were roughly tied for third place, with birds, spiders, amphibians and reptiles bringing up the rear.

The effort not only highlighted the diversity of plants and animals, but also helped spot invasive species that could alter the native ecosystem of southern Illinois.

Brent Pease, assistant professor of wildlife in the School of Forestry and Horticulture, organized the effort. He said he was confident volunteers will detect even more species this time around.

“The first one went really well,” Pease said. “I think we’ve learned that there are a lot more species on the SIU campus than people might expect.”

BioBlitz is part of Pease’s “citizen science” efforts to engage the general public of all ages, as well as SIU students, staff, and faculty, in any part of the scientific process. Participants record their observations via a smartphone application connected to an online platform called iNaturalist. The online community then works together to identify all sightings at the highest possible taxonomic resolution.

This year’s effort will be very similar to the first, although Pease anticipates even more community engagement, including participation from nearby community colleges. SIU’s wooded campus, complemented by its Thompson Woods and Campus Lake, provides plenty of opportunities for nature to thrive in the university’s vibrant atmosphere.

“We have the same goal every year – get out into nature, discover something new – for you or even the world – and document biodiversity on the SIU campus,” Pease said. “This is a great opportunity for new SIU students to learn more about campus, discover their favorite place to relax after class, and contribute to an important mission of describing SIU’s biodiversity.”

As habitats change and plants and animals face ever-changing pressures, Pease said it’s especially important to regularly update the natural inventory. BioBlitz gives a community and researchers insight into wildlife. Once researchers have collected several years of data, they can begin to get a better idea of ​​where and how species composition is changing over time and space.

“Many species are declining at an alarming rate – literally disappearing – and BioBlitzes can be important community events that help track the presence or absence of species over time,” he said. . “There is also the looming threat of non-native and invasive species that continue to spread, including some that may have gone undetected in Illinois before. Thus, our continuous and concentrated efforts in a relatively small area are a way to track the spread of these species. »

SIU BioBlitz results will remain online in Open Access Biodiversity data base, says Pease. This allows researchers, wildlife managers, practitioners, and the general public to use the information to understand when and where a given species occurred in history.


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Click on the graph to see the results of the Saluki BioBlitz 2021.

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