Bio Blitz

Participants collect data at the Sept. 27 Bio Blitz at Frances Short Pond. (Courtesy photo by Tom Bean)

Tom Bean

On Sept. 27, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, Friends of the Rio de Flag, and multiple other partners organized a Bioblitz at Frances Short Pond.

Stations were set up around the pond that collected information about water quality, aquatic insects, birds, plants and fish. More than 260 students from Marshall Elementary, Flagstaff Junior Academy, and Mount Elden Middle School measured the temperature and dissolved oxygen of the water, used microscopes to identify the aquatic invertebrates they caught, wandered the pond in search of common plants, used binoculars to spot ducks and red-winged blackbirds, fished for rainbow trout, and then pulled together what they learned by constructing a life cycle diagram of an organism of their choice. In the afternoon community members got the same chance to explore this unique ecosystem in their backyard while contributing to the survey data collection.

"The kids and families were super happy to be out conducting citizen science for such a special place in Flagstaff. Watching the binoculars focus in on mallards, coots and blackbirds, eyes grow wide at discovering beetles and bees, and screams of excitement catching their first fish- what a memorable day of science in its simplest form," said Brenda Strohmeyer, Rocky Mountain Research Station supervisory biological science technician, and event co-organizer.

Valerie Brazzell, whose son Maddox, a 4th grader at Marshall Elementary, participated during the morning school period said “my son came home from school all excited and told me he had a lot of much fun. I decided to check it out too. We participated together in the afternoon session, had a great time, and learned a lot”.

Chelsea Silva, AmeriCorps VISTA watershed stewardship aide with Friends of the Rio de Flag and the City of Flagstaff, who was also in charge of the Plant ID station, said that everyone at her station was super engaged and excited to be part of this effort. “I can’t wait for next time” she added.

Moran Henn, Willow Bend’s executive director and one of the event’s co-organizers, concluded that the event was a huge success.

“This was a true multi-partner collaborative effort, held in conjunction with the Flagstaff Festival of Science," she said. "I can’t thank our volunteers, experts, and helpers enough. They did such a great job and the result is hundreds of happy students, teachers, and community members who got to spend the day outside, learn about their local environment, and contribute to meaningful data collection and open space management."

Additional event partners included multiple departments from the City of Flagstaff including Sustainability Section Open Space Program and Storm Water, The Museum of Northern Arizona, Grand Canyon Trust, AZ Game and Fish, local illustrator Zack Zdinak, and more. The event was made possible through a generous grant from the National Geographic Education Foundation and the AZ Game and Fish Heritage Grant.

For more Festival of Science activities, visit www.scifest.org, and for more information about Willow Bend, visit www.willowbedncenter.org

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