This 24-hour outdoor celebration and citizen science adventure is a unique cross-city collaboration between North Branch Nature Center, the Montpelier Community Services Department, and the Montpelier Conservation Commission. The three organizations have joined forces to engage residents in a round-the-clock menu of conservation and education activities while convening one of Vermont’s largest gatherings of naturalists and scientists.
A Phalanx of Field Biologists
In order to gather critical data to inform natural resource planning in Montpelier, the BioBlitz will convene an army of volunteer biologists to conduct specialized taxonomic inventories across the city. Ornithologists, botanists, mycologists, and entomologists will canvas sites identified as conservation priority areas by the Montpelier Conservation Commission: threatened habitats, rare natural communities, overlooked spaces, high-use city parks, and other places that have eluded past comprehensive natural resource inventories. This rare gathering of hyper-specialized biologists will uncover a far more nuanced and numerous species list at each site than would be generated by a typical ecological assessment – few consultants pay much attention to hoverflies, lichens, or ground beetles at their job sites. Such refined scrutiny will likely reveal rare and threatened species previously undocumented in Montpelier, or perhaps even Vermont. We scarcely appreciate how much is left to discover in our own backyards, yet sensitive and spectacular treasures go overlooked even in our most trafficked natural areas!
A Catalog of Change
The desired product is more than an exhaustive list of critters. The BioBlitz paints a detailed picture of the species cohabiting Montpelier’s wild spaces – assemblages that are being understood about as quickly as they are changing due to climate change, habitat fragmentation, and other pressures of our Anthropocene. Most ecologists know the relationship between morels and elms or beeches and bears. But we have a much foggier understanding of what noctuid moths fly in our sugarbushes, which beetles are found in the hemlock swamp, and whether those relationships are imperiled. Biological inventories draw lines in the sand from which we can measure changing tides. This summer’s event marks the tenth anniversary of the 2008 Montpelier BioBlitz, when a hundred biologists documented nearly 1,500 species in Montpelier. The results of the upcoming BioBlitz will show us how flora and fauna have changed during the last decade, and will be the benchmark to compare results of investigations a decade from now.
Locally, the surveys provide our Conservation Commissioners with data to make thorough recommendations around zoning, development, trail routing, forestry, and other natural resource issues in the capital city. Regionally, the data will help state biologists understand biodiversity and ecological interactions in our dynamic landscape.
Fun for the Whole Family
Meanwhile, the Montpelier Community Services Department and NBNC will be hosting a huge menu of field walks, games, and activities (see below). Biologists will return from the field throughout the day to a pop-up public laboratory stocked with aquaria, terrariums, collections, and live animals. This round-the-clock festival is packed with fun and learning for all ages, abilities, and interests.
- Camping in Hubbard Park & barbecue lunch
- Trail ride, 5k run, outdoor fitness & yoga classes
- Zipline and giant slip-and-slide
- Kids Makerspace (face painting, birdhouse building, etc.)
- Live music by Sabouyouma, Funk Shui, and more
Citizen Science & Learning Opportunities
- Naturalist-led field walks
- Live raptors, insects, and amphibians
- The Caterpillar Lab showcasing weird and wonderful critters
- Presentations by leading conservation biologists
- Bat-netting, bird-banding, and moth research
A Call for Volunteers and Biologists
To get involved in the natural history survey, please visit the “For Biologists” tab of our website to get in touch with a taxon leader of your interest. We are also looking for additional support with data entry (using iNaturalist; we will provide a volunteer training) and logistics (setup/takedown/parking/etc.). Visit the “Volunteer” tab of our website and indicate your interest and availability. We will find a role and time that works for you. Free food and camping available for volunteers!’
See BioBlitzMontpelier.org for more info.
Author: Sean Beckett