Fall Socially Distant BioBlitz - DFW Urban Ecosystem 2021's Journal

18 September, 2021

Results for the 2021 Fall Socially Distant BioBlitz!

The urban ecosystem is alive. We daily see habitat loss close to our own backyards, but as Jeff Goldblum says, “Life finds a way.” In the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, biodiversity is well worthy of celebrating. On September 5 – 11, 2021, we held the second annual “Fall Socially Distant BioBlitz,” and once again, we saw tens of thousands of iNaturalist observations of thousands of species from thousands of participants! In other words, it was a great success! We can also compare the results this year to last year – there are some noticeable differences.

Before we get into the results, let’s talk about relevancy. What good is this information and does it mean anything for conservation, education, or habitat management? When a group of folks dedicate time, energy, and knowledge to documenting the organisms that exist here in the city, we can translate this into meaningful change. First of all, we personally change as we learn. Even if it’s learning the name of one of the pesky plants that keeps getting in our flower garden, or an insect noticed for the first time, we gain knowledge and this can be shared with others. Next, we can use this to find out places where biodiversity thrives. There are some areas in DFW that are overflowing with wildlife habitat, and we’ve got the data to show it! Finally, we can collectively convince land managers (city council, park board, HOA’s) that nature matters to a growing amount of people in DFW. It’s well worthy to conserve and manage for nature and this growing constituency of naturalists. The results from this socially distant bioblitz add imperial evidence to this cause. Let’s use this!

So, here are some numbers from this year:
27,401 iNaturalist observations of 2325 Species from 1237 observers identified or verified by 737 others (these numbers may fluctuate a bit as more upload or ID).
Last year, here are the numbers for the week:
35,900 iNat observations of 2648 species from 1243 observers identified or verified by 1199 others.

You may notice that we didn’t get quite as many observations or species, but the participation level was magnificent! Over 1200 naturalists and nature enthusiasts went outside to make observations this week. Let’s celebrate that!

This year, here were the 10 most observed species:
Gulf fritillary, American bumble bee, cedar elm, giant ragweed, yellow garden spider, eastern pondhawk, late boneset, poison ivy, prairie false foxglove, and sugar hackberry.
Last year, we didn’t document nearly as many gulf fritillaries (there were the 203rd most documented species!) nor prairie false foxgloves (the 55th most documented species). There were some other fluctuations in the top species as well. Take a look at last year’s top species: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/fall-socially-distant-bioblitz-dfw-urban-ecosystem?tab=species

This year was filled with some crazy cool finds! First of all, there were some daily challenges that several people completed. If you did, way to go! Hopefully they were sufficiently challenging, and the challenges provided some extra incentive to go out and explore. Here are a few of the completed daily challenges:

5 Sep: Raccoons have some really great tracks: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/93757490

6 Sep: Spore prints – for some mushrooms, it’s good to leave them for a bit on a white sheet of paper to see the color of the spores: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/94153460
7 Sep: All spiders have multiple eyes and they’re all somewhat different! Here’s a really cool starbellied orbweaver: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/94040918
8 Sep: Green briar name (Smilax): “Smilax gets its name from the Greek myth of Krokus and the nymph Smilax. The story is varied, but here’s one version: Their love affair was tragic and unfulfilled because mortals and nymph weren’t allowed to love each other. For that indiscretion, the man, Krokus, was turned into the saffron crocus by the goddess Artemis (because she, too, was having an affair with Krokus but as a goddess that was okay). Smilax, a woodland nymph, was so heartbroken over Krokus’ reduction down to a flower that Artemis took godly pity on her and turned Smilax into a brambly vine so she and Krokus could forever entwine themselves.” https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/93878242
9 Sep: I didn’t realize that pigeons have the ability to smell! Vultures and gulls do, but did you know that pigeons do as well?!? https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/94261719
10 Sep: Finding a purple insect is hard! But several still did. Here’s a pipevine swallowtail that has lots of the primary colors as well: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/94600186
11 Sep: I love seeing the roots of invasive species. One of the vilest, Bermuda grass, is seen with some roots here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/94518668

Here are just a few of the other observations that I marked as being particularly interesting:

Texas wasp moth: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/93749922
Brown anole - an invasive species to keep an eye on! These do outcompete the native green anoles: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/93756122
Feather legged spider is nonvenomous: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/93773289
Mourning warbler window strike project: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/93868016
Egg parasitoid: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/93896747
Beezlebub bee-killer - this insect has been making a ‘move’ to further north – I’d only seen it down in the hill country in the past, but they’re becoming a bit more common here in DFW: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/94014169
Strepsiptera – twisted wing flies that are parasites of paper wasps: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/94256963
Chestnut-sided warbler – a fun migrant: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/94518193
Beautiful little moth (skullcap skeletonizer moth): https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/94595632
Cicada parasitizing beetle that can lay up to 17,000 eggs: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/94340396

I was able to look at around 20k of the observations, and there were so many tremendous ones! I learned a massive amount, especially from the challenge of looking up the scientific names and their meanings. There were so many cool observations that were new to me too! I love seeing all of these – it inspires me to continue to explore even at the little local parks.

Speaking of which, there are two ongoing bioblitzes! One in the City of Fort Worth Parks (https://www.fortworthtexas.gov/news/2021/08/PARD-Pollinators) and another in the City of Dallas Parks (https://www.dallasparks.org/476/Urban-Biologist)! Do try to spend some time making some observations at these city parks!

Also, mark your calendars for next year’s City Nature Challenge: April 29 – May 2. We’ll do another ‘socially distant bioblitz’ next fall too: September 4 – 10.

Overall, hopefully you were able to engage with the outdoors during this week… You learned the names of some of your natural neighbors… You daily celebrate the nature that exists all around us. Keep it up!

If you ever have any questions or concerns, please let me know! Hope to see more of your observations on iNaturalist!

Sam Kieschnick
Urban Wildlife Biologist, DFW
Texas Parks and Wildlife
@sambiology on iNaturalist
214 215 5605

P.S. Some folks were mentioning that their app was filling up too much space on the phone. One fix for this is to log out and then log back in – this clears your cache and frees up space on your phone. Make sure that you’ve uploaded all observations on your phone before you do this though!
Also, the app is a great tool for collecting data, but you’ve really got to go to the website to get the most out of iNaturalist.

Posted on 18 September, 2021 01:19 by sambiology sambiology | 1 comment | Leave a comment

13 September, 2021

Lots of observations!!! Report sometime mid this week...

Wow!!! That's a LOT of observations for this week! Incredible stuff!

I'll work on a report of the results, especially when compared to last year's 'socially distant bioblitz' (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/fall-socially-distant-bioblitz-dfw-urban-ecosystem). We didn't get quite as many observations this year, but we still got some incredible data. Stay tuned for the report!

In the meantime, if you want to practice your ID'ing skills... Lots left to ID:
These observations need ID's or verification:

These observations have ID's but may need extra verification:

Thanks! :)

Posted on 13 September, 2021 03:12 by sambiology sambiology | 2 comments | Leave a comment

01 September, 2021

Daily challenges!!! How the heck could anyone get all of these?!?

Challenges – for these, if you want to, ‘tag’ me (write @sambiology) somewhere on the observation – either in the notes or the comments, so I can see it!

Sunday, September 5
Observe some mammal tracks
- extra challenge: observe tracks or evidence of an organism that’s an insectivore

Monday, September 6
Make an observation of a species, and then look up the meaning of the scientific name (translate the Latin, look up the namesake of the species, or find out where the scientific name comes from).
- extra challenge: find two more organisms that are named after famous botanists. How many organisms can you find that are named after famous naturalists?

Tuesday, September 7
Observe a spider that has different sized or shaped eyes
- extra challenge: observe as many different spider species as you can today

Wednesday, September 8
Make a fungus observation with a spore print
- extra challenge: how many different fungi species can you find on this one day?

Thursday, September 9
Observe a bird that has a sense of smell
- extra challenge: observe two birds in different taxonomic families that have the ability to smell!

Friday, September 10
Document an insect that has the color purple
- extra challenge: find insects that have all of the 3 different primary colors (red, yellow, and blue)

Saturday, September 11
Document an invasive plant with the complete root system showing! (in other words, yank it out!)
- extra challenge: pile up lots and lots of invasive plants! How big can your pile be?!?

Huge props to anyone that can get several of these! :)

Posted on 01 September, 2021 19:16 by sambiology sambiology | 0 comments | Leave a comment

17 August, 2021

Frequently asked questions about the bioblitz

Updating as I get more...

Do I have to join any of these projects for my observations to count?
Nope! If you're in one of the areas, and you make an observation during September 5 - 11, the projects automatically grab the observation.

Do I have to be a Texas Master Naturalist to participate?
Nope! Any and all are welcome to participate! I hope that many Texas Master Naturalists do participate as well, and hopefully if you make observations, these volunteer naturalists will help with the ID's.

When do observations have to be uploaded?
So, I'd really like observations to be uploaded as soon as possible... I'll try to get results to folks by the next week Wednesday (Sep 15), so please try your best to get them uploaded as soon as possible.

Does this count for Master Naturalist Volunteer Hours? If so, what counts?
This is something to check back with your volunteer hours approver, but if it were up to me, and how it is in several chapters, all the time spent out in the field making observations, all the time in front of the computer editing observations, and all the time spent identifying observations or commenting on observations should count for Volunteer Hours. Double check with your Master Naturalist chapter board though!

What if I am a master naturalist in one chapter, but I make observations in counties served by another chapter? Do I count them for my home chapter or what?
You're a good neighbor! When you make observations in another county that's served by another chapter of the master naturalists, you're adding to their project. That's ok!

Do native plants that are planted in my own landscaping count?
Plants that you specifically planted in your yard/area that you still maintain to some degree do not count. This project is all about observing the wild organisms around DFW. If you do observe a cultivated plant (even if it's a regionally native one), make sure to mark it as cultivated or 'not wild.' Now, the pollinators or bugs that come to your cultivated plants, those are still wild and ideal for this project!

What do we win?
So much respect. Like a ton of respect. Bragging rights? Pride in knowing you're doing good? I can write "IOU's" too.

Posted on 17 August, 2021 21:05 by sambiology sambiology | 2 comments | Leave a comment

September 5 - 11! Cancel all of your plans and obligations. It's time to bioblitz!

Hey all!

Last year, we had a trial run of a "socially distant bioblitz" on the first full week of September.
The main question was "what area of the DFW metroplex has the most species and most participation with most observation?" Well, we saw that each area has loads of interest, great observations, and some really unique finds! If you'd like to read up on the results, here's the long post..

Since we've done it last year, now we have a year to compare. What all will we see this year?

This project is broken up into the 6 areas of DFW, and each of these areas is served by a Texas Master Naturalist chapter. If you observe in any of these areas, those observations are automatically added in that specific project. Here are the projects:

Collin and Hunt Counties, the Blackland Prairie Master Naturalist chapter
Parker and Tarrant Counties, the Cross Timbers Master Naturalist chapter
Cooke, Denton, and Wise Counties, the Elm Fork Master Naturalist chapter
Ellis and Navarro Counties, the Indian Trail Master Naturalist chapter
Dallas, Kaufman, and Rockwall Counties, the North Texas Master Naturalist chapter
Hood, Johnson, and Somervell Counties, the Rio Brazos Master Naturalist chapter

You DON'T have to join any project, nor this one, the umbrella project, for your observations to count.

Just make observations from September 5 - 11 in one (or several!) of these areas, and the projects automatically grab them. No other steps needed!

Also, each day there will be a challenge with a sub-challenge. These can be pretty challenging, so try your best to get as many as you can! What's your reward? Sam's respect. And that's worth its weight in gold! I'll put the challenges on a journal post in this project on September 1.

Most of all, we'll be using these results, especially the observations made in public areas like parks, to guide land management. It's a powerful thing when we talk to a park manager or a city council and show them not just the biodiversity that exists in the area, but also the constituency of naturalists that actively seek out this biodiversity! So yes, we need you!

If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me!
Sam Kieschnick @sambiology
Urban Wildlife Biologist, DFW, Texas Parks and Wildlife
214-215-5605 (c)

Posted on 17 August, 2021 20:39 by sambiology sambiology | 17 comments | Leave a comment