Become a citizen scientist at Lancer Park

Published 8:02 am Thursday, April 18, 2019

You don’t need to be a botanist or zoologist to contribute to science. Thanks to Longwood University’s Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences participation in BioBlitz, anyone can play the role of scientific observer.

The event, set for Saturday, April 20, from 9 a.m. to noon, is open to everyone in the Farmville community.

Longwood’s fourth BioBlitz at Lancer Park, this event was first sponsored by National Geographic and the Virginia Geographic Alliance in 2016. “In that first year, we had a team of over 140 volunteers that worked together to find and identify as many species of plants, animals, fungi and other organisms as possible in one day,” notes Biology Associate Professor Sujan Henkanaththegedara. “Over three years, our efforts yielded close to 500 species, much more than I had anticipated given Lancer Park’s proximity to town.”

The Longwood BioBlitz seeks to demonstrate the importance of conservation and exploration, highlight the biodiversity of an area and generate data that can be used by scientists and citizen scientists.

“While data obtained from these events can be useful,” according to Geography Professor Ed Kinman, “I like how BioBlitz promotes observation. As we learn how to see, we begin a journey to try and make sense of those observations. I hope this event promotes a sense of wonder in participants to better understand the intricate and interconnected systems of the world around us.”

The Environmental Educational Center at Lancer Park will be “BioBlitz central.” At touch tables, people can handle local plants, and materials for teachers will be available. “If you want to catch some salamanders and hold them in your hands, show up. This is going to be fun,” says Science Education Assistant Professor Dr. Ben Campbell. “This is a family event and a community event.” In addition, there will be a large floor map of Virginia that children can explore by walking and use of manipulatives.

Participants are encouraged to download the iNaturalist app [available for free on Google Play for Android and the Appstore for Mac] to their phones or tablets before arrival. The app will be used to record observations after participants are assigned to various specialty groups led by faculty members and majors from Longwood’s Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences. They will work in the area behind the Environmental Education Center, which includes wooded areas, grassy meadows and several ponds, with access to Buffalo Creek and the Appomattox River.

“This is an excellent example of what I call becoming citizen scientists,” said Biology Associate Professor Mark Fink. “When you’re out in the field, it’s easier to see connections in the natural world. Plus, students in my ornithology [study of birds] class have documented biodiversity, and they are more motivated when they use data they have collected. It gives them a sense of ownership of the data.”

For event registration and more information including a map to Lancer Park visit the Longwood Bioblitz at Lancer Park website at https://blogs.longwood.edu/longwoodbioblitz/.