Friday, November 11, 2016

Biodiversity in a Nutshell

Back in September, I was part of Blackstone Valley's first Biodiversity Festival, organized by the amazing Allison Horrocks, where Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, the Department of Parks and Recreation, NRISOS, 15 Minute Field Trips™, and others set up tables on a windy day that kept threatening rain, but actually had a good turn-out.

Beneath the highway, joggers and bicyclists hustled by on the bike path through land that could have easily have been forgotten about.  Instead, between Cumberland and Lincoln, and into Woonsocket, the 12 mile park follows the Blackstone River.  Once polluted by industry few fish could tolerate, now the river supports over two dozen species!  Following the path, you can see the next ones on that food chain, the great blue heron, cormorants, even osprey and eagles!  An abandoned drive-in movie theater was taken out to allow for a restored meadow.  Now mammals such as the river-loving muskrat return, along with the still urban-tolerant raccoons, skunk, opossum.  Opossum are most-welcome hear, as they eat ticks, and the deer that carry the Lyme tick do visit as well. Coyote and foxes join this web as well.  While snapping turtles tend to be more pollution-tolerant than other turtles, several turtle species and well as sensitive frogs have made the Blackstone River their home.

Kelly House
There are many ways to look for biodiversity.  Actually sightings of animals is always a pleasure, but other evidence can be found with a little searching.  Animal tracks, especially in the soft, wet ground beside creeks, is a good place to start.  Knowing who made the tracks and what their presence might mean is the next step.  Below, molds help identify raccoons, squirrel, deer, dog, and more.

There were many great tables to explore, learning more about insects, leaves, trees...  Deputy Andy and others guided children and families on nature walks and in various fun activities.  

Recording what you find.

Record what you find!  Maybe a drawing or even a photo.  Print out a scavenger hunt list and check off what you see.  Examine bones from a distance, look for holes, burrows and nests without disturbing them, notice eaten leaves and nuts, chewed bark, animal carcasses, snail shells.  Who is eating what?
Identifying seeds and leaves.
Collecting insects.
Finding snake skins.

Identifying fish.
Showcasing groups that study the river.
Using data to monitor environmental health.

Looking at insects and catching live ones!
Now to keep it clean!
Making connections by acting out a food web.
Seeing how water gets polluted...
---and how we can prevent it!

Events like this happen all over our state and can happen at your school or even your backyard or local park.  Next blog: 63 Third Graders Explore Biodiversity

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