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RESCHEDULED! Loyola University New Orleans Leads Third and Final BioBlitz New Orleans City Park

Loyola press release - April 20, 2018

“Citizen Science” project funded by a grant from Entergy invites citizens of all ages and levels of expertise to help document biodiversity as City Park plans for the future

Loyola University New Orleans is gearing up to host the third and final BioBlitz New Orleans City Park, a citizen science project designed to improve park biodiversity and help park leaders to plan for the future. Volunteer scientists, coastal researchers, naturalists, teachers, students, families, and interested residents of all ages are encouraged to join the event from 8 a.m. to noon on Sunday, May 6, 2018 — or come back at 7 p.m. to participate in a new nocturnal hike or special evening bat watching event, in which participants will track, monitor, and identify bats in the area using a bat tracking device.

“Saturday is the last opportunity for residents to participate in this exciting citizen science project, and we hope to see both familiar friends and new faces,” said Aimée Thomas, lecturer and assistant professor of biological sciences at Loyola. “The BioBlitz is a great opportunity for residents and hobbyists interested in nature to gain field experience working side-by-side with entomologists, bird experts, coastal scientists, and other experts in their fields – and to have fun while learning more about the exciting biodiversity in our city.”

A BioBlitz, also known as a biological inventory or biological census, is an event or intense period of surveying that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time.

Funded by a generous $66,000 grant from Entergy Corporation, BioBlitz New Orleans City Park is designed to assess the full range of species in the 1,300-acre park, which includes lagoons, historic oak trees, fishing ponds, fields, and botanic gardens — and is home to the world’s largest collection of mature live oaks and some of the city’s most important recreational facilities, from Storyland to the New Orleans Museum of Art.

“Over the last nine months, four Loyola professors have engaged more than 20 scientists, 50 university students, and 500 citizens through this project to identify park species, and show park planners where native species may be disappearing and where invasive species may be gaining traction,” said Robert A. “Bob” Thomas, professor and director of the Loyola Center for Environmental Communication, as well as board member of the City Park Improvement Association and the New Orleans Botanical Garden Foundation.

“With the help of volunteers and scientists, park management and city leaders are gaining a better understanding of the biodiversity at one of the nation’s largest public parks, and that information is already helping them to make better decisions about how City Park is managed and developed.”

The “Citizen Science” project invites citizens of all ages and levels of expertise to engage in the process, thus either sharing their expertise or expanding their knowledge by working hand-in-hand with a variety of scientists. The aim all along has been to identify as many species as possible and enlarge an existing list of both native and introduced flora and fauna. Data gathered will build upon existing data gathered by the Louisiana Master Naturalist program and will be used by City Park to prepare for the future.

Led by professors in Loyola University New Orleans’ Environmental Sciences program, the May 6 BioBlitz will engage scientists and naturalists from universities throughout the region in leading teams of volunteers, as they gather observations and information on birds, botany, nocturnal animals, and other wildlife in the park’s Wisner Tract, located off Harrison and Wisner Avenues.

More than 20 experts from Loyola, University of New Orleans, Southeastern Louisiana University, and Tulane, as well as the Audubon Institute, the Lake Foundation, New Orleans Botanical Gardens and New Orleans City Park will lead focused groups of volunteers.

The May 6 BioBlitz event at New Orleans City Park is free, and the public is invited to attend. Participants are asked to please register for the event here.

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