Monday, June 2, 2014

Missouri Prairie Foundation BioBlitz June 7 & 8

Outdoor enthusiasts of all ages are invited to enjoy a weekend on an original American landscape—the tallgrass prairie—at Gayfeather Prairie in Vernon County on June 7 and 8. At
this free event organized and hosted by the Missouri Prairie Foundation, adults and children with enthusiasm for the outdoors will team up with biologists to explore and document plants and animals of this 116-acre prairie, owned jointly by the Missouri Prairie Foundation and the Missouri Department of Conservation. In addition to the plant and animal fieldwork, there will be a potluck picnic dinner, stargazing, nocturnal insect observations, and free tent camping on the prairie.
“We are in our 5th year now of the Missouri Prairie Foundation’s Prairie BioBlitz,” said Jeff Cantrell, technical advisor to the Foundation, “and it has created a ‘buzz’ among my friends and colleagues. The buzz used to be after the event—families, master naturalists, and neighbors talked about what a wonderful family-oriented learning event they had just experienced. Now, I see the buzz leading up to the weekend event on the beautiful prairie that will be our classroom and campsite. The learning is casual and fun, and I personally invite all who are interested in nature to participate. Come join us and see what the buzz is all about!”
Across the country, nature lovers and professional biologists team up at “BioBlitzes” to identify as many species as possible (the “bio”) in an area over the course of 24 hours (the “blitz”). The Foundation’s version will begin June 7 at 2:00 p.m. and end the afternoon of June 8.
“Ecologists consider temperate grasslands to be the most endangered, least conserved of any major terrestrial habitat on earth—so Missouri’s tallgrass prairies have global conservation significance,” said Carol Davit, the Foundation’s executive director. “Collectively, our remaining prairies in Missouri support up to 800 plant species, dozens of vertebrates and thousands of invertebrates, but there is still much to learn. We want to see how many species we can find at Gayfeather Prairie, and BioBlitz participants will help in that effort.” Participants at past BioBlitzes at other Foundation prairies have documented blooming orchids, dozens of butterfly species, rare fish, and much more.
On the afternoon and evening of June 7 and the morning of June 8, biologists who study ants, bees, birds, butterflies, insect coloration, fish, moths, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, vascular plants, mosses, liverworts, and soils will lead groups across the prairies to survey and inventory as many species as possible. Biologists with the Missouri Department of Conservation—Fisheries Biologist Tom Priesendorf, Natural Areas Coordinator Mike Leahy, Heritage Zoologist Debby Fantz, and Naturalist John Miller—will be group leaders. Other leaders include entomologists Dr. James Trager and Richard Thoma; botanists Darin Banks, Nels Holmberg, and Dr. John Atwood; ornithologists Dana Ripper and Ethan Duke of the Missouri River Bird Observatory; lepidopterist Phillip Koenig; and soil scientist Dr. David Hammer. In addition, Dan Johnson with the Astronomical Society of Kansas City will provide telescopes and interpret the night sky.
“We are thrilled that so many biologists are giving their time to help uncover the plant and animal treasures of this prairie,” said Davit. “If you love plants and wildlife, this is a great opportunity to learn from experts passionate about their given subjects, and play a role in much-needed data collection as well.”
Gayfeather Prairie includes 76 acres purchased by the Missouri Prairie Foundation in 1976 and 40 acres purchased by the Missouri Department of Conservation in 1984. A total of 305 native plant species has been documented from this high quality prairie, named for its high numbers of blazingstar or gayfeather wildflowers. The prairie is about seven miles east of Milo.
The Prairie BioBlitz is free, but participants must RSVP. For a detailed schedule, directions to the prairie, and to RSVP, visit www.moprairie.org, email info@moprairie.com, or call 888-843-6739.
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