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June 18th, 2004

Grasslands “BioBlitz” volunteers to survey Jefferson and Boulder Counties for biodiversity

More than 100 plant and animal experts will be surveying 6,000 acres of publicly owned and managed grasslands in Jefferson and Boulder counties June 25 and June 26 in a 24-hour scramble to identify as many species as possible.

Known as a biodiversity blitz, or "BioBlitz," the inventory will be undertaken by 21 survey teams, including 12 led by CU-Boulder researchers, said BioBlitz project facilitator and science educator Karen Hollweg of Boulder. The two-day event also is designed to provide opportunities for the public to learn first-hand how scientists study the natural world and what has been determined about ecological systems and biodiversity through the survey.

The BioBlitz event also will include public talks by scientists on a variety of ecological topics as well as an exhibition of live raptors, amphibians, reptiles, insects and native plants and flowers, and a series of area nature hikes. The community activities will be centered at the Department of Energy's Rocky Flats Visitor Center, located on state Highway 93 between Golden and Boulder.

The opening ceremony at the Visitor Center will include Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar, and officials representing U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., and U.S. Reps. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Bob Beauprez, R-Colo. The event will be conducted on prairie owned and managed by the city of Boulder, Boulder County and Jefferson County open space agencies as well as property managed by the DOE.

Researchers and students from CU-Boulder, Colorado State University, the University of Northern Colorado, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Colorado Natural Heritage Program and several nonprofit organizations are committing time to the BioBlitz, the largest effort of its kind ever undertaken in Colorado.

"For natural history museums, biodiversity studies are what we do," said CU Museum Education Coordinator Jim Hakala. "Although all the organizations involved in the biodiversity study have different missions, they have come together to help educate the public about the incredible diversity in our own backyard."

CU-Boulder ecology and evolutionary biology department Professor Tim Seastedt, who will be the team leader of a group searching for tiny arthropod invertebrates, predicted 1,000 or more species from fungi to mammals will be identified during the 24-hour diversity census. Seastedt will be bringing soil samples back to the DOE Visitor Center where the microscopic arthropods will be visible to the public through high-powered microscopes and projectors.

BioBlitz should be an outstanding educational survey, said Seastedt. In addition to soil samples for minute arthropods and nematodes by Seastedt's group and two other groups, insect collectors will be sweeping up bugs and butterflies by the netful and other teams will be identifying everything from bat and bird species to fish, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. Seastedt said he believes the level of diversity discovered during the 24-hour effort will be "pretty amazing."

A schedule is posted on the Web at http://www.grasslands-bioblitz.org/. The Bioblitz Web site contains information on the teams working on the biodiversity study and speakers at the DOE Visitors Center. It also has links to the different institutions and organizations that will have programs at the Visitors Center, a list of casual hikes and programs open to the public in Boulder and Jefferson counties during the event and a list of BioBlitz hikes that require preregistration.

In addition, the Web site contains maps of the areas to be surveyed, trails, participating scientists, event sponsors and other contributing and participating organizations. The public will learn how scientists find and identify grasslands creatures from microscopic organisms, fungi, plants and flowers to beetles, butterflies, birds, bats, fish and mammals, said Hollweg.

Visitors to the Rocky Flats Visitor Center will be required to sign in at the front desk and adults will be required show valid photo identification.