Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding

Thursday, March 29, 2007


I started a birding life list when I was about twelve, and added my last entry to it about a week later. I've never had the discipline to effectively catalog what I've seen in the world, so I'm an unlikely candidate for the project that Jeremy at The Voltage Gate has hatched. Inspired by the National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Watch, Jeremy's plan, the Blogger Bioblitz is timed to coincide with National Wildlife Week, April 21-29. Participants will select a parcel of land and a period of time, and catalog the various species they find on that parcel, during that period. The format has been designed to give each participant a lot of leeway to tailor their own study: some may restrict their count to birds or angiosperms. Others will do their best to tally as much of the total flora and fauna as they can. Hopefully, there will be those with the fortitude to break out a microscope. Although we've established that I'm poorly fit for this kind of work, I don't intend to let that stop me. I'll devote the better part of a day that week to recording the flora and fauna in and around a small pond that I've visited every year since I was very young. I'll include ten meters beyond the pond's perimeter, and will identify as many organisms as accurately as I can. I'll restrict myself to the macroscopic; that will provide trouble enough. When the day comes, I expect to be surprised by a number of problems I didn't anticipate. Here are a couple I've already considered: We're being asked not only to tally species, but to count individuals per species. How does one census numerous, moving creatures, like mayflies or mosquito larvae? The best I'll be able to do is estimate the number in a subset of the parcel and multiply. Very active creatures, like dragonflies, will be even more hopeless--and what about ants emerging from a subterranean colony? Flying creatures that I identify without their actually coming directly over my parcel will probably be counted. I'll continue to fine-tune my methods as the time approaches.
If this project sounds like something you'd enjoy, please click on the button above (designed by Jen of Invasive Species Weblog), and sign up. Even if you're not a blogger, Jeremy has set up a Flickr group where you can post photos.
The Bioblitz originated on May 31-June1, 1996, in Washington D.C.


Blogger burning silo said...

Sounds like a great survey site. I've anticipated some of the same problems -- the counting part, but I expect that guesstimates would be okay -- but yes, ant hills. My survey site includes several manhole cover sized anthills, each probably having a population equivalent to a good-sized city. However, the worst problem I'll be faced with will be trying to ID some of the plants as so many will be barely out of the ground. Mid-June would have been better for plants and insects up here, but what the heck, it'll be interesting regardless.. I'm quite looking forward to seeing what other people find in their areas, and also seeing any photos that are posted.

5:14 PM  
Blogger Carel Brest van Kempen said...

That's right, identifying newly sprouted plants will be a problem, too. I imagine I'm south enough of you that I'll be challenged less by that one.

7:36 PM  

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