Celebrating Endangered Species Day and Biodiversity

Bioblitz 2007 Danielle and AmieExcitement and anticipation filled the air. Despite the cool and dreary weather spirits were high and no amount of rain would ruin our day. People of all different ages and backgrounds had gathered at Rock Creek Park for one reason: the love of science. The 2007 National Geographic BioBlitz was about to begin and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate Endangered Species Day.

My co-worker Danielle and I had been dreaming about this day for weeks. Our backpacks were filled with water bottles, snacks and I of course brought not one, but two insect field guides. We had signed up for the aquatics insect team, not my specialty per say (I always managed to catch more grasshoppers than anything), but I was certainly ready to learn.

It’s probably best that we weren’t on the bird or mammal teams because the animals would have heard us coming miles away. But our non-stop enthusiastic chatter wouldn’t bother our aquatic friends. Nets in hand, plastic containers in our pockets and armed with new pairs of forceps the group set off for the first shift of the day around noon.

Hunting was not going to be easy today. Hardly any sun and a few drizzles here and there posed a challenge for the team. We did manage to find a few caddisfly, damselfly and dragonfly larvae along with the tiniest rove beetle that I have ever seen. True to my grasshopper-locating background, I managed to catch a pygmy grasshopper camouflaged in the small muddy sections of the river’s shoreline. Not exactly what we were supposed to be looking for but we would pass it along to the terrestrial insect team. Even the ferocious tiger beetle couldn’t be bothered to make an appearance along the sandy shores of the river.

Pickings were slim in the river so Danielle and I headed towards dry land in search of fallen tree branches and logs. Turning over one ancient looking log we had found our prize. A plump, lazy millipede slept curled in a tight little coil. Our excited squeals and slight poking with the forceps couldn’t rouse this gentle arthropod from its slumber. A light brown centipede quickly crawled under the decaying leaves and wood probably in search of its next meal. A shy wood cockroach ran for the comfort and safety of the dark underside of the log. After noting our findings we gently rolled the log back into position.

The distant call of songbirds, the gentle rushing river, the deep emerald green of the forest…I truly couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate biodiversity and Endangered Species Day.

If you haven’t done so already, I’d like to invite you to send your Members of Congress a special message in support of the Endangered Species Recovery Act and also fair funding for endangered species management. The official Endangered Species Day may be over, but we can still take action to protect the wildlife and wild places that we cherish for future generations.