Thank you for being awesome!
You’re one of the caring people protecting the beautiful monarch.
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This is not a scientific essay. It’s more personal than that.
Everything I know about bioblitzes comes from one person. Plus now I’ve googled the term. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let me back up. I’m an older person of the Boomer generation, and before this year, I’d had very little to do with biology since high school. I think that makes me like most people. But then, in the year I would turn seventy, a pandemic happened. Some areas of biology gained relevance for me. A runny nose causes me concern, in myself or in someone else. I wear a mask when I rarely go out, and I maintain social distance. The pandemic also affects what I read. This year, among other fiction and nonfiction, I’ve read The Great Influenza, Station Eleven, The Sixth Extinction, The Stand, and The Ancestor’s Tale. Some of those are pandemic related, but all of them have more to do with biology than almost anything I’d read in fifty years.
So, bioblitz. Am I involved because of the pandemic? Well, no. This is where that other person comes in. She told me about the iNaturalist app, so I said I’d give it a try. That’s what I did, on the very last day of this other thing that she told me of—a bioblitz. Why I waited until the last day is complex. It’s as much an aversion on my part to new things as anything else—I dislike being a newbie. Plus I don’t take pictures well, even as cameras have gotten simpler in the last few decades. So, on the last day, I said to myself, “Now or never, Frank” and I managed to find four things, all in my neighborhood. One was a milkweed plant. We have several of those, and they used to have all their leaves eaten, with caterpillars around them. Now, not so much—they grow untouched. One picture that I missed was of a small mushroom, the size of a quarter, which I had seen for the last week or so, across the street. It had regular radial ridges on the top of the cap. But when I went back, it was gone. Oh well. All in all, I did not get my knees or elbows dirty, and my dog waited while I took the photos.
As I’ve learned, the purpose of a bioblitz is to establish what all the species are in a given area, and to do so in a self-documenting fashion. The goal is to encourage participation and make it easy and (dare I say?) fun. Cell phones, with cameras and GPS for the documentation, make it easier—thus the iNaturalist app. I did not get into the details—just figured out where the pictures happened, and went from there. The first thing it told me was that I have no content. I don’t think anything I did changed that.
So, pandemics and bioblitzes! My return, after fifty years, to biology. Or maybe biology’s return to me, all karmic motion being relative.
Frank Fedele is a writer, poet and member of the Naperville Writers Group
“Milkweed for monarchs” has become the rallying cry for their recovery but having enough energy for successfully completing the autumn migration to Mexico is also critical to their survival. Identifying where monarchs are refueling during migration is an important part of a strategy for their preservation and a Bioblitz is a good way to begin answering that question.
DuPage Monarch Project participated in Parks for Pollinators, a bioblitz sponsored by National Recreation and Parks and Scotts Miracle-Gro to look for answers to that question along with many others. The September timing of this year’s blitz was perfect for capturing monarch flower visitations during peak migration in our area.
National Geographic defines a bioblitz as “… an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time.” DuPage Monarch Project’s bioblitz included all of DuPage County, ran from September 12 – 20th and focused on pollinating insects, hummingbirds and flowering plants. Using the free smartphone app iNaturalist inaturalist.org for photographing and identifying species provided a technology for conducting it remotely.
Turn out for the blitz was strong with 164 participants. Over 962 photographs were taken with 111 insect and 200 plant species identified. The most frequently observed insect was the common eastern bumblebee with monarch butterflies a close second. Monarchs were observed on asters and goldenrod confirming their importance as nectar sources but also in equal numbers on zinnias, thistles and native sunflowers.
The diversity of insects identified ranged from skippers, moths and butterflies to wasps, bees, flies and beetles. Six ruby-throated hummingbirds, also migrating through DuPage at this time of year, were spotted.
Want to see what’s flowering and their insect visitors? All observations can be viewed on inaturalist.org by clicking on projects in the dashboard then searching for Parks for Pollinators: DuPage Monarch Project.
DuPage Monarch Projects hopes you’ll join us for Pollinator BioBlitz 2021 as the search continues for the most beneficial monarch habitat.
Parks for Pollinators is a national campaign focused on raising public awareness of the current pollinator crisis by encouraging local action and positioning parks as a national leader in advancing pollinator health. https://www.nrpa.org/our-work/Three-Pillars/conservation/parks4pollinators/
DuPage Monarch Project: Communities Protecting Pollinators is a partnership of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Sierra Club’s River Prairie Group, The Conservation Foundation and Wild Ones Greater DuPage Chapter. https://dupagemonarchs.com/
The dramatic decline of the eastern monarch butterfly mobilized an international, regional, state and local effort to restore them to a resilient and enduring population. On September 24, Illinois joins this cooperative effort by committing to the addition of 150 million new milkweed stems by 2038.
The Illinois Monarch Action Plan will be signed into place on September 24th at 1:30 PM.
The Illinois Monarch Action Plan draws on expertise and input from various Illinois state agencies as well as leaders and professionals in the agriculture, rights-of-way, urban, and natural lands sectors. The Illinois Monarch Action Plan is meant to serve a broad audience of Illinoisans—scientists, educators, public and private landowners, elected officials, and the larger public—as they all work to foster a culture of conservation and help monarch butterflies thrive across the diverse urban and rural landscapes of Illinois.
DuPage Monarch Project has pledged its support to the Illinois Monarch Conservation Plan goals and will continue to support the conservation work by park districts, cities, villages, schools, businesses, churches and individuals throughout the county in creating more habitat and engaging their communities on the importance of monarchs and pollinators.
The DuPage Forest Preserve District is hosting a “Parks for Pollinators” bioblitz Sept. 12 – 20 in partnership with the DuPage Monarch Project and as part of the national campaign to raise public awareness of the importance of pollinators.
To participate in the pollinator bioblitz, people are invited to take photos of pollinators in DuPage County and upload them to iNaturalist, a free app. Ecologists who are members of the DuPage Monarch Project will review the images and get a better idea of what’s going on in wild DuPage.
“About 75 percent of the planet’s 250,000 species of flowering plants could not produce seeds or fruits without animal pollinators,” said Lonnie Morris, coordinator at the DuPage Monarch Project. “In fact, researchers estimate that one in every three bites of food we eat exists because of them.
“But our native pollinators face threats from habitat loss, invasive species and insecticides,” Morris said.
To participate in the bioblitz, people should download the iNaturalist app on their phone and create an account. Participants should make sure to allow the app to use their location so it will record where their photos are taken.
To share photos in iNaturalist, participants use the iNaturalist app between Sept. 12 and 20 to take photos of pollinators they see when visiting a DuPage forest preserve or any park in DuPage County. In the app, people should select “Observe” under the camera icon and take a photo. Then select “Next.” Select Share to automatically share your photos to the bioblitz project.
Pollinators are a vital component of our ecosystem and an essential link to the world’s food supply. During the last 30 years, there has been a steady decline of pollinators (such as bees, bats and butterflies) nationwide at an alarming rate of 30 percent annually, according to the White House’s Pollinators Health Task Force.
Organized by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation, the event also positions parks as national leaders in advancing pollinator health. DuPage Forest Preserve District is hosting the event in partnership with the DuPage Monarch Project.
To learn more about Parks for Pollinators, visit www.nrpa.org/parks4pollinators.
To learn more about NRPA, visit www.nrpa.org.