“BioBlitz” at Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve Highlights Wetland Biodiversity

Our BioBlitz at Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve on June 4 in partnership with Indiana Academy of Science was a great success, helping to document wetland biodiversity and guide future habitat restoration efforts at the preserve. More than 70 researchers from multiple universities, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a 24-hour sampling effort across the preserve’s more than 300 acres.

This provides a snapshot of the wetland’s biodiversity, giving researchers and Sycamore staff a baseline on which to build a better understanding of the plants and animals that live there. Findings will inform land management at the preserve.

Learn more from WTIU Public Television and Indiana Public Media.

More than 70 scientists split into 13 taxonomic teams for an intensive field study focused on finding and identifying as many species as possible at the nature preserve over a short period of time. They helped document species occurrence to guide further study and identify unique and important habitats for targeted management.

“It could take a year for full results to come out of the BioBlitz,” Land Stewardship Director Chris Fox told Indiana Public Media. So far researchers have identified 300 plant species, including a colorful low-growing zig zag iris (Iris brevicaulis) not previously documented growing at the preserve. About 20 species of reptiles and amphibians were counted, including the endangered Kirtland’s snake (Clonophis kirtlandii). At the BioBlitz, the herp team was surprised to find one inside a trap set in a foot of water – an unusual place for a snake believed to prefer moist open meadows or wet prairies.  These findings are expanding our understanding of how to manage this habitat to protect a threatened species. Scientists also recorded more than 50 bird species – a good number, Chris says, given the count was taken post migration.

The insect tally is still to come. Insects at the preserve haven’t been surveyed closely until now. “You know, I didn’t know there were snail-killing flies out there. But one guy found lots of them,” Chris said.

Two barred owls were seen fishing for frogs by diving into the wet areas along the edge of the public trail.

Marc Milne, Associate Professor of Biology at University of Indianapolis and President of the Indiana Academy of Science, told us he spotted the biggest spider he has ever seen, a Dolomedes tenebrosus that was nearly 5 inches.

“By recording this biodiversity we are giving Sycamore Land Trust the information they need to manage this land effectively and simultaneously helping the public learn about the precious diversity we are at risk of losing,” Marc said.

Indiana Academy of Science will publish findings in a research paper next year and intends to return to Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve in ten years to hold another BioBlitz, to see how results have changed over time and as a result of Sycamore Land Trust’s ongoing habitat restoration and management.

“It’s important for organizations like Sycamore Land Trust to properly steward and manage wetlands like Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve for the many benefits they provide to improve the health of our environment,” said John Lawrence, Sycamore Land Trust’s Executive Director.  “We are grateful for this opportunity because we will be getting exponentially more data from the Indiana Academy of Science in a weekend than we can collect on our own. This will be an incredible asset for us to better manage the property and better communicate to our members what makes that property so unique.”

Funding for this event was provided through the generosity of the Indiana Academy of Science and the Raymond Foundation. 

To learn more, download our press release.