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Volunteer Naturalists, Scientists Needed for County’s Bio-Blitz

Residents are invited to “Get Your Nature On!” at the 24-hour event in the Rahway River Parkway.

Union County offers nature lovers of all ages the opportunity to get up-close and personal with wildlife in their own  backyard during Bio-Blitz 2012.

Beginning on Friday, June 8, at 5 p.m., the annual outdoor event will organize teams of plant and wildlife specialists to scour three sections of Union County’s Rahway River Parkway in Rahway, Clark, Winfield Park and Cranford in search of plants and animals over a 24-hour period.

Volunteer expert and amateur scientists and naturalists are needed to participate as team Bio-Blitz members. To volunteer or to receive a brochure and application, call 908-789-3683. When calling, please specify your level of experience and team preference. Registration may also be done online at the Union County website: www.ucnj.org

“Although the Rahway River Parkway is surrounded by suburban development, it is a perfect example of how green spaces can provide a haven for people and wildlife,” said Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “The Bio-Blitz is a great opportunity for the community to learn more about the natural places that make Union County a special place to live.”

Plant, fungi, insect, fish, bird, mammal, amphibian and reptile experts, and water monitors (along with amateur naturalists) will collect and identify species from the three sections of parkland. Teams will return to Bio-Blitz Central, an outdoor, tented field lab and exhibit space in Rahway River Park, off St. Georges Avenue in Rahway, to sort and count what they find.

The primary purpose of Bio-Blitz 2012 is to gain a “snapshot” of the biodiversity (or richness of species) in the 384-acre (0.6 square mile) Rahway River Parkway. Another important goal of the event is to raise public awareness of the importance of parkland as wildlife habitat and outdoor classrooms. Rahway River Parkway boasts some excellent floodplain, stream, river, meadow and woodland habitat. Greenways provide valuable habitat, and act as a stopover and wildlife corridor for migratory and resident wildlife, including red tail hawks, screech owls, great horned owls, great egrets, great blue herons, coyotes and foxes. 

Free nature-related programs for all ages will be offered throughout the event, including evening programs from 6 to 11 p.m. on Friday, June 8, and from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 9. Free shuttle buses will be available to get participants to and from program sites. Programs offered will include: River & Lake Sampling, Owl Prowl, Wild Edible Plant Walk, Fungi Foray, Early Morning Birding and more. Bio-Blitz Bingo will offer younger “scientists” an opportunity to record their findings and enter a drawing to win nature-related prizes. A Junior Scientist tent will have young naturalists interacting with hands-on activities related to the natural environment.

Bio-Blitz 2012 is sponsored by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Union County Department of Parks and Community Renewal, Kean University and the Rahway River Association, with partial funding provided by PSE&G. Team volunteers will be fed and “watered” thanks to generous donations from Whole Foods, Starbucks, Muscle Maker Grill, United Rahway Water, ShopRite, and Sports Authority. Additional donations will be provided by the Rahway River Association, Wild Birds Unlimited and other area vendors.

Other partner organizations include the Army Corps of Engineers, Arthur Kill Watershed Association, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Friends of Lenape Park, New Jersey Mycological Association, Newark Museum, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Fish & Wildlife, the NJDEP AmeriCorps Watershed Ambassador Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Plant Protection and Quarantine Programs. Union County’s Trailside Nature & Science Center staff also will be on-hand to offer guided walks and provide live animal exhibits. 

For more information or to receive a brochure, call 908-789-3683 and leave your email address. Brochures also will be available at Trailside Nature & Science Center at 452 New Providence Road in Mountainside.

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