On September 15 and 16, more than 500 Macaulay students will blanket Inwood Hill Park, at the northernmost edge of Manhattan, looking for the bugs, birds, and microbes that make their homes there.
The event is the sixth annual BioBlitz, part of the sophomore seminar Science Forward. Working in small groups, students will catalogue the wildlife they find to create species lists, which will be publicly available to amateur and professional naturalists. Many of the students will use the data for their own final projects for Science Forward. Macaulay is the only NYC college that fully integrates hands-on “citizen science” into a required course.
Besides contributing to knowledge about city wildlife, says Lisa Brundage, director of Teaching, Learning, and Technology, BioBlitz also “shows students how scientists really work” by engaging them in authentic investigation. “Students see that they really can do science in the city.”
Students will have opportunities to find a variety of wildlife in the park, including salamanders, monarch butterflies, various birds, and possibly even bats or seals!
BioBlitz takes students to a different city park each year. “Every park offers unique experiential learning,” noted Kelly O’Donnell, director of Science Forward. “Inwood Hill contains both the last natural forest and one of only two salt marshes on Manhattan. Most students have never experienced these habitats before.”
Students often are dismayed, according to Lisa, when they find they are going to spend three hours investigating beetles or ants. “But the enthusiasm of the naturalists who lead the teams is infectious,” she said. “By the end, students think it’s awesome.”
The 2018 Macaulay BioBlitz is generously sponsored by Con Edison.