Binghamton University held its first annual EcoBlitz last Friday, hosted by the Center for Integrated Watershed Studies (CIWS).
The event was organized by Carmela Buono, a doctoral candidate studying biological sciences, and took place in parking lot M across from the BU Nature Preserve entrance, with about 200 people in attendance. Tables were set up with poster boards and interactive exhibitions for both community members and students alike to learn about the local ecosystem, with some BU students hosting tables as a part of their urban ecology environmental studies course.
Buono first learned what a BioBlitz was while completing her undergraduate degree at Rutgers University, which inspired her to host her own “blitz” at BU. Buono said an app called iNaturalist is used for the blitzes so that community members can record and upload information about animals to a large database.
“A BioBlitz is actually a quite common citizen science event,” Buono said. “A lot of them use iNaturalist. We just took it a step further to ‘Eco’ because I’m a part of the CIWS on campus and they’re funding this. Because they are watershed studies, they look not just at the living things but a little bit more beyond. That’s why you’ll find tables about water quality and the water cycle. That’s just what makes us an ‘Eco’ versus a ‘BioBlitz.”
Kristen Prior, a co-organizer for the event and an assistant professor of biology, hosted the “BUgs” station, which focused on insects and provided activities including tours and an identification station. Prior also praised the iNaturalist app showcased at the EcoBlitz.
“The iNaturalist app is this amazing app where it brings citizen science to the whole world,” Prior said. “You download this app and then you can go out and observe nature and log it. The app is amazing. It’s really revolutionized citizen science. Citizen science is having folks go out, collect data that can be used for real scientific studies, and iNaturalist has done that but on a huge scale.”
Buono, who has a fellowship with the CIWS, said she organized EcoBlitz with the Binghamton community in mind.
“We put the word out to local community calendars — so that it’s not just a BU thing,” Buono said. “I want it to be a Binghamton event for members of the community too because the Nature Preserve is open to them!”
Prior credited Buono — who she mentors — for organizing the EcoBlitz, and said that she was impressed by Buono’s ability to put the event together and her dedication to studying the environment.
Elias Miller, a doctoral candidate studying biological sciences, brought students from his urban ecology course to participate in the EcoBlitz. Students created and hosted their own tables with poster boards and activities in order to bolster the event’s exhibitions.
Bella Martin, a student in Miller’s urban ecology course and a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience, was in charge of the “Frogs, Turtles and Salamanders, Oh My!” exhibition. Martin’s table focused on educating the community about herps, another name for amphibians.
“Our table shows you where you can find different species in the Nature Preserve,” Martin said. “We have a map that shows you, and there’s been herp tours.”
Avery Albright, a sophomore majoring in environmental science, hosted his own table as a part of Miller’s urban ecology course. Albright said his table, titled “Understanding the Hydrological Cycle,” was centered around testing water samples and learning more about the relationship between urban environments and the hydrological cycle.
“My table is about our impact on water quality around the campus,” Albright said. “I just took samples from Lake Lieberman, the small body of water behind Dickinson [Community], from under the bridge in the Nature Preserve, and then by Connector Road. We test for pH and conductivity which are good indicators of pollution. Right now, it’s pretty normal levels. I think after the roads are salted, a lot of that salt finds its way [into the BU Nature Preserve], especially next to Connector Road.”
Albright also said that even though BU’s Spring Fling was going on at the same time, he was pleased to see a large turnout of young community members.