In Sept. 2017, 300 scientists and volunteers spent 24 hours cataloguing species ranging from spiders to fungi. Now, Cornellians can visit a new exhibit in Mann Library that showcases the event.
In this event, the Cayuga Basin BioBlitz, each of 15 teams was responsible for a particular group of organisms such as vascular plants or mollusks, according to a sign at the exhibit.
Prof. Bryan Danforth, entomology, told The Sun that the BioBlitz provided “an opportunity to teach” and to get students to leave the classroom.
Even though they were not conducting actual research, Danforth maintained that it was a chance for students to apply the skills that they learned in class, such as species identification.
During the entire project, over 500 macroscopic species and 25,000 species of microbes were cataloged.
Posters describing the subjects and findings of each team lined the wall of the library exhibit. While the majority of teams found dozens or hundreds of different species, the microbe team identified over 25,000 unique species.
The spider team even discovered a rare bolas spider, which Prof. Linda Rayor, entomology, said she has never found in the area “in all her 24 years of active spider collecting.”
Other groups reported findings that, while not as rare, were certainly a treat to see for participants. Several samples of insects and small creatures were in a glass display for public consumption. An interactive display stood in the middle describing the unique features of certain species that were caught.
The event was staged at the Cayuga Nature Center in Ithaca and Smith Woods in Trumansburg, two locations that continue to be used for natural history research and education.
The project was jointly organized by the Paleontological Research Institution and Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science, according the exhibit sign. Scientists came from all over the local area, representing PRI, Cornell, Ithaca College, Hobart-William Smith Colleges, SUNY Cortland and Tompkins Cortland Community College.
Prof. Linda Rayor, entomology, thought the event provided participants with an opportunity to explore the wide variety of species in nature.
“[BioBlitz] gives you a sense of the relative diversity in a lot of different areas, trees, plants, the fungus, the microbes … mammals and birds and insects and spiders,” Rayor told The Sun. “Part of it is to find out what’s there. Part of it is to get the public engaged with science. Part of it is kind of bonding with the scientist and investing in the area, and I think that’s more where I fit in.”
To Rayor, the experience was more than just an opportunity to teach in a new environment or engage in a hobby.
“It was fun doing this with now my husband, and it was romantic — spiders are woven into my romance,” she said.