This Friday from 6-9 p.m. the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center will host the kickoff event, called Bug Night Out, for the first ever Texas Pollinator BioBlitz.
The Wildflower Center is one of several nature organizations that have partnered with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, or TPWD, to host an event called a BioBlitz, or an intensive period of surveying an area’s ecosystems. Unlike a traditional BioBlitz, which lasts for twenty-four hours and is mostly conducted by scientists, this one is ten days long and targets the general public.
“While scientific data can be collected, the primary goal of this BioBlitz is to raise awareness about pollinators and encourage people to go outside,” said Tanya Zastrow, Director of Programs at the Wildflower Center. “There will be a wide variety of activities for visitors, as well as after-dark tours.”
This Friday’s event will feature two presentations: one on cell-phone photography tips and tricks, and one on citizen science, which will encourage the public to get involved in science. The citizen science talk will be led by Cullen Hanks , who is in charge of the iNaturalist project by the TPWD and has conducted several official BioBlitzes, said Zastrow.
Along with the two talks, volunteers from the University of Texas Insect Collection will present an assortment of live insects, fossils, and insect specimens, said Alex Wild, UT’s Curator of Entomology who is in charge of organizing UT’s collection of over two million insect specimens.
“The event is a challenge for the general public to see and photograph as many pollinators as possible,” said Shelly Plante, Plan II geography alumnus and current Nature Tourism Manager for the TPWD. “We hope that it helps people gain a better appreciation for pollinators, and helps them learn how important it is to conserve pollinator habitats.”
The BioBlitz event was planned to sync up with the Monarch Migration that occurs every fall. Monarch butterflies are a prominent and well-known pollinator, but their population in North America has drastically declined in the past twenty years, said Plante. The event’s hashtag, #SaveThePollinators, is part of a plan to raise awareness of the dangers facing these insects.
Zastrow said a common misconception is that bees and butterflies are the only insects that pollinate.
“People don’t realize how many different types of animals are pollinators,” Zastrow said. “They think of bees and butterflies, and forget about hummingbirds, beetles, flies.”
The Pollinator BioBlitz was created with the intent of showing the public that there are many insects that pollinate, and each of them are ecologically important, said Plante.
“We hope BioBlitzes encourage more people [to] take notice of the diversity of life around us,” Wild said. “[Texas has] thousands of species of flowering plants, and the pollination of each is different.”
People can look at the Texas Pollinator BioBlitz website for more news and updates, and participating is as simple as taking a picture of a pollinator and uploading it to Instagram with #SaveThePollinators.
The Wildflower Center is free for UT students with their UT ID, and they can also access the center’s WiFi with their EID to post insect pictures or study in the Center’s cafe. Those interested in coming this Friday for the kickoff, should bring “a flashlight and their curiosity,” Wild said.