BioBlitz Offers Hands-on Learning for Scientists and Public

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Kade Gensini visits the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge often, but he had never gotten to take part in the BioBlitz event until this weekend.

“I like to learn about wildlife,” the 11-year-old Hennepin resident said Saturday afternoon at the refuge just south of Hennepin. The refuge is owned and managed by the Wetlands Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring wetland resources of the Midwest.

This is the refuge’s second BioBlitz; the first was in 2015 when participants identified more than 675 species. During the free two-day event with scientists and volunteers surveying the 3,000-acre site for as many species as possible while sharing their findings and knowledge with the public.

The event attracted 40 experts (including their assistants) and 90 members of the public — 40 more than the previous BioBlitz. Illinois scientists volunteered their time, from organizations ranging from Illinois Natural History Survey to Prairie Engineers to Chicago Botanic Garden.

“Part of it was learning more about the biodiversity of the site,” said Vera Leopold, TWI grants manager and development associate. The event allows them to learn more about the species living at the refuge so the initiative can better protect them.

“The second goal was just to get people out to learn about the site and experience it,” she said.

The Friday-Saturday event featured activities for all ages, including an owl prowl, bat hike, educational stations with experts who talked about plants, birds, bats, insects, fungi and more. One outing included a three-hour canoe ride to find “whatever is out there,” such as plants, birds, frogs and more, said Gary Sullivan, senior ecologist with the initiative.

It’ll require some time before experts release what new species may be at the site, said Paul Botts, president and executive director of the initiative. There will definitely be another BioBlitz in the future, he said.
Want to help?

The initiative maintains the site with contributions from people and from grants, Leopold said.

To donate or to volunteer, call (312) 922-0777 or visit You can also send a check payable to The Wetlands Initiative to The Wetlands Initiative, 53 W. Jackson Blvd., Suite 1015 Chicago, IL 60604.

Source: News Tribune