More than 90 volunteers spent the weekend of September 6-7 peeking under rocks, peering through binoculars and squinting into microscopes. Why? To document as many plants and animals as they could during a 24-hour BioBlitz on Kessler Mountain in Fayetteville, AR.
The purpose of the BioBlitz was to inventory the biodiversity of Kessler Mountain and to inform the planning process currently underway by the city of Fayetteville for the recently acquired 287-acre reserve. The property is open to the public for outdoor recreation and educational uses. The BioBlitz provided community volunteers with an excellent opportunity to work alongside research professionals while connecting with nature and learning about this important ecosystem. More than 17 reptiles and amphibians, 55 birds, 58 fungi and many plant, tree and insect species were identified during this event.
Cooling temps and light rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the many volunteers who traversed the mountain on “herp” walks, bird hikes, plant walks, fungi hunts, tree hikes and insect gathering expeditions. The Sharp family provided their family farm as the BioBlitz headquarters where volunteers could camp and were provided meals and snacks by the Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association.
Experts from the University of Arkansas, including professors, students, and graduate students from the departments of entomology and biology, along with conservation leaders from the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust, Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association, Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society and Arkansas Master Naturalists, identified over 800 species – and counting. Entomology students continue to examine and identify insect specimens collected and will release a final species count in the coming weeks.
The Northwest Arkansas Land Trust hopes that the bio-monitoring of Kessler, and other areas like it, will help city planners and landowners understand the complex diversity of our natural areas and work to protect those habitats for the future.
Thank you to the many volunteers and organizations who helped with this event!