Don’t Get Poison Ivy: BioBlitz 2017

Taken at Macaulay’s BioBlitz in 2013. Photo credit: NY Daily News

When I was told that I would have to wake up at 5:00 AM on a Sunday to spend the day standing outside looking at “nature,” let’s just say I was less than thrilled. The requirement of long pants and closed-toed shoes to protect against ticks? That definitely made me feel worse.

All my dread was in vain, though, which I realized immediately as students arrived at Alley Pond Park Environmental Center on September 10, 2017 for the annual Macaulay “BioBlitz.” The park itself is beautiful, with large expanses of lush greenery and a long boardwalk with some portions drenched in warm sunlight, and others pleasantly shady due to the surrounding trees and shrubbery.

BioBlitz is an event centered around Macaulay Seminar 3, “The Science and Technology of New York,” which is taken during the Fall semester of a Macaulay student’s sophomore year. Upon arrival, students are divided into groups, each led by an environmental professional. Groups looked at fish, watched birds, inspected insects, studied the water and soil, and analyzed other elements of wildlife in the area. My group specifically looked at plants in the area, and we learned about different forms of shrubs, trees and herbs, in terms of their alternate or opposite leaf patterns.

The trip was largely centered around the app “iNaturalist,” which is able to identify different natural elements from pictures. Users simply take pictures of their observations, and iNaturalist does the work of identifying and classifying. This combination of environmental science and technology really stayed true to our seminar.

Yes, I admit it, the BioBlitz was fun. Our group leader was warm and knowledgeable, and he and our two student advisors clearly had an incredible passion for the information they were teaching us. I honestly did not realize there were so many interesting things to learn about plant life. Time flew by, and when our session was over, we were all begging for more. Additionally, this event was a wonderful opportunity to meet students from the other Macaulay campuses. Since we all take the same seminars, it was really fascinating to hear the different ways that our professors taught the material.

So, freshmen, get your sunscreen and bug spray ready. Next year, this will be an event you will not want to miss!

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