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Ninnescah Field Station BioBlitz 2008

The engagement of citizen scientists in biodiversity exploration often starts with bioblitzes,
which are treasure hunts designed to find and identify the largest number of species possible in one place

--E.O. Wilson

Fifty scientists, naturalists, volunteers, and high school students participated in Ninnescah Field Stations first annual BioBlitz on May 3, 2008. Within the 330 acres of native prairie, restored prairie, riparian woodland, and wetland habitats, blitzers recorded local biodiversity. Participating high school students used sweep nets, 40-foot seines, pit-fall traps, environmental monitoring equipment, water quality equipment, buckets, forceps, and hand lenses to collect and
Steve Yuza and students discuss BioBlitz sampling methods. Photo by Rosemary Wright 2008.

observe the organisms found at Ninnescah. The BioBlitz took place from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Collectively, scientists and naturalists donated a total of 114 hours in which they identified plants, insects, fish, pond macro-invertebrates, snakes, and birds. Twenty four high school students from Wichita East High School, Wichita South High School, and Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School participated in the event and learned more about methods for investigating biodiversity. Seven teachers also participated in the event. Lowell Wilder (Kansas Film Producer) and Rosemary Wright (Freelance Photographer) generously donated their time to record the first annual Ninnescah Field Station BioBlitz.

Ninnescah Field Station BioBlitz Survey Sites

Ninnescah BioBlitz activities included sampling the pond habitat for fish and aquatic critters, surveying plants in the virgin prairie, and a comparison of carrion insects inhabiting virgin prairie versus an old hedgerow. Throughout the day, participants also identified snakes, spiders, mammals, birds, and other organisms. Some of the highlights included a Western Rat Snake, a Least Shrew, fresh water shrimp, dung beetles, crane flies, blue-eyed grass, and wild onion. The morning of BioBlitz was dry and clear, but quite cool (41F in the morning with a high of 61F at mid-day), and this lessened the activity of some invertebrates, herps, and humans. The night before the BioBlitz, Lyle Jones high school class camped out at Ninnescah Field Station and endured winds of about 53 mph!

BioBlitz participants seine the Ninnescah marsh.
Photo by Rosemary Wright 2008.
Sorting fish from the Ninnescah marsh. Photo by Rosemary Wright 2008.

Among the new species that we recorded for Ninnescah Field Station were two species of snakes that are now confirmed at Ninnescah: the Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) and the Western Rat Snake (Pantherophis obsoletus). Our list of Ninnescah reptiles now includes twelve species, and we are certain that many additional species await discovery! Eleven species of fishes were added to the Ninnescah species list: Warmouth (Lepomis gulosus), Orangespotted Sunfish (Lepomis humilis), Bullhead Minnow (Pimephales vigilax), Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio), Red Shiner (Cyprinella lutrensis), Western Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis), White Crappie (Pomoxis annularis), Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), Gizzard Shad (Dorosoma cepedianum), Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), and Golden Shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas). Sixteen species of fishes are now recorded at Ninnescah Field Station, and several additional species await discovery.

As a result of BioBlitz and ongoing research, a total of 520 species are now recorded for Ninnescah Field Station. This includes Here is the breakdown, and you can access updated taxon lists on the Field Station website:
... Mammals: 33
... Birds: 166
... Snakes: 12 species
... Amphibians: 7 species
... Fish: 16 species
... Vascular Plants: 286

The Ninnescah Field Station BioBlitz provided valuable scientific information through documentation of species occurrences. Continued BioBlitz efforts could assist in identifying sites where rare or unique native species are found or sites where invasive species may need to be monitored or controlled. Protocols used by plant, insect, and aquatic sampling groups were recorded and, therefore,

BioBlitz participants examine a Common Garter Snake, a species now confirmed at Ninnescah Field Station. Photo by Rosemary Wright 2008.
can be repeated in future BioBlitzes to form the basis for a long-term biodiversity monitoring program at the Ninnescah Field Station. To our knowledge, the repeatability of sampling protocols is a distinctive feature of the Ninnescah BioBlitz program as compared to BioBlitzes at other sites. The Ninnescah BioBlitz brought together specialists from diverse disciplines and created a synergy among participants.

The goals of the Ninnescah Field Station BioBlitz were:

1) Assist participants in learning about the biological diversity of south-central Kansas in order to better understand, appreciate, and protect our natural areas.

2) Provide an emersion opportunity where students can join biologists in the field and participate in bona fide research and learn from experts about biodiversity.

3) Create repeatable survey techniques targeted at high school students. It is our hope that BioBlitz will become an annual event, and that the survey methods that we develop for this BioBlitz will be repeated annually. In this way, we will not only survey the biodiversity of Ninnescah, but also create long-term data for ecological analyses.

4) Provide outreach and public relations opportunities for Wichita State University Biological Sciences.

BioBlitz participants examine water quality of the Ninnescah marsh. Photo by Rosemary Wright 2008.

We thank the eighteen scientists and naturalists who participated in Bioblitz 2008 and who promoted active learning, citizen science, and enjoyment of local biodiversity:

Roy Beckemeyer, Research Associate KU Natural History Museum
Karen Brown, WSU Department of Biology
Jim Culhane, WSU Department of Biology
Don Distler, WSU Department of Biology
Harry Gregory, Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School
Mary Liz Jameson, WSU Department of Biology
Lyle Jones, Wichita South High School
Barry Raugust, Wichita East High School
Leland Russell, WSU Department of Biology
Maria Martino, WSU Department of Biology
Shubha Shrestha, WSU Department of Biology
Machale Spencer, WSU Department of Biology
Vaughn Weaver, City of Wichita Environmental Water Quality Specialist
Christine Wernert, WSU Department of Biology
Lowell Wilder, Kansas Film Producer
Rosemary Wright, Freelance Photographer
Art Youngman, WSU Department of Biology
Steve Yuza, WSU Department of Biology and Neosho County Community College

BioBlitz 2008 Survey Data

Aquatic Survey

Goal: Survey of fish and aquatic macro-invertebrates of the west two-thirds of the middle pond.
Survey Team: Vaughn Weaver, Karen Brown, Christine Wernert
Equipment: 40-foot seine, D-nets, buckets, water quality equipment
Date: May 3, 2008 (1:30-3:00 pm)

Species Name Number of Individuals
Black Crappie 1
Bluegill Sunfish 2
Bullhead Minnow 1
Common Carp 2
Gizzard Shad 2
Golden Shiner 2
Green Sunfish 2
Orangespotted Sunfish 5
Red Shiner 92
White Crappie 4
Warmouth 2

Other Aquatics (not counted)
Chorus frog
Bullfrog tadpoles
Freshwater Shrimp
Anchor worm (parasitic copepod)
Physidae (sinistral pond snails)
Lymnaeidae (pond snails)
Gyrinidae (water whirligig beetles)
Corixidae (water boatment true bugs)
Chironomidae (blood worm midges)
Dytiscidae (predaceous water beetles)

Water Quality Data:
... Hach Kit (Manual Kit):
... Alkalinity: 307.8
... NH4 Ammonia: 0.2 mg/l
... Dissolved Oxygen: 11 mg/l
... pH: 8.5-9.0

West Side of Bridge (Digital Equipment):

  Top Middle Bottom
Dissolved Oxygen 7.8 7.57 7.61
pH 6.9 7.88 7.94
Ammonia 4.6 4.01 4.26
NH3 0.72 0.76 0.68
Chlorophyll 2.19 11.89 14.12
Turbidity* 35.2 50.1 30.7

East Side of Bridge (Digitial Equipment):

  Top Middle Bottom
Dissolved Oxygen 7.46 7.57 7.45
pH 8.04 8.06 8.06
Ammonia 3.98 4.11 4.42
NH3 0.77 0.65 0.61
Chlorophyll 10.73 12.82 13.47
Turbidity* 392.1 303.0 294.5

*Note that turbidity on east and west sides of the bridge differ greatly.

Insect Survey Data
Goal: Comparison of the composition of the carrion-feeding beetle guild in the south half of the hedgerow and adjacent virgin prairie to the west of the hedgerow.
Survey Team: Roy Beckemeyer and Mary Liz Jameson
Equipment: Pre-set and pre-baited transect lines with pit-fall traps, sweep nets, long forceps, jars for insects, white pans, environmental monitoring equipment
Date: May 3, 2008 (10:00 am-Noon)

Virgin Prairie Habitat:

Carrion-Baited Pitfall Carrion Feeding Species of Beetles Other Arthropods
1 Onthophagus hecate (5) --
2 Onthophagus hecate (7) --
3 Onthophagus hecate (1) Spiders, ants
4 Onthophagus hecate (1) --
5 -- Ants, flies
6 -- Ants, carabid beetle (1)
Control (unbaited pitfall)    
1 -- Ants
2 -- --
3 -- Carabid beetle (1)
4 -- --
5 -- Ants
6 -- --

Environmental Data for Prairie:
Air Temperature: 12.8C/ 55.5F
Relative Humidity: 27%
Solar Insolation: 959.1 W/m2
Wind Speed: 0.3-8.1 m/s
Soil Temperature: 11.7C

Hedgerow Habitat:

Carrion-Baited Pitfall Carrion Feeding Species of Beetles Other Arthropods
1 -- Ants, opilionid (daddy long-legs)
2 -- Fly, ants
3 -- Spiders, ants, crickets, thrips
4 -- Carabid beetle (1)
5 Staphylinidae (undetermined larva) (1) Ants
6 -- --
Control (unbaited pitfall)    
1 -- Spider
2 -- --
3 -- Spider
4 Trox sp. (1) Spiders, springtails (Entomobryidae)
5 Staphylinidae (undetermined larva) (1) Thrips
6 Staphylinidae (undetermined larva) (1) Carabid beetle (1)

Environmental Data for Hedgerow:
Air Temperature: 13.4C / 56.1F
Relative Humidity: 33.5%
Solar Insolation: 929.8 W/m2
Average Wind Speed: 2.7 m/s
Soil Temperature: 14.2C