2014 Spring

Bioblitz 2014: 32 students, 6 hours, 1 campus block, 110 species

Why a Bioblitz?
What is a Bioblitz? A bioblitz is an event where people go around looking for and finding all the different forms of life within an area. So what is the purpose of a bioblitz? There are many purposes to a bioblitz. First of all, a bioblitz serves the purpose to spark interest in biology. Sitting in a class can only provide you with so much information and understanding about life in an area. When you self-educate yourself you learn in a different way. It becomes more interesting to you. So by participating in a bioblitz you learn about nature and science.

Another purpose to a bioblitz is finding out what kind of life lives in and around a certain area. How many days go by where a person doesn’t even notice birds, insects or trees that they pass on a daily basis? The bioblitz helps one appreciate the life that is around you.
The last purpose of a bioblitz is to help the community. By participating in a bioblitz you help the community know what is in that area. By letting the community know what kind of life is in a certain area, the community can learn about the local ecosystem. For example, the community can help that certain area by planting more trees, not littering as much, etc. A bioblitz has many purposes, all of which benefit anyone who participates in it.

With the help of two local birders and a city aborist, we identified 110 species on Mitchell’s campus in 6 hours. 22 species of bugs have yet to be identified. The DNA of some of those insects will be analyzed through a DNA barcode next semester for accurate identification.

Species Account
Birds- 22
European Starling
American Goldfinch
American Robin
Blue Jay
Morning Dove
Northern Cardinal
White-Throated Sparrow
Brown Headed Cowbird
Cedar Waxwings
Brown Thrasher
Carolina Wren
Tufted Titmouse
Common Grackle
Eastern Towhee
American Crow
Turkey Vulture
Yellow Rump Warblers
Song Sparrow
Barn Swallow
Tree Swallow
House Finch

Mammals- 4
Gray squirrel
Eastern Chipmunk
Mole sp.

Bugs- 36 identified, 22 yet to be identified
Field Cricket- Gryllinae
Earthworm- Lumbricina
Termite- Reticulitermes flavipes
Grubs- Scarabaeidae
Garden Centipede- Lithobius forficatus
Earwig- Dermaptera
Slug- Ariolimax
Maggot- Chrysomya rufifacie
Giant Eastern Crane Fly- Tipula spp.
Metallic Beetle- Geotrupes spelendious
Red Ant- Hymenoptera
Pill Bug- Armadillidium vulgare
Camel Cricket- Rhaphidopharidae
Garden Slug- Arion distinctus
Greenhouse Millipede- Oxidus gracilis
Stink Bug- Phasmatodea
Comb Claw Spider- Archaearanea mundula
Lightning Bug- Photinus
Green Worm- Alloloeophora chlorotica
Bumble Bee- Bombus
Sugar Cane Grub- Tomarus subtropicus
Pot Worm- Enchytraeidae
Small Brownish Tan Spider- Artoriopsis expolita
Ladybug- Coccinellidae
House fly- Musca domestica
Moth- Heliptrope
Darkling Beetle- Eleodes sp.
Leaf Cutter Bee- Megachile spp.
Little Black Ant- Monomorium minimum
Carpenter bee- Xylocopa
Small Mosquito- Culicidae
Black Jumping Spider- Salticidae
Tan Grass Spider- Agelenopsis ssp.
Sweat Bee- Halictidae
Fire Ant- Solenopsis
Hornet- Vespa

Trees- 26
White pine
Southern magnolia
American dogwood
Bald cyprus
Eastern redbud
Crab apple
American elm
Willow oak
Cherry tree
American holly
Deodar cedar
European hornbeam
Red maple
Leyland cypress
Crape myrtle
Green giant arborvitae
Loblolly pine
Virginia pine
Sugar maple
Eastern red cedar
American basswood
Scotch pine
White oak
Japanese or golden raintree

Why is Biodiversity Important?
What is biodiversity? Biodiversity is the variation of life. Within different groups of life, you need variations in that species to ensure that life continues to thrive. Take the various groups of trees for example. In just the oak tree alone, there are close to 50 different species. Each one of these species has adapted to a certain type of niche. One of the ways new life can thrive is cross pollination. Cross pollination with a tree that isn’t used to cold weather can help that tree to endure harsh winters. These variations are very important to life. One of the main reasons biodiversity is important is the fact that biodiversity helps speed up productivity within an ecosystem. Each different species has an important role to play within its own environment. Essentially it is just like a clock. Without all the right pieces, the clock is either not efficient or just does not work. You can’t try to take out one of the gears and expect the clock to continue working. Biodiversity is much like the clock. All the different species are vital to that environment. Each species has a job to do. Without the variation of life that is biodiversity, trees, animals, insects, and essentially everything that lives, would fail to do so.





They’re Everywhere, they’re everywhere

By Jedynak
Using trail cameras to survey the area, we are hoping to get a snapshot of some of the predators that frequent the greenway. In one particular study, we set up fake bird nests on the ground at our different plots. Each “nest” had a camera aimed at it to survey potential nest predators. Potential robbers included gray foxes, red foxes, squirrels, opossums, and raccoons. Deer even stopped to look at the nest. However, it was the raccoon that could be found in 61% of the pictures.

The prominence of raccoons in our study could be due to the fact that this is their prime mating time. Mating season for raccoons falls generally anytime between January and June. The gestation period for a raccoon is roughly 65 days, and average 3-5 baby racoons per pregnancy. The females typically raise their young alone in the den. Since we are currently in the middle of their mating season, the high numbers of raccoons could be attributed to the females scavenging for food for their young, and of course, for themselves.

The high numbers we are seeing could also be because racoons have the ability to stay in their den for up to a month without eating. With this past winter being cold and the temperatures currently rising, the raccoons could possibly be at the point where it is time for them to start scavenging again.

Changing heron behavior?

By Lindstedt and Gazaille

Last fall, we began a research project that involved studying the behavior of the Great Blue Heron and it’s nesting habitat. We have made several trips to what is known as “Heron Island” on Lake Norman. Our first objective was to record baseline data, which included counting the nests in each tree, measuring DBH of nesting trees, and measuring canopy coverage of nesting trees. We had discovered under each nest there were an abundance of skeletal remains. At first, we thought it was mainly prey animals that the heron parents provided to the hatchlings, but to our surprise the majority of these skeletal remains were of the hatchlings themselves. This provided us insight into the mortality rate of the hatchlings.

Heron take-off. Credit John Simmons

Heron take-off. Credit John Simmons

Another interesting observation we made were the adult herons in their foraging habitat around Lake Norman. We noticed that adult herons on Lake Norman do not have the ability to wade because of the lack of shallow shore lines. This is due to Lake Norman being a man-made lake. Has this feature changed the foraging behavior of this specific heron group on Lake Norman? The herons have adapted to this by standing on shoreline trees, piers, and docks to hunt either fish or small mammals on the shoreline. Our main objective is to attempt to understand these different adaptations that these specific herons have acquired in the Piedmont region of NC.

Bird diversity

By Monroe, Ellis, Dufresne *This is a follow-up to the previous post

Surprisingly, many bird species populate the Statesville, NC area. Currently we are taking an inventory of bird species along a section of a greenway trail. We are conducting a point count, which means we are traveling to four locations along our greenway transect. At each location, we identify every bird possible for 8 minutes and record the species and number. There are occasions where we are not able to count the exact number due to a flock of birds that are too large to count or because we are only hearing them and cannot see them. If this is the case, we try our best using Crnell software. We are counting the number of birds because we want to obtain enough information to compare bird diversity of this greenway section to bird diversity of Iredell County using eBird data and Christmas Bird count data.

One counting location

Bluebird box for monitoring

It is interesting to think about whether coyotes in the area have helped increase songbird diversity over recent years by depressing the populations of local mesopredators (i.e. raccoons, opossums, foxes). On the other hand, coyotes, being the top predator here, could have had a negative impact on the bird population because of direct predation. This theory of whether or not trophic cascades exist could be hard to test. However, it will be interesting to look for correlations between bird diversity before coyotes in Iredell County, NC and bird diversity after coyotes. I also am curious to see how much coyotes actually prey on bird eggs and fledglings.