BioBlitz Expands Knowledge of Acadia’s Biodiversity

The small corners of Acadia National Park just got big attention, as the 2015 BioBlitz wrapped up last week. Now in its 12th year, the annual BioBlitz is an effort to increase understanding of Park biodiversity by rapidly collecting targeted groups of arthropods within a 24 hour period. Volunteers from all over New England, guided by members of the Maine Entomological Society, captured more than a thousand specimens of wasps, bees, and ants and promptly sorted all of them. The collecting effort yielded approximately 300 species, with the possibility of newly discovered species.Blitz2015 (60good)

Dr. Robert Kula is a Research Entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the lead taxonomist for the 2015 BioBlitz. He said he was impressed with the Schoodic Institute facilities and ability of the participants to work through a significant amount of biological material. “I think we can conclude that Acadia National Park has an incredibly species rich fauna of parasitoid wasps,” said Kula. “That is excellent news, because these insects are sensitive to environmental perturbation, and high levels of diversity reflect ecosystem quality.”

Joseph DeSisto, a University of Connecticut junior and expert on centipedes and millipedes, shared his knowledge on the ecological importance of these secretive invertebrates during a public portion of the BioBlitz at the Schoodic Institute on Sunday. Participants joined a brief walk to find and photograph a variety of insects and toured the active BioBlitz laboratory, where citizen scientists and researchers curated and studied the culmination of their samplings from the previous 24 hours.

“It’s a beautiful place and I’ll take any excuse I can to study biodiversity in Acadia National park and the Schoodic area,” said DeSisto, who also added that the lab facilities at Schoodic Institute are some of the best he’s worked in. “I grew up in Central Maine and my family always spent a lot of time in Acadia and on Schoodic Peninsula. But now I can approach the park with a new set of eyes. Now that I’ve been to school [at the University of Connecticut], I can come back and actually do some research in that area.”

“Understanding rapid environmental change, through hands-on, citizen-engaged projects, such as the BioBlitz, calls on motivated, caring individuals to participate directly in resilient management of the park,” said Schoodic Institute Bird Ecology Program Director Seth Benz. “Mustering a response to change within the park helps put in motion restoration efforts both in and beyond the park’s borders.”

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Special thanks to partners from National Park Service, Acadia National Park, Maine Entomological Society, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, University of Maine, University of New Hampshire, Maine Natural History Observatory, and this year’s lead entomologists Dr. Robert Kula of the Smithsonian Institution and Joseph DeSisto, from the University of Connecticut. Hats off to all of our volunteers!