Taking Stock of Flora and Fauna at Rutgers-Newark

Amanda Brown | September 20, 2012 | More Issues
School hosts first BioBlitz, a hands-on lesson in urban biodiversity

The students of Rutgers-Newark walk past them every day: two large planters overgrown with vegetation on the Normal Samuels Plaza. But what may pass for negligent gardening is actually a home for urban biodiversity. A team of students and faculty spent Wednesday, studying that diversity as part of the school’s very first “BioBlitz” — a species inventory that catalogs as many species as possible in a region or area.

Students searched the planters, comprising 0.3 acres, for plants, birds, and insects — demonstrating that wildlife lives even in the most urban of areas. Each type of plant and insect species was then recorded. Birds were netted, weighed, measured, banded, and then released.

“We want to see what we can find; it is fun to do and important to know,” said Claus Holzapfel, an associate professor in the department of Biological Sciences. “We would like to show people who are not necessarily biologists what’s here,” he added, referring to the overgrown oasis.

Doctoral candidate Julian Rondon stressed the importance of studying these urban habitats for migratory birds. “The flyways south are highly urbanized,” he said, “They [the birds] need areas to replenish. Knowing that, we can improve areas in cities.”

Although this was Rutgers initial BioBlitz, in the past, more than 130 bird species have been spotted on the campus.