Trinidad’s First ‘BioBlitz’

During a BioBlitz, scientists, naturalists and volunteers take part in a 24hr period of intense surveying of a particular area with the aim of estimating the number of species present, while educating and enthusing the public about their local biodiversity.

One weekend in November 2012, led by Mike Rutherford of the University of the West Indies Zoology museum, we set up a BioBlitz base camp in Trinidad’s Tucker Valley, in the North-West of the island. The valley comprises of a variety of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, and volunteers were divided into groups according to their interests and expertise. As well as designing the event logo, Amy helped organise the Freshwater Group, which included Raj Mahabir, Dawn Phillip and several other scientists and helpers.

We began on the Saturday by surveying several sites along the Cuesa river, ranging from small forest streams to the mangrove-dominated estuary area, and recorded every species we came across – from diatoms to spectacled caiman! Many specimens were identifiable to species level in the field, but others were brought back to base camp to be examined more closely with the help of microscopes and a library of taxonomic literature.

On Sunday, emphasis shifted from science to outreach, and the base camp was opened to the public, who could watch the scientists at work, and also see a variety of animals in containers and glass tanks. The more adventurous were taken on spotters walks to see the biodiversity first hand! Amy led a group of 30 adults and children on a river walk to show them that it’s not only fish that live in and around streams and rivers – we found over 40 species, and everyone had a go at using a dip net or surber sampler to catch guppies or sample aquatic invertebrates.

In total, we recorded nearly 700 species, and there are now plans to make Trinidad’s BioBlitz an annual event!

More details can be found in the local press coverage: