PS 97-199 - A student organization-centered approach for developing interdisciplinary collaborations and developing under-perceived biodiversity

Friday, August 12, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Allison R. Gilmer and Marisol L. Sanchez, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

As of 2005, an estimated 86% of Texans resided in urban areas, while an estimated 14% lived in rural areas. This trend is reflected in a world-wide increase in urbanization which is well known for fragmenting habitats, increasing pollution, and decoupling human communities from many native environments. Analysis of existing urban environments can promote healthy ecosystems and enhance our perception of the valuable biodiversity housed in previously unvalued areas.

 The Ecological Society of America’s Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS) Program coordinated the 2011 national BioBlitz among participating chapters. BioBlitzes utilize specialists and community members in a “citizen science” approach to inventory the life maintained in a specific area. On April 16th, 2011, students and professors from Students Promoting an Environmental Aware Campus (SPEAC), the University of North Texas’s SEEDS Chapter located in the city of Denton, conducted a BioBlitz on land maintained as an “urban prairie” by Dr. Gene Hargrove. During 4 hours, students and taxonomic specialists surveyed and identified as many birds, insects and plants as possible. Species were identified using standard keys on-site; pictures were taken to document taxa and uploaded to the Discover Life database, a database of global information on ecosystem monitoring.


The BioBlitz brought together a multi-disciplinary team of twenty students and four professors. Participants came from the biology, anthropology, philosophy and engineering departments. The species inventory provided new data regarding the diversity of taxa that can exist in a Denton urban landscape. Within a four hour period, participants were able to find 25 insect species, 26 bird species and 22 plant species, adding to Dr. Hargrove’s existing database that includes 48 wildflowers and sightings of rare urban species such as bobcats and families of foxes.

In conclusion, we have documented more than 100 species that utilize Dr. Hargrove’s “urban prairie”. It should be noted that city regulations require lawn maintenance, which frequently puts citizens interested in maintaining this type of biodiversity in danger of fines. Considering that Texas prairie ecosystems are threatened, greater consideration needs to be paid to the importance of preserving these species, particularly in urban settings. Therefore, SPEAC now plans to use the BioBlitz methodology and data as a step in comparative studies over time to assess the ecological processes that occur in this fragmented landscape, as well as in educating metropolitan communities about conservation and restoration of local urban diversity.

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Banner photo by Flickr user greg westfall.