'BioBlitz' scientists to survey California desert valley

2017-04-07 15:32
2009 file picture of a scientist along the wild and scenic stretch of the Amargosa River. (Bill Christian, The Nature Conservancy via AP)

2009 file picture of a scientist along the wild and scenic stretch of the Amargosa River. (Bill Christian, The Nature Conservancy via AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Los Angeles - Scientists will fan out across a California desert valley this weekend to take an inventory of everything there that flies, hops, runs, swims or grows in the dirt.

It's been 45 years since researchers last scoured Amargosa Valley near the northern edge of the Mojave Desert. That accounting of species led to federal protections within the remote region and new scientific understanding of its biodiversity.

Over three days, experts in a variety of fields will once again tally birds, bats, toads, crickets, coyotes, lichen and native plants, said Sophie Parker, a senior scientist with the Nature Conservancy.

"We're revisiting this area to determine how it has changed over the past several decades," said Parker, who's organising the "Bio-Blitz" with officials from the federal Bureau of Land Management.

Researchers have kept a regular count of hundreds of bird species, two species of desert fish and a tiny endangered rodent called the Amargosa vole, she said.

But the status of many other living things in the valley remains a mystery that about three dozen scientists hope to shed light on starting Friday.

Nets 

Entomologists will tote nets while on the lookout for certain flies, beetles, crickets and grasshoppers.

Botanists will search for two rare plants that may have emerged from dormancy following heavy winter rains that prompted rare desert blooms elsewhere in California.

And mammologists will track footprints and scat in the hopes of spotting bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, rabbits and kit foxes.

The valley stretches into Nevada but the Bio-Blitz will focus on a 40km section along the Amargosa River on the California side, east of Death Valley.

Parker said she looks forward to hearing her colleagues' shouts of excitement echo over the landscape as they make discoveries.

"Since we don't have a full and complete understanding of the area, it can be really gratifying when we're able to do this kind of detailed work," she said.

Since the 1972 survey, the Nature Conservancy has worked with the land management bureau to protect the biodiversity within the Amargosa River Watershed - employing scientific study and land acquisition and restoration.

The weekend's base camp will be at a date farm that sits along a creek that feeds into the river, where herpetologists are hopeful they'll find the endangered Amargosa toad hopping around.

Bats have been seen near the farm and researchers will use echolocation to determine where they forage and roost.

"The river has cliffs and canyons and caves along it where there may be bats," Parker said on Wednesday. "This would definitely be adding knowledge, to get an understanding of exactly where they are."

Parker, a soil ecologist, plans to spend most of her time on hands and knees, digging for what she calls a "living crust" of lichens, mosses and bacteria common along certain riverbanks.

"It's a very small-scale ecosystem, and that's what gets me individually excited," she said. "But it's the collective effort that this whole thing is all about."

Read more on:    us  |  animals  |  insects  |  plants

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/World
 

Makeover saves dog’s life

Lucky Charlie got a complete make-over that helped him get adopted.

 
 

Paws

For the love of Corgis!
Can we communicate with our pets?
8 great natural remedies for your pet
Buying a puppy? Don’t get scammed!
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.