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Scientists document creatures great and small in Wayne County

Members of the botany team, including Loree Speedy and Jonathan Berlin, look for flora during the Upper Delaware BioBlitz.
Kat Bolus
Members of the botany team, including Loree Speedy and Jonathan Berlin, look for flora during the Upper Delaware BioBlitz.

Loree Speedy crouched down under a bush.

The botanical consultant from Southwestern Pennsylvania was inspecting the flora at Highlights Foundation Retreat Center in Wayne County.

"I just want to find plants. I love plants," she said. "I want to see if there's anything maybe a little bit different that I wouldn't see at home in the very opposite end of the state.”

Speedy was a member of the botany team — one of eight teams of scientists and naturalists who documented what walked on the ground, flew in the sky, swam in the streams and grew from the earth on 250 acres during the Upper Delaware BioBlitz. The event, in its sixth year, takes a snapshot of biodiversity along the river.

Over 24 hours, scientists and naturalists identified around 720 species in the upper region of the Delaware River. The two-day event also gave the public a chance to meet with scientists in the field.

Susan Munch , leader of the mosses and lichens team,
Kat Bolus
Susan Munch, captain of the mosses and lichens team, checks out rocks in Calkins Creek during the Upper Delaware BioBlitz.

Steven Schwartz, who organizes the event, stood in base camp. There is a white tent where each team had their own section where they inspected the creatures they found. A score keeper hung above each team’s area. The BioBlitz began at noon on Friday — the mammal team already had a score of one.

In the past the teams have found species that were not documented in Wayne County, he said.

The event is grant funded from state and local sources. This year, the BioBlitz received funding to test DNA.

"Which is very interesting and allows them to take a sample of water or soil or even air, and then analyze all of the DNA that's available in that sample," Schwartz said.

Some of the bugs will end up at museums and research centers. All the data collected will be publicly available.

Scientists are still working on identifying the creatures they found over the weekend. For more details, visit http://upperdelawarebioblitz.com/or Upper Delaware BioBlitz on Facebook.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.

You can email Kat at katbolus@wvia.org