If you've ever been to the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center on the lakeshore north of the city, you know there is a lot of the natural world on display. And if you haven't been there, just trust me.
But quantifying everything that lives at or grows on the nature center's grounds is a daunting task, and one that's being taken on by a cadre of scientists beginning Friday afternoon.
The BioBlitz is a collaborative effort between the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center and the Milwaukee Public Museum. The scientists will spend exactly 24 hours trying to catalogue all the plant and animal life at the Schlitz. And they'll reveal their results to the public on Saturday, a day that admission to the nature center is free for everyone.
"We are counting as many species as we can find," Ellen Censky says. "The BioBlitz is part contest, part festival, part educational event, part scientific endeavor." She is senior vice president and academic dean at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
Censky and Marc White, senior ecologist and land manager for Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, say the BioBlitz is an opportunity for scientists from the museum, the nature center and several universities - including Purdue, UWM, UW-Madison, UW-Stevens Point and UW-Whitewater - to come together. The BioBlitz takes the scientists back to their original roots, they get to go out and explore. For a lot of the scientists, Censky says, it is just a fun activity and a teaching opportunity.
White says they have a good general idea of the plants and animal species found at the Schiltz, but they necessarily know what's not there. "That's where the huge value of this type of BioBlitz comes is in having experts, that might never have an opportunity to visit the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, come out and document what's there."
Knowing what species exist in the center, helps White and others then be able to protect and conserve the habits for those species.
"I've done several BioBlitzes out on the east coast and in every single one, we've turned up things that are unusual, we've had new species for the state recorded, we've had new species recorded," Censky says. "When you get in to the insects, there's a lot we don't know - so there's a lot that could turn up."