By SUSAN RIEMER
Islanders will soon have a new opportunity to discover the natural world around them with the opening of Vashon Nature Center’s Island BioBlitz: Five Days of Discovery, Thousands of Years of Biodiversity exhibit.
Between 2012 and 2016, the nature center held annual BioBlitzes — events where volunteers joined nature center staff to count as many wildlife and plant species as possible within specific island ecosystems in a 24-hour time period. The results of those counts, which documented everything from amphibians to birds and fungi to butterflies, will be on display beginning Friday at the Land Trust Building.
“It will be a rich opportunity for people to ask questions about nature,” said Bianca Perla, who heads the nature center.
Perla, noting she did not want to give away all the exhibit had to offer, said the show will include a mix of informative posters and art prints as well as a topographical map of Vashon and an iPad for people to explore the website iNaturalist, which includes citizen science observations of plants and animals from around the globe. It now includes Vashon’s BioBlitz information as well as other information about Vashon’s natural world.
On Friday night, Perla said, organizers will add sounds and other sensory elements from nature. She noted that on average, each of the BioBlitzes revealed some 400 species in one area.
“We are going to try to create that feeling of how much life is around us,” she said.
On opening night, a variety of naturalists will also be on hand to answer people’s questions. Following that evening, the exhibit will be open for people to wander through during Land Trust business hours. Additionally, for a limited time this winter the nature center is offering to take groups of students or other community members through the exhibit.
“We just love to share what we found and the stories of the BioBlitzes with the community,” Perla said.
At the Land Trust, Executive Director Tom Dean is enthusiastic about the show and participating in the BioBlitzes themselves.
“It is a lot of fun,” he said. “They generated a lot of fun for the geeks among us.”
More seriously, he spoke about the value of the BioBlitzes, both now and for the future. The findings inform the Land Trust about the current management of its properties and create the possibility for further analysis down the road. Even seemingly small findings can mean a lot. If, for example, a BioBlitz finds pearl shell mussels in Judd Creek, that is significant.
“That tells me there is no interruption of salmon over time,” he said. “It is possible to extrapolate from the presence of a species.”
Dean added that he is excited to see the show and noted that this exhibit is the first display of nature center work that the Land Trust will hang in its space for community members to learn from and enjoy.
Island BioBlitz will be open from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Land Trust Building and then will remain open during Land Trust business hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.