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One of my absolute favorite things to do is spend time in nature and this year I was given the opportunity to play a role as a leader in Entomology at the 2013 BioBlitz event hosted at Jean Lafitte National Park.
National Geographic and the U.S. National Park Service have teamed up in celebration of the U.S. National Park Service Centennial that will take place in 2016. So what kind of celebration do these two partners host? A decade long biodiversity-palooza! This year the party came to our neck of the woods, literally. On May 17-18, Jean Lafitte National Park held a 24-hour festival where volunteers that ranged from school children to experts in specific biological fields of study joined up to count the biodiversity at the park. Nearly 3000 volunteers showed up to take part in this years event! Tricia LeBlanc and I were fortunate and excited to participate as a leaders in the "bug hunts" that took place on the first day. We led groups of students and their chaperones down trails to specific coordinates and counted the arthropods we could see. If we saw something and were not able to identify the species on the spot we could collect it and bring it back for the experts to take a look. Meanwhile, one of our volunteers from the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Ben Rauch, was there serving as an expert in Mycology, the study of fungi. He, along with a team of fellow mycologists, was on hand to identify various fungi being found and to lead hikes to search for the many species of fungi throughout the park.
There were 458 species identified and the number is still climbing as scientist work hard in trying to figure out the trickier species found. All-in-all it was a GREAT event.