By Dan Haag
On Monday, July 16, 34 people gathered on Neah-Kah-Nie Beach for “Conserving Our Land, Beach and Sea Walk and BioBlitz.” It was a chance to get an up-close look at beach life during low tide and to become citizen scientists for a morning.
Friends of Cape Falcon Marine Reserve, Lower Nehalem Watershed Council, Lower Nehalem Community Trust, and Oregon Coast Aquarium partnered to lead an educational walk exploring the connections between headwaters and local seas. Oregon Shores Coast Watch was also on hand to lend their expertise.
The event was part of Explore Nature Tillamook Coast’s summer schedule of educational outdoor events.
So what exactly is a BioBlitz?
Overall, it serves as a fun, intensive survey of a defined area on a single day with the goal of identifying all the species to be found in that area at one time.
According to Sam Droege of the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and one of the founders of the modern-day BioBlitz concept, “the name and concept of the BioBlitz is not registered, not copyrighted, not trademarked, and not a government thing. It’s an idea that can be used, adapted, and modified by any group, who should freely use the name BioBlitz for their own purposes.”
This particular event was designed to shine a light on the significance of all five of the Oregon Coast Marine Reserves: Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Otter Rock, Cape Perpetua, and Red Fish Rocks.
“The importance of doing this is the Marine Reserves,” said Ian Throckmorton of Oregon Coast Aquarium. “We’re looking to raise awareness of the Marine Reserves while engaging folks in citizen science and help deepen their understanding of these areas.”
The morning provided a snapshot of biodiversity and gave attendees the opportunity to help build an understanding of what is living on the coastal edge. It also provided a chance to help local organizations better catalog and monitor the species of the region.
“The BioBlitz showcased efforts that many organizations are taking to conserve and make people aware of protections around our natural environment,” said Chrissy Smith, Outreach Coordinator for Cape Falcon Marine Reserve. “It also helped us capture some of the life living at the edge of the marine reserve.”
Location was the star of the show: the end of Neah-Kah-Nie Beach connects with Cape Falcon Marine Reserve & Lower Nehalem Community Trust’s Peregrine Point, a protected lush green forest rising from the sand that extends the protected lands of Oswald West State Park. Combined with a morning low tide and mild conditions, it was BioBlitz heaven, with tide pools full of a variety of sea life waiting to be discovered and inventoried: sea stars, hermit crabs, limpets, varieties of seaweed, and more.
Nehalem resident Glenna Gray attended the event with her grandson as part of his homeschooling curriculum and was thrilled with the opportunity.
“I got so much out of the event,” she said. “The leaders opened my eyes to many more inhabitants of the beach biome that I had never noticed on my own. It was a gift to interact with the leaders of our local non-profits who are working to protect our jewel on the edge.”
Alix Lee, Coordinator for Lower Nehalem Watershed Council, enjoyed helping the group learn something new about a familiar place.
“It’s always a great experience to introduce someone to a new animal, plant or environment that they may have never seen, even if they’ve visited that stretch of beach hundreds of times,” she said. “One participant was so fascinated with the olive snails but confessed to never having noticed the “trails” in the sand despite visiting the beach regularly.”
Afterward, the group gathered at the Manzanita Visitors Center for lunch and to share pictures, catalog species data and identify what they’d seen.
With such a strong turnout and dedicated partners, Smith is confident the BioBlitz program can be expanded even further locally.
“In the future, we hope to grow efforts to catalog the life in this conservation corridor to the rain forest reserve as well as the edge of Cape Falcon Marine Reserve” she said.
To learn more about Oregon’s Marine Reserves, visit www.oregonmarinereserves.com
To discover other Bioblitz events within Oregon’s Marine Reserves, visit http://aquarium.org/bioblitz/ Check out Explore Nature’s schedule by visiting www.explorenaturetillamookcoast.com