Event to highlight biological diversity

2007-06-08T23:00:00Z Event to highlight biological diversityCLAIR JOHNSON Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
June 08, 2007 11:00 pm  • 

When the Lewis and Clark Expedition passed through the Yellowstone Valley, the explorers documented all the wildlife and plants they saw.

Next weekend, scientists and researchers will explore the Yellowstone River in the Riverfront Park area in a modern-day expedition called a Bioblitz. Scientists will see how many species they can find in 24 hours.

The event is a contest, festival, educational event and scientific endeavor, said Kayhan Ostovar, president of the Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society and Bioblitz organizer.

'Just like Lewis and Clark'

"We're exploring and discovering just like Lewis and Clark did," Ostovar said. "It's really a fun way to see what lives in an area."

Ostovar, a wildlife biologist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, has enlisted the help of about 50 scientists and researchers from across Montana including specialists in fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, insects and plants.

A Harvard biologist developed the bioblitz idea to catalog organisms around Walden Pond. Twenty-eight states have since conducted their own events. The Yellowstone River Bioblitz will be Montana's first, Ostovar said.

Bioblitzes usually are held in semiurban areas and help create public awareness about the variety of life nearby, Ostovar said. The events also educate the public about the role species play in improving the quality of life.

Diversity of life

"Often we hear the word 'biodiversity' when referring to the tropical rainforests - yet the diversity of life in our own backyards is phenomenal. Clean, healthy ecosystems is a result of this backyard diversity," he said.

"We also hope that the species list from the event will be a first step in monitoring changes on the Yellowstone River in our community and successful management of Riverfront Park and the Audubon Conservation Education Center," Ostovar said.

Information gathered will be posted on the Montana Audubon and local chapter Web sites and given to the Montana Natural Heritage Program, which documents species distribution across the state, state Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the city Parks Department.

The Bioblitz begins at noon June 15 and noon June 16. The public is invited to the joint the event from noon to 2 p.m. that Satuday at the Montana Audubon Conservation Education Center at Norm's Island across from Riverfront Park for live music and a barbecue hosted by the Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society.

The Bioblitz also is looking for volunteers 11 and older to assist, Ostovar said. Those interested should contact Ostovar ahead of time at 256-7481 or Kayhan@att.net.

The event is being funded with about $12,000 in grants, including $5,000 from the Yellowstone County commissioners, who allocated some of the money left over from the Clark on the Yellowstone Signature Event. Other major financial partners include the Montana Audubon, Big Sky Institute from Montana State University and Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Other sponsors include the local Audubon group, the Yellowstone River and Parks Association and other businesses.

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