May 10 2013
Alistair McLean, Curator of Natural Sciences at Museums Sheffield on the Sheffield BioBlitz and how you can get involved:
On Thursday 16 May, Sheffield will kick off its second citywide Bioblitz. A Bioblitz is an ambitious nature study which aims to record sightings of wildlife living in a certain area in a given length of time. Bioblitzes are hugely important because they record everything; quite often, common, easily identifiable species aren’t recorded, as they’re assumed to be everywhere, and specialists usually focus on their own particular groups of interest. By recording everything, a BioBlitz can give a real sense of the state of the environment and point out unusual gaps in the biodiversity of a region.
May 2012 saw the first citywide BioBlitz of Sheffield, which lasted 48 hours and accepted records of species living within the city boundary – an area of over 370km2. The event was organised jointly by Sorby Natural History Society and Museums Sheffield, with many members of the public and wildlife groups all over the region taking part to try and identify a target of 1000 species. Sorby organised recording events and rallied its enthusiastic and expert members to spot and record as many species as possible, while Weston Park Museum acted as the hub for receiving records, typing them up and displaying details of what had been found so far.
Weather for the event last year was less than ideal; rainy with hardly any sunshine and temperatures well below the monthly average. As a result, there were hardly any flying insects around, which we thought would make breaking the 1000 species mark very difficult. Happily, concerns were unfounded – by the end of the event, over 1100 species had been sighted and recorded! In total, more than 3000 individual records were taken, covering a sizable area of Sheffield. Notable sightings included the 3rd ever local record of a large centipede called Cryptops anomalans, as well as a scarce fungus known as Bog Beacon (Mitrula paludosa).
The BioBlitz also highlighted a few species that were notable by their absence; perhaps the most remarkable of these was Mute Swan (Cygnus olor), which couldn’t be found within the city boundary during the 48 hours. This could well be an indication of a local problem, which requires further investigation.
The 2013 Sheffield BioBlitz is scheduled for 16 – 18 May, launching at Weston Park Museum at 3pm on the 16th. Events are going on all over the city and we’re looking for as many volunteers as possible to help us beat last years’ total. Details of all the events can be found on the Sorby Natural History Society website (I’ll put a link in directly to their Events section)
If you can’t make any of the scheduled events, don’t worry, you can still send your sightings of wildlife to email@example.com. We’d be interested to receive records of any living thing (large or small) seen between 3pm on the 16 May and 3pm on the 18 May. If you can’t identify it yourself, feel free to send in a photograph – the important thing is to tell us where and when you saw it, otherwise it won’t count. Let’s see if we can beat last year’s record!
Above - a map of findings from the 2012 Sheffield Bioblitz