Holy Cross Environmental Association celebrates Earth Day with BioBlitz

Experts and volunteers explore Southgate Coastal Preserve in 2020 (Photo provided by SEA)

Residents of Sainte-Croix are invited to celebrate Earth Day with the Sainte-Croix Environmental Association by becoming Citizen Scientists and participating in the BioBlitz this weekend.

The 2021 BioBlitz will be very different from last year’s event, Jennifer Valiulis, Acting Executive Director of SEA, Environmental Education Coordinator and Conservation Steward, told The Source. Last year, experts led teams of volunteers who surveyed and identified the plants and wildlife of the Southgate Coastal Preserve.

The aim was to determine what lives in this area, and the species lists are used to plan conservation efforts. The data can help guide programs such as reforestation and the replacement of invasive plants with native species, as has been done in Southgate and other places. One of the recent programs is the effort to restore the endangered species of the Sainte-Croix land lizard.

This year, Frederiksted and the West End will be at the center of BioBlitz. Due to COVID, residents are encouraged to participate by going out on their own or with one or two other people to observe the flora and fauna. They can photograph isolated plants, animals or birds and let the experts catalog them.

“The idea is to show that there is nature everywhere, not just in the bush,” said Valiulis.

Even without knowing the name of the plant or animal, findings should be reported on www.inaturaliste.org and experts will provide identification.

It’s easy to download the free app, create an account and join the St. Croix Community Bioblitz project at Inaturalist. More information can be found at stxenvironmental.org. Valiulis said she hopes everyone logs into the website so that the species data is recorded.

The more people who participate, the more data can be recorded and used by SEA to preserve the plants and wildlife of the island.

Volunteers are monitoring waterfront life in Southgate Coastal Preserve in 2020 (Photo provided by SEA)

While residents explore Frederiksted and the surrounding area, scientists will be stationed at certain locations to collect data for BioBlitz. Claudia Lombard will be scouring the waterfront and pier, and National Park Service divers will be underwater taking photos and discussing what they saw on Facebook at 11:30 am. A reptilogue will look for signs of red tailed boas and amphibians in various areas.

BioBlitz is a national event that first took place in 1996. The term bioblitz speaks of the goal of finding and identifying so many species in an area over a short period of time.

In addition to BioBlitz, other Earth Day activities will include:

– 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. – Garbage cleaning along the mangrove waterway at the north end of the parking lot near the playground in front of Fort Frederick.

– 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – A self-directed treasure hunt through Frederiksted will begin with the collection of a treasure map at a location to be confirmed and posted on the SEA Facebook page. Small prizes will be awarded, according to the director.

At the 2020 event, experts presented educational sessions on the reserve, plants, birds, marine life and other topics virtually on Facebook. This year’s sessions will also be available for viewing on Facebook.

9:30 am – Birds with Claudia Lombard

10:30 am – Ghuts with Jen Valiulis

11:30 am – Marine life with the National Park Service

12:30 p.m. – Reptiles and Amphibians with Jahnya Brooks

Currently, SEA participates in the Climate Action Campaign, in which every donation will be matched by Global Giving to support the work of the association. The goal is to raise $ 5,000.

“It’s a great opportunity for us. Fundraising is a challenge, ”said Valiulis.

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