JEFFERSON CITY Mo -- In spring and summer, Golden Prairie is often carpeted with wildflowers as far as the eye can see. An original prairie remnant owned and managed by the Missouri Prairie Foundation, Golden is a peaceful place and haven for native prairie plants and wildlife.
On Saturday and Sunday, June 4 and 5, however, it will bustle with human activity as nature lovers statewide team up with biologists at the conservation organization’s free, second annual Prairie BioBlitz.
Barbara Van Vleck, a Missouri Master Naturalist from Kansas City, will definitely be there.
“MPF’s Prairie BioBlitz last year at Penn-Sylvania Prairie was the best outdoor event I have attended in 20 years,” said Van Vleck. “Cordial experts in many fields taught us at an appropriate level. A plant survey revealed blooms everywhere, including orchids! From a bat survey, herpetology talk to nighttime moth identification, it was an exciting two days. I wouldn’t miss it this year for anything.”
Across the country, nature lovers and professional biologists team up at “BioBlitzes” to identify as many species as possible (the “bio”) in an area over the course of 24 hours (the “blitz”). The Missouri Prairie Foundation is hosting its own version at Golden Prairie on Saturday, June 4, and Sunday, June 5.
Golden Prairie is in Barton County, about three miles from Golden City. The Missouri Prairie Foundation purchased the 320-acre Golden Prairie in 1970, and since then, 310 additional acres adjoining or near the original tract have been purchased and protected. More than 300 plant species are known from the original 320 acres of the prairie, but for many other groups of species, little information is known from any of Golden’s 630 acres.
“Today, ecologists consider temperate grasslands to be the most endangered, least conserved of any terrestrial habitat on earth, and no temperate grasslands are more threatened than tallgrass prairies,” said Carol Davit, the Foundation’s director of communications and development. “Collectively, our remaining prairies in Missouri support up to 800 plant species, dozens of vertebrates and thousands of invertebrates. We want to see how many of them we can find at Golden Prairie, and BioBlitz participants will help in that effort.”
On the afternoon and evening of June 4 and the morning of June 5, biologists who study ants, bees, birds, beetles, butterflies, true bugs, moths, mammals, aquatic invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, land snails, vascular plants, mosses and liverworts will lead groups across the prairie to survey and inventory as many species as possible.
Several Missouri Conservation Department (MDC) biologists, including Mammalogist Debbie Fantz, Natural History Biologist Mike Arduser, Resource Science Division Field Chief Rochelle Renken, Fisheries Management Biologist Tom Priesendorf and Naturalist Shelly Cox will be group leaders. Other leaders include Shaw Nature Reserve Biologist and Entomologist Dr. James Trager, Botanists Justin Thomas and Nels Holmberg, Malacologist Ron Oesch, Lepidopterist Phillip Koenig and Naturalist Elizabeth Hamilton.
“We are thrilled that so many biologists are giving their time to help uncover the plant and animal treasures of this prairie,” said Davit. “If you love wildlife, this is a great opportunity to learn from experts passionate about their given subjects, and play a role in much-needed data collection as well.”
MDC’s Mike Arduser, who will lead the bee group, added, “The Missouri Prairie Foundation’s Prairie BioBlitz brings two important things together -- scientific data collection and the opportunity of nature enthusiasts at all skill levels to participate in this work, and also interact with each other. At the end of the weekend, BioBlitz participants go away with a greater understanding of prairie then when they arrived.”
Following the afternoon activities on June 4, there will be a potluck picnic supper, stargazing and free tent camping on the prairie. The BioBlitz is free, but participants must RSVP. For a detailed BioBlitz schedule, directions to the prairie, and to RSVP, visit the Upcoming Events page at www.moprairie.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888-843-6739.
The Missouri Prairie Foundation is a 45-year-old membership organization that protects and restores prairie and other native grasslands through acquisition, management, education and support of prairie research. The organization owns 2,600 acres of prairie across the state and helps manage an additional 1,500 acres owned by conservation partners.