Findings of Milwaukee Public Museum Riveredge BioBlitz

Researchers at the Riveredge BioBlitz.

24-Hour BioBlitz Uncovers Stunning Species Diversity at Riveredge

Scientists from Milwaukee Public Museum arrived on the afternoon of Friday, June 14 to spend 24 hours at Riveredge Nature Center for the 2019 BioBlitz – a quest to discover as many species as possible in 24 hours.

MPM research scientists, students, and lovers of nature visited Riveredge to forage throughout the Center’s 379 acres of various restored habitats to find as many plants and animals as possible.

Riveredge Land Manager Matt Smith discussing species with botanists Dr. Robert Freckmann and Dr. Lawrence Leitner.

Riveredge has “enormous richness”

Dr. Robert Freckmann, who began his botany career in 1959 and for whom the Herbarium at University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point is named, was one of many researchers on-hand to participate in the 24-hour celebration of science. “It’s going to be interesting to see how many species we can come up with in 24 hours, but I think that’s more a function of the number of botanists and their level of energy than it is the place,” said Dr. Freckmann.

“This place has enormous richness, and all we can do [in 24 hours] is get a small sample of it,” added Freckmann.

BioBlitz at Riveredge Findings

Both MPM and Riveredge staff were pleased to document a grand total of 1,254 species within 24 hours across the Riveredge property! This total is the highest number of any of the 5 total locations surveyed since MPM started its annual BioBlitz program. A playful debate ensued about whether to include examples of the Lake Sturgeon, which Riveredge raises onsite for the Return the Sturgeon program.

BioBlitz Species Highlights

UW-Madison mycological students determining species at Riveredge.
UW-Madison students Carl Kemp and Celeste Huff determining fungi species.
  • Dr. John Zaborsky | UW-Madison – reported 536 plant species including garden plants, highlights include Small Yellow lady’s-slipper & rare Handsome Sedge.
  • Gina LaLiberte | Wisconsin DNR – found 120 species of microplants including cynobacteria, red algae, and several species of euglena in the Vernal Pond.
  • Dr. Suzanne Joneson | UW-Waukesha – found 31 species of lichens, which she surmised indicates a “happy forest.”
  • Birds 80 species seen, including Ruffed Grouse and Pileated Woodpecker.
  • Mammals – 16 species, including humans, the highlight being a Southern Flying Squirrel.
  • 343 species of insects were discovered; of which 180 were Lepidopterans (moths & butterflies).
  • Findings of 21 species of fish (22 if you count sturgeon). Highlights include Brown Trout, Iowa Darter, and Mottled Sculpin.
  • Riveredge was the first of the BioBlitz locations surveyed where invasive Jumping Worms were not found.
MPM BioBlitz at Riveredge Nature Center

Reaping Biodiversity Benefits through Long-term Conservation

“Riveredge was one of the first locations in the region to begin restoring habitats, and we have such a diversity of habitat in this immediate area – from wetlands to dry and wet prairies to creeks, marshland, forests and woodlands – and of course the mile of Milwaukee River banks for which Riveredge is named,” said Jessica Jens, Riveredge Executive Director. “I’m pleased by the number of species documented – I was hoping we’d surpass 1,200, but must admit I’m not entirely surprised by the huge number of species that were found,” said Jens.

University of Marquette students speak with a birder overlooking a restored prairie Friday evening. At that moment he’d reported 23 bird species.

“I see the passion, care, and work that goes into our 379 acres everyday and these findings are evidence of not only the work we put in every day at Riveredge, but the legacy of caretakers who came before us,” said Jens.

A Public Science Extravaganza

BioBlitz
BioBlitz participants learning about bees through one of the BioBlitz partners in attendance.

A BioBlitz is a unique occasion in that it’s a science event in which, during a portion, the public is invited to participate and learn alongside researchers. Several partner organizations throughout the region were on-hand to engage the public about populations of local plants, rodents, bees, fireflies, large mammals, and other species.

Farm Pond at Riveredge Nature Center.
A family searches for frogs at Farm Pond during the BioBlitz.

In at least one occasion, members of the public found species that researchers had not yet documented. On Saturday afternoon, a young girl presented researchers with a Painted Lady Butterfly that had yet to be discovered during the BioBlitz.

Researchers at the Vernal Pond
Researchers finding frogs and Tiger Salamander larvae at Vernal Pond.

Riveredge is a Year-round Nature Sanctuary

The BioBlitz only lasted 24 hours, but at Riveredge Nature Center, you can experience this rich tapestry of diverse plants and wildlife year-round. Our 10 miles of trails are open 7 days a week from sunup to sundown for hiking, strolling, birding, sauntering, running, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. Become a member of Riveredge today and begin exploring your nature!