It was a Saturday. I was looking for any excuse not to work on my final projects. I wanted a reason to go outdoors.
I scrolled through my TAMU emails and noticed one about BioBlitz 2019. Location: Lick Creek Park. I am in! I drove home and picked up my dog and headed towards the park.
The event was organized by the Texas A&M Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology. The event was advertised as a “large-scale biodiversity awareness event” and more importantly, it was free. I was not sure what to expect, but I knew that I could at least walk around outdoors for an hour if it ended up not being fun.
I pulled up to the park to find that there was absolutely no parking. People were parked along the street in the ditch. This seemed like a good sign for the event. I parked, and my dog and I made our way down the street and into the park entrance.
Friendly people met us at the opening to the first trail to give more information about how the event worked. I would simply walk down a path and there would be booths along my route with different displays of wildlife found in the park. We began our stroll.
The first booth was an insect booth. The students at this booth had a tarantula, beetles, and cockroaches. Many of these insects were scavenged from the park by these students just the day before. A little boy next to me went straight for a giant cockroach in one of the buckets on the table. I wanted to be brave like him. I picked up a much smaller cockroach and admired his very creepy looking legs and hard exoskeleton. I think the preserved insects were more my speed, so I put my creepy crawly friend down and spent a few minutes talking to the students at the booth about their giant showcase of preserved specimens. Such passion from this group of students.
We moved right along where we came to the booth about plants. They had a fun interactive coloring activity for the little kids. I wanted to take the opportunity to color, but there was no room to do so. Instead, I took the list of plants, did the grown-up thing, and began to explore the area. They had all the plants on the list staked and numbered so that you could see exactly what they looked like naturally in the park. I love plants, so this was awesome to see the diversity of plant life in just one single area.
As we kept walking, there was a booth about plant diseases. Additionally, there was a long table with representatives from a few local organizations. I talked to a couple of people, but there was not much shade in this area...my poor dog was starting to heat up, so we kept moving.
One of the next booths was about mammals. They had an area to pet all the different furs of mammals found in the park. The animal skins were set out on a table, and you could guess which animal each belonged to. The furs belonged to deer, bobcats, rabbits, and more. They were all super soft including the skunk fur that I was very hesitant to touch (we had a nasty skunk spray over spring break at my parents’ house).
Another booth was for birds. They had pictures of birds found in the park and even skulls of many. Additionally, they had little nests with bird eggs in them; I am unsure if they were real or replicates, but they were pretty either way. I did not spend much time here. It was a very popular booth, and I did not want to get in the way of any of the kids having a good time.
As we continued, we saw a woman carrying a large snake standing in the pathway talking to a group of people. This booth was for the herps (amphibians and reptiles). I walked up and began talking to another student about what made her interested in these creatures. I was talking to her for a few minutes before I even noticed the snake that she had. She had a tiny garter snake wrapped around her knuckles. Additionally, they had a tank with frogs in it. This was a very lively booth (quite literally)!
Finally, the last booth was one for fish. I don’t know who decided to have this booth last on the trail, but I feel bad for whoever had to lug all these large tanks all that way. They had a variety of fish in the tanks and even one tank with crayfish. I watched one unsupervised child reach into the fish tank, pull one out, and proceed to drop the poor fella on the ground. The child seemed regretful as he apologized to his parents, but he “just wanted to pet the fishy.” It was super cute to watch all the kids admire the tanks.
We continued along the trail past the event for a few minutes before ultimately deciding to turn back around for the car. We spent the walk back through the event observing all the attendees (people watching is great). There were a lot of families enjoying the outdoors and learning about nature together. There were other college students like me with their dogs or their friends. There were plenty of couples walking hand-in-hand taking in the excitement of the event.
Ultimately, I highly recommend this event to everyone; be on the lookout for it next year. More importantly, I recommend that everyone pays attention to those pesky and seemingly never-ending emails. I tend to go to events like this on a whim often, and I am usually never disappointed. We are surrounded by an amazing community with many opportunities to take us away from our computer screens and books. Take a chance and go to something that you would normally never go to because you never know when you could meet somebody interesting, learn something new, or just gain a great story to tell.
--- Courtney Adams
Courtney Adams is a Masters student in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences