Citizen science project focuses on data collection and plant identification
LandPaths and the California Native Plant Society are hosting a citizen science project at the Riddell Preserve west of Dry Creek Valley where participants can step into the shoes of a botanist and help gather data and identify local plant species.
The free, Sept. 22 event is being called a “bio blitz,” an activity where helpers gather and record as many species as they can within a designated area and time period.
In this case, participants will break into groups and will wander around the 400-acre reserve to gather information and will meet back periodically to review the data.
The property, which is owned by LandPaths, is not open to the public, so folks can only experience the wooded and grassland area during tours and group outings.
“I’m hoping to invite neighbors and the Healdsburg community and provide that connection since this outing program is the only way to come out and see what we are protecting,” said Jesica Rodriguez, a bilingual field specialist with LandPaths.
“It is a hardwood forest and with that there are a lot of tree species — a lot of oaks, madrones, sycamores and maples,” she said.
To help attendees identify other species the group will be using the free iNaturalist app.
The app, which was created through a joint initiative between the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic, allows you to identify plants and animals in real time.
iNaturalist works by taking a photo of a plant or other flora or fauna, then uploading it to the app’s community database where other community members can identify or discuss the item.
“The data we gather can then be utilized and reviewed by scientists and taxonomic experts both locally and globally. Bio-blitz's are great for encouraging public participation, creating high quality data, and make tallying a species count much simpler,” according to LandPaths.
“This is offering people who don’t see themselves as scientists to step into that role,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said during the outing people will also take note of plant size, texture, smell and other small details.
“I want everyday people to step into that naturalist role,” she said.
She added that it is also a chance for people to see that “technology is not always nature’s enemy.”
With the use of the app she hopes to get younger kids interested and involved in botany and science.
“Kids are on social media all of the time, here they can use their phone,” she said. “It is a really versatile tool.”
Group events like these are also good for bringing down walls between people, she said.
“It is a shared experience … and it helps adults get back into that awe-inspiring mood,” Rodriguez said.
Following the hike the data from the bio blitz will be printed out and used in stewardship work at LandPaths.
“The data gathering will help us see if we are hitting our ecological and conservation thresholds,” Rodriguez said.
Data will also be used for the vegetation mapping effort by the Sonoma County Agricultural and Open Space Preservation District.
The Sonoma County Vegetation Mapping and LiDAR Program (Sonoma Veg Map), is a five-year program that aims to map the county’s topography, physical and biotic features, agriculture and plant communities and habitats.
The program is now in its last year and data and mapping has so far been used for flood control, watershed protection and fire and fuels management.
To view the Sonoma Veg Map, visit: http://sonomavegmap.org/.
When and where:
The walk is on Sunday, Sept. 22 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Due to limited parking, guests can meet at the city corporation yard at 550 Westside Road in Healdsburg and the hike will start from there.
What to bring:
Be sure to bring water, clothes for warm weather, sunscreen, a bag lunch for the day, a regional flower guide, notebook and a mobile phone for the app.
Bathrooms and potable water will be available on site. No smoking or pets. Participants will be asked to sign a liability waiver.