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Snails, Birds And Berries: Citizen Scientists End A Month Of Observing N.H. Town Lands

NH BioBlitz David Allain
Mara Hoplamazian, NHPR
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Mara Hoplamazian, NHPR
12-year-old David Allain stands on the Bedford Town Common with his BioBlitz bingo card

Thursday marks the end of the New Hampshire BioBlitz, a month-long project to collect biodiversity information on town-owned lands across the state.

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A BioBlitz is usually a one-day event, in which participants collaborate with experts to collect biodiversity data. But because of COVID, the University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension decided to run a month-long program focused on town-owned lands.

Haley Andreozzi ran the program and says the project garnered more interest than organizers anticipated. Granite Staters recorded observations in more than 100 communities.

Participants snapped photos of almost 7,000 plants and animals, adding new data to the state’s understanding of the lands that municipalities manage and conserve. They cataloged the flora and fauna through an app.

Part of the purpose of the BioBlitz was to get New Hampshire residents excited about the resources around them, Andreozzi said. Local governments across the state took on the planning process for a range of BioBlitz events, organizing nature walks and hosting scavenger hunts.

Sue Sweed, a newly-retired Bedford resident who joined a scavenger hunt on a sunny Saturday, was on the lookout for insects after observing some plant life.

“I’m out enjoying nature, which I love. And I’m learning technology through the iNaturalist app, which is kind of fascinating for me,” Sweed said.

12-year-old David Allain also attended, and found most of the plants and animals listed on his specially-made BioBlitz bingo card. The card included a fern, a bird, something fuzzy, and a yellow leaf, among others.

David Govatski, who ran a bird walk at the Sugar Hill Town Forest in Northern Grafton County, said New Hampshire has a good number of town-owned forests, but they’re not as well known as other kinds of land.

“These town forests are really gems out there,” Govatski said. Half of the 18 people who participated in his event had never been to the forest before, he said.

Data collected during the BioBlitz will provide information that might be useful for towns as they make management and conservation decisions about town-owned lands, Andreozzi said.

“The more information that researchers, biologists, land managers, and municipalities have about their natural resources, the better they can make informed decisions about how to protect, conserve, and manage those resources in the future,” she said.

Cities and towns are responsible for about 4 percent of New Hampshire’s forest land, according to Andreozzi. A 2014 report from the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and The Nature Conservancy showed that municipalities are responsible for almost 10 percent of New Hampshire’s conservation lands.