This past Saturday, Biggie and I trekked out to Piscataway Park to participate in the National Parks BioBlitz. The BioBlitz has been a DMV tradition for about a decade, and this year, because of the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service, it took place in parks nationwide. It’s basically a biodiversity census where teams of citizen scientists partner with park rangers and professional scientists to identify as many species as they can within a specific area.

We took part in the Insect Walk at Piscataway, my first time at this park, a former tobacco farm that now features the National Colonial Farm and walkways over freshwater wetlands.

It was a misty-then-drizzly day, and only four others (two kids and two adults) joined us as civilians, but we were guided by Therese the entomologist, Bryan the science teacher, and Adam the park ranger — a mighty trio of effusive and erudite experts.

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Our local guides were sporting rubber band macro lenses and ollo-clip lenses on their phones. They gave us bug nets and jars, and as we caught things, they logged our species finds into the iNaturalist app. We took a scenic walk through fields …

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… where we witnessed a tussle between an eagle and osprey — and forest and finally arrived at an algal pond …

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… where we caught a leopard frog tadpole …

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… oh and bugs. Lots of bugs.

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On our way back we saw these beauts on the ground, not five feet away from each other:

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When we got back to the Visitors Center, we got a chance to make Foldscope microscopes. An effervescent young team from Stanford showed us how to punch out paper patterns and fold and assemble them together to make a portable microscope that you can magnetically attach to your phone. You’ve really got to see it to believe it.

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And another shout-out to iNaturalist. You can use the app anytime to take pictures of flora and fauna and either identify your findings or ask an online community to help identify them for you. The teams at Piscataway ranked third-place in logging the most number of species nationwide for the BioBlitz.

It was a wonderful way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon.

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