LLELA is seeking volunteers for its inaugural bioblitz to be held at the 2,600-acre nature preserve in Lewisville in April. Above, a yellow warbler is one of the birds already documented at LLELA. Photos courtesy of LLELA.
Feb. 21, 2017
Last April, experts from across the state came together at Tandy Hills Natural Area in Fort Worth for the largest bioblitz ever held in North Texas. Volunteers not only recorded 3,000 observations of flora and fauna at the 160-acre prairie remnant, they inspired another group of naturalists to host their own bioblitz. This year, at the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area on April 1.
According to Scott Kiester, a retired geologist from Flower Mound and founding member of the Friends of LLELA, he mentioned the idea to the group in January and was recruited to be the organizer for the April Fool's Day event.
“I was the one who opened my big mouth and said maybe we should do a bioblitz,” he joked.
Since then, with help from Tandy Hills bioblitz organizers, like TCU prof Bruce Benz and Fort Worth Nature Center manager Rob Denkhaus, he’s already lined up 30 experts to document all of the living species within the 2,600-acre LLELA preserve - or as many as they can find - on the first Saturday in April.
Kiester, a master naturalist with a masters degree in environmental science from Green Mountain College in Vermont, is no newbie to bioblitzs. He’s participated in other large events, including the Katy Prairie bioblitz in the Houston area. He said the LLELA bioblitz won’t be as technologically advanced as the Tandy Hills week-long event, which featured a tent with a high-end microscope set up to project gathered images.
However, the LLELA organizers have enlisted many of the same experts and like the Tandy Hills crew, will use the iNaturalist citizen science app to record their findings. He said the bioblitz is just the beginning of what he sees as a longterm plan to document the nature center's native ecology, if possible, each fall and spring.
“[The bioblitz] gives you a snapshot on that day. The real value is when you start doing them on fairly regular basis.”
Southern leopard frog. Courtesy of Jennifer Linde.
Like Tandy Hills, LLELA is packed with diversity due to four distinct ecological systems within its boundaries - Cross Timbers, hardwood forest bottomlands, Trinity River wetlands and Blackland Prairie. More than 360 mammals and birds have already been documented at LLELA, from river otters to peregrine falcons, along with more than 500 plant species. But like other urban wildspaces, the property needs some TLC.
“It’s recovering from being agricultural land up until the 1950s when they built the Lake Lewisville dam. When the dam was built, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers condemned the property."
The Bittern Marsh trail boardwalk offers prime bird viewing.
After years of neglect, people started noticing "nature was creeping back in.” And in the 1990s, this inspired, the Corps to partner with local universities, the city of Lewisville and Lewisville ISD to start conservation, education and recreational programs. As the mitigation money that had been funding operations ran out, the Friends of LLELA group formed in 2013 to assist in keeping programs going. The city of Lewisville then stepped up to commit funds to operate education and recreation programs, while UNT is funding research and restoration. The Friends of LLELA continues to provide volunteers and support the "extras" at LLELA.
One of LLELA’s most ambitious projects is restoring a 2,000-acre Blackland Prairie remnant. Over the years, Kiester said staff and an army of volunteers have removed invasive plants, performed burns and reintroduced native wildlife, including quail and tarantulas. They have planted thousands of native plants, propagated with help from LLELA volunteer Bill Freiheit, whom Kiester describes as a self-taught “genius” horticulturist when it comes to developing prairie plants.
Volunteers prepare to plant native grasses on LLELA's prairie under restoration.
Also in store for the future - the city of Lewisville has committed $20 million to build a nature center at LLELA as early as 2020.
“It’s really blossoming.”
Hosted by: Friends of Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area
When: April 1, an hour before sunrise to an hour after sundown.
What: Taxonomists with the help of volunteers will document all living species - plants, animals and insects - seen on the 2,600-acre natural area using the iNaturalist app over the course of the day.
Where: Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area
Contact: If you are interested in volunteering, contact Scott Keister at email@example.com
Watch a short video about the Tandy Hills Bioblitz held the week of April 22, 2016 in Fort Worth.