Former state park ranger Singa Williams photographs insects during the bioblitz at Stone Mountain State Park.

Researchers and students from Appalachian State University examine a crayfish found in a stream at Stone Mountain State Park.

Appalachian State University students dig into a decayed log looking for fungi and insects during the bioblitz.

ROARING GAP — About two dozen researchers from universities, state agencies and conservation groups converged at Stone Mountain State Park May 16 for the fifth bioblitz staged by the state parks system.

Most were indistinguishable from the thousands of weekend park visitors, except perhaps for the field guides they carried and the occasional bug or leaf that they carried away to be identified later. A bioblitz is designed to identify as many species as possible in a state park within a 24-hour period. State parks biologist Ed Corey has organized the events, with the first one held two years ago at Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve.

Taking inventory of species, both rare and common, is an important part of managing state parks. To make good decision on managing the land and placing facilities, it’s important to know what species live in a park — and exactly where they live. Rangers and parks system biologists are always adding to the list of known species with lists (and photos) entered into an online database. But, the extra help from a bioblitz can cover a lot of scientific ground in a short time. Corey said the results of the May event will be compiled over the next six months.

The team had help from a group of Appalachian State University students who waded into park streams with their nets and plowed into decayed logs looking for signs of life. The bioblitz events draw a range of researchers, including those highly specialized for such species as fungi or mollusks as well as generalists that have a fairly high degree of knowledge on many species types.

Charlie Peek is the public information officer for N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

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