Text and photos by Rod Mackler, unless otherwise noted.
ARMN held its summer chapter meeting in Alexandria’s Four Mile Run Park. The “Arlington Region” for the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists includes Alexandria, Falls Church City, and parts of Fairfax County, as well as Arlington County. It was a glorious day, with temperatures in the 70s and sunny. The ARMN members were eager to learn about the Four Mile Run Conservancy Foundation and explore the park in a mini bioblitz.
The host of the meeting was the Four Mile Run Conservancy Foundation, headquartered in Del Ray. The Foundation focuses on the lower, tidal portion of the Four Mile Run stream on both shores, Alexandria and Arlington.
Foundation president Kurt Moser introduced us to the Foundation’s work—restoration, advocacy, recreation, and education—then took us over to see its field station nearby.
From the field station, the ARMN members launched a mini-bioblitz, dividing up into teams, looking for new (to us) plants and animals, and entering our finds in the iNaturalist app. iNaturalist is a network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists, mapping and sharing observations of animal and plant biodiversity. iNaturalist includes millions of observations entered daily by some 350,000 users as an open-source platform and data base for scientists, land managers, naturalists, citizen scientists, and the members of the public at large.
Four Mile Run Park was a rich source of findings for the bioblitz, with its meadows, wetlands, and woods. We found and uploaded a wide range of native plants, and quite a few invasive plant species, as well. These baddies included bush honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.), tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), purple loosestrife (Lithium salicaria), and porcelain berry (Ampelopsis glandulosa). Observations of invasives are a particularly useful contribution of citizen scientists, giving a good indication of their range and spread. Most of our observations were the plants in the park, but also included a few local animals: fireflies (family Lampyridae), a green heron (Butorides virescens), and an osprey (Pandion haliaetus).
Anyone can download the free iNaturalist app to become a part of this worldwide citizen scientist community. Happy hunting!