HARRISBURG, Pa., May 16, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Scientists, naturalists and volunteers from across the state will converge on Kings Gap Environmental Education Center, Cumberland County, in an extensive effort to document life forms June 2-3, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard Allan announced today.
Participants, both professional and amateur, are requested to register by May 24 for this two-day, weekend event. They will attempt to identify as many plants and animals as possible in day and night field exercises, popularly known within the scientific community as a “bioblitz.”
“How fitting that a state park just expanded by more than 1,000 acres last fall should be the focal point of this dedicated gathering of keen scientific minds,” said Allan. “When the final tallies are in from this bioblitz we will be able to make sound decisions on the park’s future based on scientific fact.”
Only the second event of its kind sponsored by DCNR, the research is being organized by the Bureau of State Parks, in cooperation with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Biologists and naturalists will be finding and identifying species of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, aquatic and terrestrial insects, fungi, mosses and many others.
“Bioblitz findings will supply us with an invaluable snapshot of the biological wealth found on this park’s 2,530 acres,” Allan said. “We are inviting the general public, private citizens, teachers, local high school students and university members to observe, interact and participate in sampling activities.”
“We are hoping to learn as much as possible about the biological diversity of the area so that it can be properly conserved and managed, but this bioblitz will offer much more,” said Allan. “Beyond establishing baseline information, the event will give participants a chance to join biologists in the field; participate in bona fide research; and learn from experts about biological inventorying and the importance of biodiversity.”
Regardless of weather, activities will begin at Kings Gap at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 2, and close at 11 a.m. Sunday, June 3. Participation is free, but pre-registration must be completed by May 24 by calling 717-486-3799.
Throughout the day Saturday, park staff also will offer “mini-blitz” programs – one-hour introductions to identification of birds, aquatic macro invertebrates and plants. No registration is required for these free programs starting at the Kings Gap Hollow Day-Use Area. Topics and starting times are: “What Bird Do I Hear-” 10:30 a.m.; “Aquatic Macros,” 1 p.m.; and “Trees and Wildflowers,” 2:30 p.m.
DCNR’s first bioblitz was held in 2004, when almost 200 scientists, volunteers and onlookers combed fields and forests of the newly acquired Erie Bluffs State Park along Lake Erie in Erie County.
In October 2011, almost 1,100 acres in Penn and Cook townships, Cumberland County, were added to Kings Gap Environmental Education Center, reuniting lands that were the original Cameron family estate split in the 1950s. With the newly added land, Kings Gap now encompasses more than 2,530 acres, including 16 miles of hiking trails and the William C. Forrey Training Center and a 32-room stone mansion providing training facilities and overnight accommodations.
The new property, which helps protect the sweeping view of the Cumberland Valley enjoyed from the patio of the Cameron Mansion, has trails and roads that will be connected to the Kings Gap system. There are plans to establish a 20-mile backpacking trail entirely on the newly-added property that will allow park staff to conduct two-day primitive camping trips, all within the park boundaries.
Kings Gap sits astride South Mountain, a landscape that is the core of the South Mountain Conservation Landscape Initiative encompassing Adams, Cumberland, Franklin and York counties.
For more information on Kings Gap and Pennsylvania’s other 119 state parks, visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us (select “Find a Park”).
Media contact: Terry Brady, 717-772-9101
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources