BISBEE — Researchers and the public worked together on both sides of the border Saturday while participating in Border BioBlitz.
A project of the University of Arizona, the effort in Cochise County is led by the Bisbee Science Lab, where community volunteers work collaboratively with the university in a citizen-science project to record plants and animals on both sides of the border.
“Benjamin Wilder, a University of Arizona research scientist, is running this effort, with about 15 teams documenting the diversity of borderland flora and fauna from California to New Mexico,” said Kalman Mannis, a retired high school science teacher who helped organize the project in Bisbee. “He gave a talk at the Bisbee Science Lab in February and today’s survey evolved from there.”
As a result of Wilder’s presentation in Bisbee, two teams were fielded for the citizen-science effort, Mannis said.
“There’s my team that collects data on Goar Ranch, while Mark Appel of the UA Cooperative Extension led a team along the southern part of the San Pedro River.”
Both locations will have citizen-science teams collecting data again next year, Mannis said.
Data is collected by taking photos using an iNaturalist phone app, which also provides researchers with a GPS location tag.
“Whoever goes to the website will be able to access the types of flora and fauna that we find in the area, as well as their location,” Mannis said.
The Bisbee project documented plant and animal species on Goar Ranch, a 300-acre property in the Bisbee-Naco area that extends to the U.S.- Mexico border. Ranch manager Adam Lamb served as a guide while data was collected.
“We have an abundance of large mesquite trees and native grasses on the west side of the property, but on the east side, where cattle are grazing, the trees are much smaller and grass is more sparse,” Lamb said. “It’s very interesting to see the difference.”
Mannis also noticed the grazed portions of the ranch.
“There were areas where the property was heavily grazed and you could see the effects of grazing, but these were not necessarily negative impacts,” he said. “There was still a lot of grass, so the area was not over-grazed. So, the presence of cattle has made a difference in the landscape, when it comes to the plants.”
Along with mesquite and acacia, Mannis documented several types of cacti, desert broom and native grasses.
“And there were a few plants that I did not recognize,” he said. “As far as animals go, we saw evidence of rabbit, javelina and coyote. We also saw a few parakeets flying from tree to tree, which we found interesting.”
Mannis said they walked for a couple of hours while documenting, almost to the border fence about a mile away.
The UA BioBlast project is small compared to some citizen-science efforts across the globe, but provides foundational data that scientists can use, especially when tracking changes in biodiversity, Mannis said.
“There will be more opportunities through Bisbee Science Lab to work on other citizen-science projects,” he said.
Every quarter, the science lab plans to highlight a different project, said Mannis, who sits on the lab’s board of directors.
“The Bisbee Science Lab gives children and adults a chance to better appreciate the world of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics),” Mannis said. “There are people who do not think science and technology are part of their lives, but through community collaborations like this, we are trying to encourage people not to be afraid of science and technology.”
For information about the Bisbee Science Lab, located on 24 Main St. in Bisbee, visit www.bisbeesciencelab.org.
To browse the borderland biodiversity and observations of Border BioBlitz, go to the website at www.inaturalit.org/projects/border-bioblitz.