It has finally been done: 1,001 species have now been documented in the Sax-Zim Bog!
Back in August, I had written an blog post regarding the great influx of observations of new species following the 4th Annual Sax-Zim Bog BioBlitz. At the end of that post (which can be read here) I had mentioned that the total number of species means that there has been purposeful investigation of a diverse ecosystem and that people had seen and identified these species, all of which add to the value of our message of conservation. However, what I did not know at that time was just how close we truly were to documenting 1,000 species in the Sax-Zim Bog.
This journey to 1,000 started with a suggestion by our Development Director, Sarah Beaster. She had found out about iNaturalist.org, which is website dedicated to documenting natural history through a network of citizen and professional scientists. The site is supported by the California Academy of Sciences and is used by folks around the world. The neat thing about this site is that it allows you to place your observations of fish, mushrooms, insects, trees, plants, etc. somewhere. For a comparison, birders use eBird and odonatists use Odonata Central to document their sightings; iNaturalist allows for all manner of species to be documented, not just birds or dragonflies.
Upon Sarah’s suggestion, Executive Director Sparky and Board of Directors Secretary Rubin, started to log and document species. On this initial list, I found species that had not been included on the Master Species List! Species like American Hornet Moth, Marsh Speedwell, and Honeycomb Coral Slime Mold had been seen, but not documented on this list. Following the initial uploading of species into the database, about 30 more species were added to the master list. With adding species to this database, the impetus grew for me to ID species forgotten in the land of un-ID’d species.
I am new to identifying mushrooms. I lead a field trip at the beginning of August looking for mushrooms and teaching basic mushroom biology. My goals were not to ID these species, but instead to collect a few species here and there to ID them following the field trip. What I did not know, however, was the incredible diversity of fungi near the Welcome Center! We ended up collecting mushrooms that we thought looked different from one another, which turned out to be nearly 55 different kinds (or so we thought!).
I documented each mushroom to ID at a later date and was hopeful that this batch could bring us over the edge to 1,000 species! As time passed, a new mushroom identification would come here and there. Until the passed couple of days. I have been working through the mushroom IDs, all the while adding a new moth or beetle or plant here and there. Yesterday evening the species tally was just two shy of the thousand mark: 998! Upon working on nailing down the last two mushrooms I was most confident in, Rubin made a couple of submissions to iNaturalist. Included in his observations was a species that I knew would be found in the bog, but had not made its way to our Master Species List! Redbelly Snake was our 999th species observed and documented in the Sax-Zim Bog! With the pressure on, I looked through my mushroom folder and found a picture of a species I thought would be easy enough to ID… and couldn’t ID it! Never fear, the next mushroom I attempted to ID was fated, as I opened my field guide to the exact page where I found Woolly Velvet Polypore: species 1,000 documented for the Sax-Zim Bog! For good measure, I IDd one more species, Dog Vomit Slime Mold (aren’t fungi… fun?!) for species 1,001.
Wow! 1,001 species have been documented! As I closed my last blog post, 1,001 is a number that bears some significance. It is significant to those who visit the bog in any season; it is significant to those who live in the bog year round; it is significant to those who view the species list from afar. 1,001 species show that the Sax-Zim Bog is of value to more than just those documenting the species. Some get to spend more time searching than others, but when searchers prove fruitful in documenting species, excitement spreads from one person to the next! Perhaps Dog Vomit Slime Mold doesn’t strike the passive observer as something that would be exciting to find… but to those studying slime molds, who knows what further treasures can be found! The quest to 2,000 species has to start somewhere, but that may mean waiting until the Spring. Until then, check out our observations and progress at fully documenting 1,001 species on iNaturalist!
-Clinton Nienhaus, Head Naturalist