New Bioblitz in Alabama Turns Up Rare Species

On the heels of the recent Half-Earth Project in Alabama event, panelist Patience Knight joined area college students and professors to participate in a bioblitz at Big Coon Farm in Jackson County, AL. The bioblitz was led by Bert Harris, Executive Director of the Clifton Institute, and visiting naturalist Jared Gorrell.

The June 5th bioblitz explored the creeks, springs, caves, and fields of Big Coon Farm, and turned up an impressive 346 species on the weekend documented in the iNaturalist app, including some rare or unusual species such as Williston’s Wasp Fly, Southeastern Crowned Snake, and a large population of Tennessee Leafcup. Other highlights included Tree Lungwort, Scarlet Shiner, Common Logperch, Redear Sunfish, Northern Hog Sucker, Nashville Liptooth, Georgia Holly, Juncus Coriaceus, Harvester, One-spotted Tiger Beetle, Maryland Senna, Slender Baskettail, and Cyrano Darner. 

Group picture of the participants of the Big Coon Creek 2021 Bioblitz.

Photo by Heather Howell. Participants of the Big Coon Creek 2021 Bioblitz from Right to Left: Dr. Brett Scheffers, University of Florida, Assistant Professor
Bert Harris, Clifton Insititute, Executive Director 
David Jarrell, caver
Jared Gorrell (squatting), Virginia Tech, graduate student 
Brian Young, Sewanee: University of the South, student
Angus Pritchard, Sewanee: University of the South, student
Dr. Kirk Zigler and his son, Sewanee: University of the South, Professor of Biology
Howard Horne, Barry A. Vittor & Associates, Inc., Senior Ecologist 
Patience Knight, Alabama A&M University, Research Assistant
Helen Czech, Alabama A&M University, Research Associate 
Dr. Heather Howell and her son Tristen, Alabama A&M University, Research faculty
Briana Garrison, Alabama A&M University alumni

Including previous searches, to date, over 1,072 species have been found on the property which is in Bert Harris’s family.

Dennis Liu, VP of Education, shares how the Half-Earth Project got involved, “Immediately following our amazing panel discussion focused on culture and biodiversity in Alabama, Bert Harris, a Half-Earth Ambassador whose family owns property in Alabama, shared he was planning a bioblitz and looking to recruit leaders and participants. I immediately thought of Patience Knight and how she engages college students in biodiversity stewardship.”

Jared Gorrell (@wildlandblogger) expects the property to have between 400-600 species of plants. Notable snakes and amphibians include Timber Rattlesnakes, Black Kingsnake, Green Salamander, potted Dusky Salamanders, and Eastern Narrowmouth Toad.

Image of someone Collecting species from a rock ledge on Big Coon Farm.

Collecting species from a rock ledge on Big Coon Farm.

Bert Harris shared, “The most interesting fish found so far are Scarlet Shiners, Blackside Snubnose Darters, Banded Sculpin, and some sort of Redhorse (Moxostoma). The first three indicate fairly clean water, and the last one is likely a Silver Redhorse, potentially restricted to only a few drainages this far south and an at-risk species in Alabama. While the most interesting mammal recorded so far is Rafinesque’s Big-eared Bat, and there have been unconfirmed sightings and signs of Allegheny Wood Rat.”

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