Texas Wesleyan University will team up with the Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area this weekend to host a 36-hour BioBlitz for Earth Day.
On April 22 and 23, Dr. Bruce Benz, professor of Biology 2, and his students will join experts from various fields in documenting all the living species that inhabit Tandy Hills, which is located just off I-30 east of downtown Fort Worth.
Benz has been using Tandy Hills since he began teaching at Wesleyan. BioBlitz will find students and non-students “observing and documenting the Fort Worth plant and insect species that are native to the Tandy Hills indigenous prairie lands,” according to txwes.edu.
“Tandy Hills has been an area that is right on the boundary of all the wrong with urban development and all the right with leaving a place alone,” Benz said.
According to Don Young, President of Friends of Tandy Hills, this will be the first ever full-scale BioBlitz in North Texas.
Young said he founded the organization with his wife, Deborah, in 2004 because of their love for the park.
“I’ve been coming here since I was a teenager, and I’ve been bringing Debora here for the 33 years we’ve been married,” he said.
The Friends of Tandy Hills focuses on increasing community involvement in caring for the park, protecting the park from trash dumping, and ridding the park of invasive species.
“Everything is out there,” Young said. “It’s a typical prairie ecosystem with floral, fauna, amphibians, and insects. Of course, it’s at the heart of the city, so there’s also a few mammals.”
Young said that according to one expert, 611 plant species currently live in the 160 acres that make up the park.
“Up to about 40 different experts in various fields will be joining the BioBlitz,” Young said. “All of North Texas is invited to take part.”
Ann Mayo, a local ant expert, will be participating, along with experts in grass, moths, bats, and plants in general, Young said. On Saturday, there will be special wildflower tours, food hikes, solar telescopes, and other events.
“It’s an under-valued ecosystem, and a good place to bring your girlfriend or boyfriend,” Don Young said.
Debora Young agrees.
“Get your hiney and your honey out there,” Young said.
Young believes the BioBlitz is an important event for the natural area that’s so close to home.
“It’s the native ecosystem of Fort Worth,” Young said. “It’s unusual to think that less than 0.5 percent of this city is still left as prairie, when this is what the whole city used to look like. One of the old nicknames of Fort Worth was Queen City of the Prairie.”
Most of the information about Tandy Hills has been anecdotal, and hasn’t been documented by experts, another reason why Young finds the event so important.
“If you just count from dawn to dust, you won’t get the whole picture,” she said. “That’s what the BioBlitz is trying to do – take a snapshot of what’s out there.”
For more information on BioBlitz, visit txwes.edu. Those interested in participating should bring a charged smartphone with the iNaturalist mobile app downloaded before arriving.