The wild side of West Virginia includes almost too many flora and fauna to count; Almost.
There’s a team out there who want to identify every taxa in the Coopers Rock State Forest, and those people need the people reading this article to help.
Discover Life in West Virginia is a program that allows citizen science and wildlife and fisheries management practices to come together by gathering all the taxa information in local citizens’ backyards - in this case, Coopers Rock.
"We are bio-blitzing Coopers Rock State Forest," said Adam Rossi, a first year RPTR graduate student at West Virginia University. "We’re going to identify all the herps, birds and trees that we can find."
This is the third time Discover Life is happening at Coopers Rock. It occurred last fall and spring.
"We had the idea for us to do a citizen science outreach education program that still had roots in research," said Ross Andrew, a PhD candidate at WVU and co-founder of Discover Life in West Virginia. "We were basically getting people that would not have an opportunity to see fish and wildlife close and first-hand show (them) what we do."
Participants will meet at the picnic area at Coopers Rock State Forest and divide into three groups: a bird group, a flora group and a herp (amphibian) group. Leaders of the group are experts in their specific fields. From there, the participants will learn and identify various specimen in their criteria. The birders will go mist netting, a way to capture and sample birds. The herp group will look under pre-set boards, and the flora group will go on a hike to search for different types. All will record the data, and it will be used by WVDNR for management practices.
This program shows and allows citizens to embrace the natural resource management sector of
"It’s on a weekend, it’s really easy, it’s non-threatening," Andrew said. "We’ll show you different techniques, different species - you’ll get to see birds or fish or salamanders or whatever we’re working with that day, and you get to see firsthand what the process is for that kind of research."
The main purpose behind citizen science is to expose the people to what wildlife and fisheries management professionals do on a daily basis and allow the citizens to help out.
"The goal behind citizen science is to get more feet on the ground, so to speak - or, eyes in the sky if you’re working with bird species," said Daniel Hanks, a fellow PhD candidate at WVU and co-founder of Discover Life. "We can go into the woods and look under rocks or cover boards, (but) if it’s just Ross and I, that’ll take a lot of time to cover a lot of ground."
That’s why getting the community involved is so important to fuel and obtain the necessary records of the second part of the project.
"The second goal is to provide actual research-based inventory of fish and wildlife populations within a given area that we’re sampling," Andrew said. "When we do this work at Coopers Rock, we eventually get a complete inventory of the different biota that are there - fish, birds, mammals, even plants, trees, insects - and, so by doing it in different groups at different times, we can build up a catalog of what we’re capable of seeing and doing - a complete inventory."
Community members and students in Morgantown - no matter the age - can participate in this data collecting event.
Discover Life in West Virginia will be from 9 a.m. - noon for the first session and 3 - 6 p.m. for the second session this Saturday rain or shine at Coopers Rock State Forest. The first session is suggested for people who are most interested in mist netting birds because the birds are most active in the morning hours.
WVU will provide transportation at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Meet at Percival Hall on the Evansdale campus.
The Coopers Rock Foundation will also be hosting a free lunch from noon - 2 p.m.