Calling all scientists: Citizen scientists needed as Montezuma Well hosts Centennial BioBlitz

Park rangers at Montezuma Well National Monument invite citizen scientists to look for invertebrates at The Well’s first BioBlitz on Saturday, May 21. (Photo by Bill Helm)

Park rangers at Montezuma Well National Monument invite citizen scientists to look for invertebrates at The Well’s first BioBlitz on Saturday, May 21. (Photo by Bill Helm)

RIMROCK - Though it may look similar to a leaf with legs, biologists decided that the Microcentrum rhombifolium deserved a more interesting name.

In layman's terms, it's actually a greater angle-wing katydid, and to Tina Greenawalt, it's the most unusual invertebrate she has seen at Montezuma Well National Monument.

Greenawalt, the site's official Park Biologist, will be one of at least seven park rangers at The Montezuma Well's May 21 BioBlitz, an opportunity for citizen scientists ages 14 and older to discover and document biodiversity right here in the Verde Valley.

According to Laura J. Varon-Burkhart, park guide and Pathways student intern at Montezuma Well, not only will participants be able to experience a day in the life of a wildlife biologist, they will "play a big role in helping us conserve our natural spaces."

The focus of The Well's BioBlitz will be on collecting and identifying invertebrates, which can be anything from butterflies, snails and spiders. Citizen scientists will be separated into teams of five and guided by researchers and park rangers as they collect and identify as many species as possible.

"Volunteers can choose between helping on an aquatic invertebrate team or a terrestrial invertebrate team," Greenawalt said. There are usually more than enough invertebrates in the water - or on the land, so participants can choose where they prefer to search and seize.

Two sessions are available for the BioBlitz, either join in from 9 a.m. until noon or from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.

Anyone interested in participating should make a reservation before May 14. Names will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis. There will be room for about 70 participants, said Varon-Burkhart.

Varon-Burkhart also said that because its water chemistry is "so unique," Montezuma Well has "its very own species of invertebrates that are found nowhere else in the world."

"My personal favorite is the Water Scorpion (also known as Ranatra montezuma)," Varon-Burkhart said. "It looks like a stick bug from another planet."

Though invertebrates are "not as glamourous as mammals, fish, or birds," said Varon-Burkhart, "some biologists estimate that 96 percent of the world animals are invertebrates. We are going to be looking for anything from ants to snails, butterflies to spiders. Some we will catch with a net, some we will identify under a microscope. Chances are, we won't find every single kind of invertebrate in our park, but we are sure going to try."

To sign up, visit www.eventbrite.com and search for Montezuma Well to register. An informational packet with what to expect and how to prepare for your scientific adventure will be emailed to each registered participant.

Daily life and ceremonies

From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday, April 30 at Montezuma Castle National Monument, Tohono O'odham artist Michael Chiago will paint, as well as discuss the inspiration behind his paintings.

Chiago's watercolor and acrylic paintings illustrate O'odham daily life and ceremonies.

Western National Parks Association, a non-profit education partner of the National Park Service, will sponsor the discussion.

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