Do you know what's really lurking in Overton Park? Well, other than protesters, grass parkers, policemen, and fence installers, etc.? This week, teams of scientists, naturalists, and volunteers will join forces in an intense, day-long effort to create a snapshot of the park's biodiversity. The Memphis Urban BioBlitz is a race against time to document and identify as many different plants, animals, insects, fungi, and microbes as possible in Overton Park and other green spaces around Memphis including Lichterman Nature Center, T.O. Fuller State Park, Shelby Farms, and the Meeman Biological Field Station.
- Overton Park’s Old Forest
The BioBlitz is a decade-long collaboration between National Geographic and the National Park Service created to celebrate the Park Service's centennial. This year, the program goes wide, moving out of the national parks and digging deep into the flora and fauna of more than 200 urban greenspaces coast to coast.
The Overton Park Conservancy has already launched a digital field guide listing more than 350 different kinds of plants, but according to spokesperson Melissa McMasters, "There's a lot more we can learn about pretty much everything else.
"We'll start out having tours focusing on different things: insects, birds, even mushrooms," McMasters says. "So, not only is the public getting educated by these professionals, they're able to document, photograph, and upload these photographs to a website called iNaturalist.org."
McMasters says she's got no idea what the BioBlitz may uncover, though there's at least one animal on her wish list. "We know there's a gray fox out there somewhere," she says. "A couple of people have seen it, but nobody on our staff ever has."