It’s high noon, and after much pomp and circumstance, the first field crews are eagerly congregating around multicolored flags, meeting their science team leaders and preparing to head into the park, where no leaf will go unturned—metaphorically speaking —in the search for species.
On stage, Chicago’s ABC 7 News traffic anchor Roz Varon acted as master of ceremonies, recounting her own first encounter with the dunes on a recent “One-Tank Trip” segment. Having grown up in Chicago and never visited the dunes, she said she was surprised and delighted by what she found here. One purpose of the BioBlitz is to spread the word among nearby city-dwellers that spectacular dunes, more than 1,000 flowering plant species, and a great blue heron rookery are just a short commuter train ride away.
Without a doubt, the stars of the opening ceremony were Ms. Munteen’s 5th grade class, who regaled the crowd with their BioBlitz song and sat rapt in the front rows as Duke University ecologist Stuart Pimm taught them the meaning of biodiversity. Stuart warned that they were about to go “where the wild things are,” and that thousands of unique species awaited them.
Students have already formed strong first impressions of the park. One future scientist from Lincoln Park High School admitted some trepidation: “I find this place beautiful, even if I have sand in my shoe and am scared of getting poison ivy.” Another mused, “Toward the road you hear the cars and trains, but near the forest, there are bird sounds and the wind blowing through the trees. It’s like on one side of me there’s civilization, and on the other is wildlife that hasn’t been corrupted.”
Photographs by Michael Kobe