Tag Archives: Curtis Bennett

BioBlitz fun at Baltimore’s Masonville Cove

Today Curtis Bennett from the National Aquarium in Baltimore writes in to share his experiences from the 2015 BioBlitz at Masonville Cove. Here he explains his mission to  conserve wildlife and engage the community through citizen science to preserve species like the iconic monarch butterfly.

The National Aquarium’s Conservation Department recently hosted its second annual Masonville Cove BioBlitz. Masonville Cove is an urban wildlife refuge partnership site in Baltimore, Maryland, encompassing 54 acres of upland area, including tidal wetlands and vernal pools, as well as 70 acres of water, which provide valuable habitat for a variety of plant and wildlife species. This annual bioblitz provides a snapshot of the biodiversity of Masonville Cove. The Masonville Cove BioBlitz is unique because it encourages local students and community members to work with scientists,  provides exposure to the  outdoor environment and local wildlife and it helps to build a strong connection to Masonville Cove.

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Several monarch butterflies were spotted during the bioblitz and we were able to educate participants about their unique migration journey. Photo Credit: Pat Venturino

From tracking biodiversity to connecting urban residents to nature and experiencing the power of observation and discovery, the Masonville Cove BioBlitz provides an example of how just one event at a single site can encompasses the core values of the Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition. This alliance, which includes the National Aquarium and the Service, supports a vision of expanding a connected and protected green infrastructure network in central Maryland, from the Chesapeake Bay to the Piedmont. Large-scale green spaces, such as Masonville Cove, within the Greater Baltimore area are critical in order to ensure the protection of local biodiversity. Additionally, environmental education programs such as a bioblitz, allow people the opportunity to explore these natural areas, observe the local species and learn how they can further contribute to conservation efforts.

MC Bioblitz catching butterflies

Catching Butterflies! Photo Credit: Genevieve LaRouche/USFWS

Empowering people in Baltimore to engage in conservation action is one of the goals of the National Aquarium’s citizen science program, and the Masonville Cove BioBlitz is a critical component. This program encourages people of all ages to “get nerdy with nature” and make observations to contribute to science. This year, we made 219 observations of 164 different species! For the bioblitz, all observations were entered into iNaturalist, just one of many citizen science projects with a mobile application. However at each station participants were provided with information about other citizen science projects and apps, through our citizen science website.

When citizen science projects and apps are directly tied to specific conservation efforts, the impact is even more powerful. Not only does this increase conservation awareness but the project and/or app serves as the tool to encourage public involvement. During this year’s bioblitz the National Aquarium highlighted one such project/app- Journey North, which seeks to track migratory species, such as the monarch butterfly. Masonville Cove provides critical habitat for monarchs, given the presence of three local milkweed species and other nectar sources. Throughout the bioblitz, participants observed several adult monarchs and upon learning their conservation story, were encouraged to further conservation efforts by tracking their presence or by providing wildlife habitat through our certification program. Continued efforts to connect people to nature and empowering them to take conservation actions will ensure that species such as the monarch butterfly will continue to be observed at the Masonville Cove BioBlitz for years to come.

At Baltimore’s Masonville Cove, students explore urban conservation

Today, you’re hearing from Curtis Bennett of the National Aquarium, one of the partners at Masonville Cove, a partnership in Baltimore that was designated as an urban wildlife refuge partnership by the Service in 2013. Masonville Cove is now home to an environmental education center and is a place for local residents and schoolchildren to spend time in nature and participate in environmental stewardship projects. Working with Curtis, interns will work on a variety of projects that will benefit Masonville Cove and the Greater Baltimore area. They will be sharing their experience with us all summer.  My name is Curtis Bennett and I am a Project Manager within the Conservation Department at the National Aquarium (In the photo below, I’m the one in the blue polo). On behalf of the steering committee for the Urban Conservation and Education Internships Program, I would like to extend a warm welcome to our 2015 interns! On June 1, these four college students from the Greater Baltimore area began an eight-week journey, and throughout the summer they will spend time learning from local experts and gathering many new experiences along the way, all in an effort to paint a clear picture of career opportunities within the conservation sector.

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The whole crew during the launch of the Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition, the first day for the interns! From left to right, Tamara Taylor, Anastaia Alvarez Johnson, Congressman John Sarbanes, Karlis Grauze, Stephen Celano, me and U. S. Fish and WService Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber.

Over the past couple months, these four students have been patiently awaiting the start of program and here’s what each student is looking forward to the most:

“I’m looking forward to experiencing new adventures that this program may offer. I know quite a bit about the underwater sea animals but I’m eager to know more about wildlife creatures and why and how they are highly essential to the world.”

Tamara Taylor, Tuskegee University 
Elementary education major

“I am really excited about devoting a significant amount of time to putting to use my environmental knowledge and passion. I feel like there are plenty of opportunities to grow on a personal level as well as on environmentalist level.”

Karlis Grauze, University of Maryland
Environmental science and policy major/Philosophy minor

“I am most looking forward to further educating myself in the field of conservation and educating others on what can be done to help sustain our environment.”

Stephen Celano, Towson University
Environmental biology major 

“I am honestly looking forward to the contacts I know I’ll make during the program. I am looking forward to meeting my peers and working with them, learning and growing together. I hope to take anything I learn and share it with our community. Growth in individuals helps to grow our communities.”

Anastasia Alvarez Johnson, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Animal and poultry sciences major

Please stay tuned and follow our four interns as they share their experiences over the course of this program! Learn more about our partnership at Masonville Cove here.