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Contact: Jane Farmer, 662 680-4015
TUPELO, MS – Over 200 visitors took a step toward finding their park at the Natchez Trace Parkway at the Wildlife Festival and BioBlitz on Saturday, April 18, 2015.
The parkway kicked off the National Park Service Find Your Park campaign with a combination Wildlife Festival, BioBlitz, and Junior Ranger Day at the Parkway Visitor Center, in Tupelo, MS. Many groups participated in making the event a success.
Ten volunteers from Mississippi State University (MSU) registered BioBlitz participants and guided hands-on activities. A BioBlitz engages members of the community in assisting with identifying and documenting plant and animal species. The resulting inventory helps scientists determine if biodiversity in the area is increasing or decreasing. MSU subject matter experts led discovery hikes and provided educational opportunities for visitors to learn about birds and salamanders.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers managed the bat and bear stations. Visitors learned about regional bat species and the effects of white-nose syndrome on bat populations. An Army Corps ranger explained how the threatened Louisiana black bear is making a comeback in Mississippi.
Eastern National, the parkway’s cooperating association, assisted by funding the program, “Snakes of Mississippi.” Presented by professional herpetologist, Terry Vandeventer, this program entertained and awed the audience, and inspired people to look at snakes in a new way. Vandeventer provided audience interaction with live snakes that might be seen along the parkway now or in the past. A 22 year-old chicken snake; a colorful corn snake; and a very long, deep blue, rare indigo snake were just a few of the snakes that fascinated the audience.
Vandeventer’s effect on the audience was evident by the numerous participants on the herpetology walk, the most popular walk of the day. Participants followed instructions of an MSU herpetologist as they walked a trail, rolled logs, examined pools of water, and searched under leaf litter for amphibians and reptiles. The insect walk netted second place in popularity, with an MSU entomologist leading participants in search of invertebrates of all kinds. Over 100 people attended the five discovery walks.
Junior rangers scurried from station to station making animal track rubbings, snake mobiles, and animal masks. They attended the snake program, hiked trails, and talked to the presenters at the educational tables. Thirty-five children were proud to receive their Junior Ranger Day certificates and sported their junior ranger paper hats.
Launched by the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation, Find Your Park is a public awareness and education campaign celebrating the milestone centennial anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016 and setting the stage for its second century of service.
Natchez Trace Parkway Superintendent Mary Risser explained, “We hope the people in the communities surrounding the Natchez Trace Parkway will consider it their national park and enjoy the many recreational opportunities it provides. It is a wonderful place to spend time with your family, reflect on our cultural history, or find inspiration in the beauty of our natural world.”