Brockton High students participate in 'BioBlitz' at Audubon Preserve

October 7, 2014

The students spent three hours Saturday morning hunting down organisms. They found spiders, birds, a giant pine tree and even a softball-sized American toad.

“Even if it’s not new to the world, it’s new to us,” said Kristina Gionfriddo, a 16-year-old junior at Brockton High School.

Those finds, and more than 100 other plants and animals, were identified within just a few acres behind the Hancock School by Kristina and several fellow students.

Six teams of students, professionals and Stonehill College professors identified hundreds of organisms throughout the 125-acre Brockton Audubon Preserve as part of a “BioBlitz.”

The event was planned by Sue Mooney, a Stonehill biology professor, Joyce Voorhis, who teaches the International Baccalaureate Biology Class at Brockton High and the Wildlands Trust, which owns the land.

“The idea is to get, in three hours, a snapshot of the biodiversity of this property,” said Wayne Petersen, a trust board member and director of Mass Audubon’s Massachusetts Important Bird Areas program.

Stretching from behind the Hancock School on Pearl Street to the Easton line, the preserve was owned for many years by the Brockton Audubon Society, founded in 1919.

Over time, active membership in the society dwindled and the group donated the land to Wildlands Trust, which assumed responsibility for the stewardship of the property in 2011, said Katie O’Donnell, the trust’s program manager for community conservation.

It is the Duxbury-based organization’s first “urban” preserve.

Along with providing an educational opportunity for the students, the BioBlitz is aimed at encouraging an appreciation of biodiversity within the City of Brockton and providing information for the Wildlands Trust to share with visitors through trails and signs.

“It makes a nice combination of information and opportunities,” Petersen said.

Corrina Mier Y Teran, 19, is a junior at Stonehill College and a student in Mooney’s environmental ethics class. She volunteered to take part in Saturday’s event to get more field experience.

“I’ve never done this before,” she said.

After the BioBlitz, students shared lunch at Stonehill’s Science Center Atrium and compiled a report of their findings.

MaryKate Clark, a 17-year-old junior at BHS, said the event was a perfect fit for the work she has been doing in Voorhis’s biology class finding wildlife diversity in her own community.

“We spend most of our time outside doing stuff,” she said.