Lagoon life to be revealed

The ninth annual Lagoon Day returns to the San Elijo Lagoon Saturday, May 16, with a new “BioBlitz” twist.

Along with interactive exhibits, nature hikes, crafts and games, this year participants will find out how many types of plants, animals, birds, fish - even spiders and other tiny bugs - live in the lagoon.

The first-ever “BioBlitz” in North San Diego County will begin Friday afternoon, when more than 25 scientists will race to find and identify as many living species in the lagoon as possible in 24 hours. The clock stops at 3 p.m. on Saturday, when the results will be announced to the public.

“I think it’s going to blow people away,” said Andy Mauro, past president of the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy. “There are hundreds of different living organisms that reside in the lagoon.”

Take that as a hint - prizes will be given to those who correctly guess the number of species identified.

While it’s not possible to identify every single organism in 24 hours, the BioBlitz is not meant to be a rigorous inventory, said Michael Wall, the curator of entomology at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Rather, it’s a public education event that showcases just how much biodiversity exists in our own backyard.

“But I do take it seriously,” Wall said. “There’s not a lot of sleep to be had during a BioBlitz.”

Conservancy staff scientists and experts from local universities and research institutions will work through the night to find and identify species, including a bat monitor who will record electronic frequencies to identify different types of bats.

The crunched timetable is meant to add a sense of urgency for the need to protect this biodiversity before it disappears, Wall said - more than 90 percent of coastal wetlands have already been destroyed.

During the day, visitors will be able to talk with scientists and see what they’ve collected.

“We fully expect there will be some surprises,” Mauro said.

Lagoon Day activities take place at the San Elijo Nature Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Park and shuttle from the El Camino Christian Fellowship Church, 510 South El Camino Real or at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 552 S. El Camino Real. All activities, parking and shuttles are free.

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