Biodiversity in Urban Parks: Learning from the 2013 Central Park BioBlitz


To launch the Central Park Conservancy’s 2014 biodiversity programming, the Conservancy and Macaulay Honors College, in partnership with the New York City Urban Field Station, will host a one-day symposium as a follow-up to the 2013 Central Park BioBlitz. The official the results of the BioBlitz will be presented and a group of NYC and regional academics, practitioners and students will discuss their immediate and broader significance.  This symposium – Biodiversity in Urban Parks: Learning from the 2013 Central Park BioBlitz – will take place at Macaulay Honors College on Wednesday, March 26th 2014.

On August 26 and 27, 2013, the Conservancy and Macaulay conducted a 24-hour-long biological inventory of as many species of plants and animals as possible in Central Park.  More than 500 species of flora and fauna were identified by roughly 350 students and 40 naturalists. The 2013 Central Park Bioblitz provided a tremendous amount of information on the biological richness of the Park. This symposium, targeted to professionals and students, will provide an opportunity for discussion of the biodiversity of Central Park and New York City over time, in urban areas more generally, and to other ecological types. In addition, it will provide a professional development opportunity for Conservancy staff and Macaulay students who will participate as content experts. Registration to attend the event will start on February 10th.

Members of academic, scientific or educational communities who would like more information may contact Kelly O’Donnell at


9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.        Arrival/Check-in

10 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.       Plenary

Presentation of the official results of the BioBlitz by Dr. Mary Pearl, Chief Academic Officer at Macaulay; followed by  a plenary discussion  about what the results mean, why they matter, and the implications for urban park management moving forward.

Plenary participants: Regina Alvarez, Adjunct Faculty, Queensborough Community College and Terri Carta, Associate Vice President for the Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.          Lunch & Poster Session

Posters presented by participating Macaulay students; CUNY students engaged in research in other NYC parks; and professionals from the NYC Urban Field Station

1 p.m. – 2:30 pm                Breakout Panel Discussions


  1. Designing a BioBlitz – The 2013 Central Park BioBlitz involved more than 350 students divided into 20 survey teams.  Each team included lead and support scientists, students from Macaulay, Conservancy staff members and volunteers.  Significant planning and design were required to ensure the quality and organization of the data. Organizers of the last three major NYC-based BioBlitz events will discuss approaches, both what worked and what didn’t, and share insights from the months of planning involved in running a successful BioBlitz.

Participants: Lisa Brundage (moderator), Director of CUNY Advance; Kelly O’Donnell, Director of Science Forward at Macaulay; Gillian Stewart, Associate Professor, Queens College; and Rebecca Boger, Assistant Professor, Brooklyn College


  1. Citizen Science – Citizen science projects allow volunteers from the public participate in meaningful scientific research. BioBlitzes are often geared for this type of participation, but there are many other types of citizen science projects. In this panel, representatives from the NY Horseshoe Crab Monitoring Network, the Lost Ladybug Project, Project Budburst, and the American Eel Research Project will discuss their projects, how they get the public involved and engaged, and what the benefits of this type of work are.

Participants: Susan Elbin (moderator), Director of Conservation and Science, New York City Audubon Society; Leslie Allee, Research Associate, Cornell University Lab of Ornithology; Martin Weiss, Senior Scientist, New York Hall of Science; Chris Bowser, Education Coordinator, Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve.


  1. Planning & Designing Urban Habitats – Over the past decade, as a result of the Central Park Conservancy’s careful management, the Central Park’s landscapes and water bodies are believed to be healthier than ever before. At the same time, urban habitats more generally, and including the Park, have faced severe weather events and encroachment by invasive species. A key question for natural scientists and the Conservancy is: how do we design and care for urban habitats that promote biodiversity and resiliency? Participants will discuss the challenges and opportunities in addressing this question.

Participants: Steven Bopp, Senior Landscape Architect, Central Park Conservancy; Myla Aronson, Research Scientist, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, Rutgers University; Susannah Drake, Principal, dlandstudio; moderator: Glenn Phillips, Executive Director, NYC Audubon


  1. Current Research in NYC Parks – The BioBlitz is only a small portion of the research being conducted on the biological richness of New York City. A group of scientists working in different sectors will discuss their work in our urban habitats. The discussion will address in particular how researchers collaborate and use research to improve habitat for communities and flora and fauna.

Participants: Bram Gunther, Chief, Natural Resources Group/President, Natural Areas Conservancy; Erica Svendsen, Lead Social Science Research, USFS Urban Research Station; Kevin Griffin, President, Blackrock Forest Consortium; moderator: Krista McGuire, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Barnard College.


About the Central Park Conservancy: The mission of the Central Park Conservancy is to restore, manage and enhance Central Park in partnership with the public, for the enjoyment of present and future generations.  A private, not-for-profit organization founded in 1980, the Conservancy provides the majority of Central Park’s $58 million park-wide expense budget and is responsible for all basic care of the Park. For more information on the Conservancy, please visit

About Macaulay Honors College: Macaulay Honors College at The City University of New York offers exceptional students a uniquely personalized education with access to the vast resources of the nation’s largest urban university and New York City itself.   Selected for their top high school records and leadership potential, Macaulay students receive a full-tuition scholarship, a laptop and technology support, and a $7,500 Opportunities Fund to pursue global learning and service opportunities.  A Cultural Passport provides access to museums, libraries, and other treasures around New York City. Macaulay students enroll in one of eight CUNY senior colleges (Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Hunter, John Jay, Lehman, Queens and Staten Island). For more information, see

About the New York City Urban Field Station: The mission of the New York City Urban Field Station is to improve quality of life in urban areas by conducting and supporting research about social-ecological systems and natural resource management. In service of that mission, the Urban Field Station provides both a physical place to conduct research and a conceptual space that nurtures a network of relationships among scientists, practitioners, and university cooperators all focused on the urban environment. The Urban Field Station is sustained through a core partnership between the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station and the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks). Since its founding in 2006, the NYC Urban Field Station has engaged over 50 non-profit, academic, and government partners, creating innovative “research in action” programs to support urban ecosystem management and sustainability and resilience initiatives in New York City. It has hosted more than 100 visiting scientists and students at its dedicated, multi-purpose main facility, which opened in September 2010 at Fort Totten in Bayside, Queens.