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Many people off of work for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service took the holiday’s meaning to heart and gave their time to volunteer in the community. Some participated in organized events, such as the Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation (TMPF) “BioBlitz” at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park just north of Panther Valley.
TMPF volunteers worked with members of the community from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. for the three-hour phenology event in which every animal, insect, and plant in the park was cataloged.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park is not exceptionally large, but a fair amount of it is made up of sagebrush and other native plant life. Volunteers combed bushes and rolled over rocks in the cold, magnifying glasses and aspirators in hand. Good gloves and a tough fortitude were necessary for the cold morning, but hot chocolate, tea, and snacks helped even the coldest volunteers get back to the hunt.
A microscope set up on a park picnic table was a crowd favorite, regardless of the user’s age. Eager bug hunters waited in line to show off their discovered arachnids, insects, and other mysterious finds. The microscope was connected to a nearby laptop, offering a live view of its subjects for ease of viewing, and a plethora of natural world books helped people to identify various catches.
A woodlouse spider was the most popular find during my visit, which the crowd was told is a predator of the woodlouse, known more commonly as the pill bug or roly-poly. The spider had bright red legs and a brown thorax and was as energetic as could be, running from one side of its glass encasement to the other and flashing by the microscope lens to display its multiple eyes and fangs. Luckily for those insects going under the microscope they were returned to their place of origin once they were cataloged and viewed by volunteers.
Insects and arachnids of course weren’t the only animals being cataloged; birds and mammals were also being counted. A kestrel, a member of the falcon genus, was spotted by volunteers, the first such sighting at the park in three years according to a TMPF volunteer.