Chad Rittenhouse has been bird-watching for nearly six years. While walking a stretch of the MKT Trail in the Flat Branch Watershed on Friday afternoon, Rittenhouse shared his self-taught hobby with newbies eager to identify Columbia’s bird species. In between bird sightings, Rittenhouse stressed to his group the importance of a watershed by saying anything that ends up in a stream directly affects the overall health of its watershed.
A watershed is an area of land surrounding a body of water that catches the rain and snow that drains into that body of water.
Rittenhouse is part of a group of MU graduate students in the conservation biology program. Along with other members of this group, he has been planning Columbia’s first BioBlitz — an event in which teams go into an area to identify as many species as possible in a limited amount of time.
Sara Storrs, another graduate student who had the idea to bring BioBlitz to Columbia, said she hopes this year’s event, which ran from 3 p.m. Friday to 3 p.m. Saturday, can increase awareness of the many species present in the Flat Branch Watershed.
Storrs estimated that more than 100 species of plants, animals, insects, fungi and amphibians had been found by midmorning on Saturday. Accurate numbers will be available after experts analyze samples during the next couple of weeks.
The Flat Branch Watershed was chosen for its central location. Storrs said many are familiar with Flat Branch Creek, but not everyone understands how many different species call the watershed home.