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Photograph plants, animals and insects throughout September to help city find ways to improve pollinator habitats.

COURTESY PHOTO: TUALATIN PARKS & RECREATION DEPARTMENT - During September, the Tualatin Parks & Recreation Department is asking residents to photograph plants, insects and wildlife so it can enhance pollinator habitats.Calling all pollinator chroniclers!

Throughout September, Tualatin is sponsoring a "bio-blitz," a program in which community members are asked to create a snapshot of the variety of plants, insects and animals that inhabit the city.

The event is part of the national Parks for Pollinators campaign, supported by the National Recreation and Park Association and The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation, with the goal of providing information about the city's varied pollinators.

"We're participating for the entire month and asking community members to go out and take photos of pollinators, plants and anything of interest throughout the entire city for the entire month and upload it into the app iNaturalist," said Kyla Cesca, office coordinator for the Tualatin Parks & Recreation Department. "It's kind of fun to play with the app."

The iNaturalist app immediately identifies and uploads the greenery or creatures that a smartphone user photographs. Visit the Tualatin Parks & Recreation website and click on the Bee City USA tab for more information.

"It's a good way for people to get involved, but doing it on their own schedule," said Cesca.

In the end, the project is expected to help Tualatin improve natural pollinators' habitats.

"Probably a lot of people don't think of all the different types of pollinators there are," Cesca said. It's not just bees, she added, but everything from moths to butterflies to bats.

Tualatin was designated a Bee City USA Affiliate in October 2019, joining an estimated 100 other communities throughout the nation who support sustaining pollinators. The designation is granted by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, which is headquartered in Portland.

Matthew Shepherd, director of communications and outreach for the Xerces Society, said bio-blitzes can be helpful in several ways.

"Too often, we don't know what species live in an area, and this type of event can be great to help fill in the knowledge gaps, especially for less popular or less well studied groups of animals, such as insects," Shepherd said. "A bio-blitz can bring lots of pairs of eyes onto the chosen area, and it can be amazing just how many species are found and recorded."

Shepherd says it's a great way to get residents involved and looking at what's around them.

"Community science plays a valuable role in conservation, for sure," Shepherd said.

Bio-blitzes do have their limitations, Shepherd noted. They give only a snapshot of what is happening in a location at one point in time, so they can't determine whether the population changes during the summer, for example, and they can miss species that have seasonal activity. COURTESY PHOTO: TUALATIN PARKS & RECREATION DEPARTMENT - Numerous insects, including this dragonfly at Ibach Park, act as pollinators.

"This is particularly an issue with insects, as there are species that are active only in spring, for example, that will be missing from a bio-blitz done in late summer," he said, adding the same is true for migratory birds if a survey is held in winter.

Protecting area pollinators has become increasingly important in recent years.

According to the Xerces Society, the largest native bee kill that's ever been recorded occurred in nearby Wilsonville on June 17, 2013, after 50,000 bumble bees were destroyed after blooming linden trees were sprayed with the pesticide dinotefuran.

Since then, dinotefuran and other pesticides have been banned for application on linden, basswood and other species of trees in Oregon.

Today, Wilsonville is a Bee City USA, with programs that focus on supporting bees and other pollinators. So is West Linn, a few miles to the east. Tualatin became a Bee City USA in 2019.

Over the last year, Tualatin has helped enhanced pollinator habitats by hosting five "Put Down Roots" campaigns, which have included 240 volunteers planting 3,300 plants throughout the city, according to city officials. That included enhancing 6 acres of habitat and adding 14,400 square feet near Ibach Park.

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