There is no shortage of wildlife on one of Georgia’s smallest barrier islands.
During Audubon International’s 2016 BioBlitz, a species-counting competition, 161 volunteers counted 430 different plants and animals on and around one of Jekyll Island’s four golf courses.
The annual effort returns to Jekyll Island on April 26 and May 3, and organizers are hoping to recruit more participants and spot even more species.
The BioBlitz guided tours begin at 9 a.m. both days at the golf course pro shop, 322 Captain Wylly Road, Jekyll Island. One of the island’s golf courses will be closed and BioBlitz participants will use the links for a species-counting scavenger hunt.
“The BioBlitz is definitely a different way to explore nature on Jekyll Island, and get a feel for everything the island has to offer,” said Jessica Scott, a spokeswoman for the Jekyll Island Authority. “If you’re not a golfer, you might not see some of these parts of the island.”
Scott, who grew up visiting Jekyll Island and now works there, said the BioBlitz event is an important effort that fits with the Jekyll Island Authority’s mission to conserve the state-owned island.
“It’s important to keep the island accessible for folks who might not otherwise have access to a natural setting,” she said. “An important part of our role is to act as the stewards of this special place.”
Last year, 33 locations around the world took part in the BioBlitz, and Jekyll Island led the way in total number of participants.
Its four golf courses are also one of the few in the Deep South to be certified by Audubon, a national conservation group.
The certification recognizes the courses as pesticide-free and water-use conscious.
Yank Moore, a conservation coordinator for the Jekyll Island Authority, said keeping the golf courses — and the island as a whole — as natural as possible is key to allowing species to flourish.
“When people think about conservation, they tend to think about it as one species at a time,” Moore said. “But we manage everything all together. It’s a holistic approach.”
The upcoming BioBlitz will be an opportunity for conservationists like Moore to better understand how well the island’s wildlife is doing, and this year, technology will help participants.
A mobile phone app called “iNaturalist” will help species spotters keep track of the wildlife they’ve counted, as well has help identify flora and fauna during the BioBlitz.
Users can take advantage of the free app, available for Andriod and iPhone, to record observations and help conservationists monitor changes in biodiversity.
“There is a lot that’s unique to this island,” Moore said. “We try to protect some of the special areas on the island, and we deal with a lot of different types of plants, trees and animals.”
Last month, Moore and his fellow conservationists even got a few more trees to watch out for. The Jekyll Island Authority set aside $10,000 to plant about 400 new trees around the island, Scott said. Members of AmeriCorps, a federal government program, planted maples, cedars, long leaf pines, live oaks and other tree species.
“That really helped us with our Tree City USA designation, and goes along with our mission of conservation, preservation and education,” Scott said.
The reforestation project “happened kind of quietly, but it’s something where the public can touch and see what’s happening on the island,” Scott said.
For more information about the BioBlitz guided tours on April 26 and May 3, email Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone wishing to attend the BioBlitz is asked to email Moore ahead of time to make a reservation.