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EcoFlora: 2021 Year-End Highlights

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Botanist Elizabeth Gandy and Volunteer Sandra Robinson at the Deer Prairie Creek BioBlitz. Photo credit: Anastasia Sallen.

As we come to the end of our second year with the EcoFlora project we wanted to share some highlights and statistics from a variety of our projects. We are thankful to our volunteers for their valuable contributions to citizen science and hope these observations continue to enrich their understanding of our local flora and fauna as well as aid in botanical research.  

The Sarasota-Manatee EcoFlora project went live on iNaturalist at the beginning of October 2019. Since then, there have been over 20,300 observations of 1,522 species by 689 identifiers uploaded to the project. The majority of these observations were made by citizen scientists and validated by botanists, earning them the “Research Grade” status. 

Some of our most exciting accomplishments this year include: 

  • EcoFlora has vouchered 25 plants new to either Sarasota or Manatee Counties. This means that these plants were observed on iNaturalist and that botanists determined that they had not yet been collected and prepared as a permanent herbarium specimen record.  
  • Some of the most significant observations this year include the vulnerable Jameson’s waterlily (Nymphaea jamesoniana), the native saltmarsh false foxglove (Agalinis maritima var. grandiflora), and a few non-native species that appear to have escaped from cultivation and are currently under investigation. 
  • Since October 1, 2020 the Sarasota-Manatee EcoFlora Project has mapped 1032 observations of 52 threatened species. 
  • iNaturalist is continually used for the preservation of Florida’s largest Tillandsia population by recording the distribution of the Mexican bromeliad weevil (Metamasius callizona) which continues to attack these epiphytes throughout their range in Florida.  
  • Currently, our most observed species is the Tillandsia utriculata, the giant airplant, with 320 observations in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. The giant airplant is currently listed as endangered, and documentation of the local populations helps to advance scientific understanding of the distribution, threats, and adaptations of this species. Our most recent EcoQuest, Tilly Tally Two, focused on identifying the wide variety of species of the genus Tillandsia within our area. 

Each month the EcoFlora project conducts one or two BioBlitzes, an event in which we visit a natural preserve or state park with a team of volunteers and botanist to document as many botanical species as possible. All are welcome to join! Check our website for updates on our monthly EcoQuest and BioBlitzes.  

Thank you again to all our volunteers this year. We wish you the best of holidays and look forward to all the future observations.  

Happy New Year!

The EcoFlora Team