It was Edward O. Wilson, the renowned Harvard biologist, who coined the term "biodiversity" to refer to all the intricate and varied life on Earth. And it was one of Wilson's proteges, Peter Alden of Massachusetts, who helped establish America's first statewide biodiversity event: Biodiversity Days 2000. Now it's time for an encore.
From the Berkshire Hills to Cape Cod and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, Massachusetts was inundated with professional and amateur naturalists last year. A total of 85 towns took part, 150 schools, and 12,000 citizens.
Participants found hundreds of species of wildflowers, mammals ranging from shrews to whales, and practically every frog, turtle, snake, and bird that resides in the state. Besides these relatively obvious organisms, people found a fantastic array of other life: sea squirts, clam worms, and kelp at the ocean; lichens, mushrooms, and mosses in wooded areas; and sedges, grasses, and insects in meadows.
And what was the point of all the searching? Participants were asked to identify at least 200 different species of living creatures in their individual communities. In doing so, these people became more familiar with the wealth of animals and plants in their backyards, parks, and other open spaces.
Biodiversity Days 2001 is scheduled to begin June 8 and continue through the weekend. Organizers expect 250 towns in Massachusetts to participate and 3,000 local species to be identified. Expect even bigger numbers next year. And expect Biodiversity Days to spread to other states soon.