BioBlitz in Macon County

4th graders find salamanders, birds, frogs, and invertebrates

kids in creek
Children explored the creeks and natural areas around their school. Photo by Katie Bower

On May 25th, fourth graders from South Macon Elementary School in Macon County, North Carolina, went beyond the playground to tally species right in their own school grounds.

The BioBlitz was organized by Jason Love, site manager for the Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, and Jennifer Love, Macon County STEM coordinator, with help from Stephanie Laseter of Center for Integrated Forest Science and Synthesis, Mark Hopey of Southern Appalachian Raptor Research, Kevin Fitzpatrick of All Species Photography, and Jason Meador of Mainspring Conservation Trust.

Students learned about macroinvertebrates and fish that are native to Skeenah Creek, which flows along the boundary of the school property. They had an opportunity to use kick nets, identify the species of macroinvertebrates found, and learn how these species indicate stream health.

The students also learned about ornithology research – mist nets were set up in and around the early successional forest and wetland on the school property. Students saw how ornithologists capture birds in the net. After removing the birds from the net, the group was able to see the process of banding, learn about the measurements taken, and what instruments are used by ornithologists.

children look at bird
Students held birds, and learned how ornithologists capture and band birds. Photo by Katie Bower.

A week before the BioBlitz, leaf packs were placed in a small tributary of Skeenah Creek. Students were able to pull up the leaf packs, and using buckets and strainers, search the packs for salamanders. They even caught one fish, as well as a gravid female Ocoee Salamander.

Several of the animals were photographed on a special lighting table by nature photographer Kevin Fitzpatrick.  These pictures and associated data will be uploaded to the citizen science site iNaturalist. Samantha Hanners, 4th grader, “loved the bird station because it was neat to see the birds up close, but the crawdad was my favorite critter! It was huge!”

In all of these stations, the focus of learning was on identifying characteristics of the animals’ habitat, and species adaptations. Fourth grade teacher, Cindy Dryman, summed up the day, “Throughout the year my students thrived on investigations and experiments where they could apply their knowledge to “hands on” real world scientific experiences. This was an awesome culmination and reinforcement of the mindset we established all year long!”

The final tally of species seen or heard was:

Students headed upstream, looking for aquatic insects, fish, salamanders, and other animals. Photo by Katie Bower.

Birds (*netted and banded)

  • Turkey Vulture
  • Tree Swallow
  • Barn Swallow
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Chimney Swift
  • American Robin
  • Acadian Flycatcher*
  • Gray Catbird*
  • Carolina Wren
  • Common Yellowthroat*
  • Northern Cardinal*
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Red-winged Blackbird


  • Dragonfly nymph
  • Stonefly nymph
  • Mayfly nymph
  • Caddisfly nymph
  • Waterpenny
  • Cranefly larvae

    Photo by Stephanie Laseter, USFS.
  • Aquatic snail
  • Wolf spider
  • Millipede
  • Appalachian Brook Crayfish
  • Roly-poly
  • Earthworm


  • Mottled Sculpin
  • Creek Chub


  • Northern Green Frog (juvenile)


  • Blue Ridge Two-lined Salamander
  • Three-lined Salamander (uncommon in Macon County)
  • Ocoee Salamander
  • Black-bellied Salamander

For more information, contact Stephanie Laseter at

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