New Brunswick

Searching for life in the Kennedy Lakes Protected Natural Area

More than 50 researchers, students and artists have begun scouring the Kennedy Lakes Protected Natural area, west of Renous, for the 11th annual BiotaNB.

11th annual BiotaNB event under way, led by New Brunswick Museum

Don McAlpine, New Brunswick Museum curator of zoology, searches for millipedes during the 2018 BiotaNB at Spednic Lake, along the New Brunswick-Maine border. (New Brunswick Museum/Facebook)

More than 50 researchers, students and artists have begun scouring the Kennedy Lakes Protected Natural area, between Renous and Plaster Rock, for the 11th annual BiotaNB.

"These sites have been set aside to protect biodiversity," said New Brunswick Museum curator of zoology Don McAlpine.

"To protect biodiversity, you need to know what's there."

A small portion of the crew and gear for BiotaNB 2019 (New Brunswick Museum/Facebook)

The New Brunswick Museum is leading a 20-year project to take inventory of the 10 largest protected natural areas, or PNAs, in the province.

Researchers are visiting each area twice to see species that come out at different times in the season.

This is their first year at Kennedy Lakes.

"It's a remote area, for sure," McAlpine said Friday.

Abbey Greer and Brittany Harvey help move canoes to a launch site at Second Fowler Lake in Northumberland County. (New Brunswick Museum/Facebook)

A set-up crew arrived earlier in the week. They had to bring six pickup trucks and a moving van full of field equipment, generators and trailers to use as labs.

Also, because of the lack of facilities nearby, they had to hire a cook this year. And in order to get around the PNA, they've set up a number of portage sites.

"There are roads around the perimeter," McAlpine said. "But there's not a lot into the interior so the best way for us to get around is by canoe or by bushwhacking — by walking and navigating by compass. So, it's a tough site to get around in."

Ichthyologist Gayathri Sreedharan inspects a minnow trap at Second Fowler Lake in the Kennedy Lakes Protected Natural Area. (New Brunswick Museum/Facebook)

They're working rain or shine. It's been quite wet so far, which hasn't been great for observing moths.

That's one of the things they're focusing on this year. They also have "a good mycology crew" looking for fungi, including Dr. Alfredo Justo, who was just hired on as the museum's curator of botany and mycology.

"He's been kind of dropped off the deep edge," McAlpine joked.

Richard Blacquiere and Sandor Mathe prepare a gill net for fish surveys. (New Brunswick Museum/Facebook)

Also taking part this year are experts on amphibians, ants and small mammals.

New species have been discovered each year since the first bio blitz in Jacquet River Gorge in 2009, said McAlpine. They've included beetles, lichens, fungi, slime moulds and earthworms.

White form of the pink lady slipper (Cypripedium acaule) near Second Fowler Lake. (New Brunswick Museum/Facebook)

"There are 206 PNAs in New Brunswick now and none of them are particularly well known in terms of their biodiversity."

That's an issue, said McAlpine, because there's a legislative requirement that management plans be developed for each protected site.

Michael McEwing is one of the artists taking part in this year's BiotaNB. (New Brunswick Museum/Facebook)

Jacquet River Gorge already has a management plan.

McAlpine said BiotaNB was involved in developing that plan and provided a lot of data for it.

An open house to showcase this year's Kennedy Lakes findings is planned for July 7 at Half Way In Outfitters, 58 kilometres east of Plaster Rock on the Renous Highway.