A census of some of the many things that crawl and fly around Iowa’s public land is getting underway this week. Iowa Department of Natural Resources biologist, Tyler Harms, oversees what’s called the Iowa Multiple Species Inventory and Monitoring Program (MSIM).
“We survey for currently nine taxonomic groups. So we have birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, odonates — which are dragonflies and damselflies — butterflies, fish, freshwater mussels and terrestrial snails,” Harms says. The technicians go out to the public properties and use a variety of different methods to measure the populations of the wildlife.
“For reptiles and amphibians we conduct what we call visual encounter surveys that are basically a time search of a specific property where we look for animals and count everything that we see,” Harms explains. “Another kind of a contrasting example would be for birds, we conduct standardized bird point counts, where we visit seven points on the property. For each point we are stationary for about ten minutes and we count all of the birds that we see and hear.”
These surveys began in 2006 as a way to document species that were considered endangered. Harms says the survey expanded and now helps keep track of just over one-thousand wildlife species — and sometimes they add to that list. “We’ve actually through this project discovered or found six new dragonfly species to Iowa since the project started. We’ve also added a number of new county records of species,” Harms says.
The inventory will continue through October. “The overall goal is number one, basically to just kind of gain some baseline inventory information on the wildlife in Iowa. …We can also do lots of things with the data that we collect in the field, one of the main things, what we’d like to do, is to relate the habitat information on the public properties that we survey to the animals that we find there,” Harms says.
He says that information can help the caretakers of those public lands to do a better job of managing the habitat for the wildlife.