As the village celebrates the 150th birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted’s General Plan of Riverside, the landscape architect’s namesake organization and the Riverside Landscape Advisory Commission are enlisting the help of scientists and residents to create a biospheric record of the community.

During a two-day “BioBlitz” on May 10 and 11, the hope is to compile a record of mammals, plants, birds and insects that inhabit the wooded areas of Riverside along the Des Plaines River from the railroad bridge just west of the Riverside Swim Club to Miller Road.

“It will be hugely important for the future,” said Cathy Maloney, who is president of both the Landscape Advisory Commission and the Frederick Law Olmsted Society. “It will be a useful record, describing the natural features of Riverside today.”

Using an app called iNaturalist, scientists and volunteers will log their findings by taking photographs of flora and fauna and uploading them and identifying information to create a digital record that can be continuously updated.

Because this is the inaugural effort, said Maloney, there likely will be some trial and error. But, she said resident volunteers are welcome to participate in both days of the project, with the main effort taking place, Saturday, May 11.

People wishing to participate on May 11 are asked to register online here. Residents are welcome to participate on a drop-in basis for what’s being called the Owl Prowl on Friday, May 10 from 8 to 11:30 p.m.

According to Maloney, the Owl Prowl on May 10 is being led by Matt Mulligan, a wildlife researcher at Lincoln Park Zoo; Melinda Pruett-Jones, a Riverside resident and ornithologist; and Jill Mateo, a Riverside resident and mammalogist at University of Chicago.

“A lot of scientists were interested in this and intrigued by the fact that it’s the first time it’s being done in Riverside, and that it’s so close to the city but still has all of this nature,” Maloney said.

Mulligan said he will be trapping and identifying small mammals that appear overnight on May 10-11.

“I will handle the captured mammal and the volunteers could take a photo and log information on the species captured before we release the individual back into the wild,” Mulligan said in an email.

Mulligan will also set up motion-triggered cameras that can record the presence of mammals, from squirrels to coyotes and deer.

Pruett-Jones, meanwhile, will guide volunteers that night to places where they might be able to spot nighthawks, owls and bats.

On May 11, volunteers can sign up to participate in one of three sessions – at 7 a.m., 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. – where scientists will lead three-hour nature walks along the river to document the flora and fauna.

The 1 p.m. session on May 11 is open to children under the age of 14 who are accompanied by an adult. People are asked to meet for the Owl Prowl and the three-hour nature walks at the Scout Cabin, 417 Fairbank Road. 

Street parking is available on one side of the street.