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What rare plants and animals can you find on campus? Join in the BioBlitz

Do you also love a city where nature can bloom, crawl and flutter freely and exuberantly? And do you fancy a challenge out in the fresh air? If so, grab your mobile and take part in the BioBlitz 'Higher Education is Flourishing' from 22 May.

A BioBlitz is a challenge to record as many plants and aimals as possible within a set time and location, in this case for a month long on the sites of higher education institutions. This BioBlitz is the idea of Students of Tomorrow (Studenten van Morgen), a collaboration of students of 12 Dutch universities and colleges that are keen to integrate sustainability in their education. These eco-friendly students hope to be able to record at least 2,000 species using their mobile phones. 

Download the app Obsidentify

Are you a member of staff or a student, and are you interested in boosting the Leiden contribution to this challenge with your observations? If so, make sure you’re at the ready for the International Day of Biodiversity on Wednesday 22 May. The only thing you need is an account on www.waarneming.nl, the (free) Obsidentify app on your phone (Google Play or App Store) and a keen interest in everything that grows, flowers, crawls and flutters on University grounds.

Will you be the first to spot a ringed plover?

Once you made an account on waarneming.nl, you link this account in the dashboard to the app Obsidentify and off you go. You make a photo of the plant, bird or insect using the app and within a  few seconds you’ll know what the species is. When you save it, your name, the location and your observation will be recorded automatically for the BioBlitz.

Reward for rare species

Aranka Virágh, Sustainability Coordinator at the Real Estate department and the person responsible, for biodiversity on the campuses, is making things even more exciting: if you discover a rare species or you make the most recordings, you could be the winner of an eco-prize. ‘The estimate is that we should be able to score well above a thousand species, and above that it will get more difficult. Then it’s the less common or rarer species that are more important.

That means it’s a fun challenge to look for the rare species. Aranka has another tip: ‘There is already a lot of special stuff to be found in the grounds of Leiden University’s Hortus Botanicus, but there are also some amazing species on the Leiden Bio Science Park, such as the rare lesser ramshorn snail, a small water snail. You can also look for wild orchids, kingfishers, the black redstart, the common house sparrow or the goldfinch.’

Ringed plover

Above all, take photos of anything that crosses your field of vision, because this BioBlitz is all about working together to map biodiversity on our campuses. Aranka: ‘You’ll see sparrow hawks, kestrels and swifts on the Leiden Bio Science Park. Oystercatchers also nest there and the other day someone saw the little ringed plover. There will also be all kinds of medicinal plants on the park’s Hartlijn, which runs through the park. Campus The Hague is less green, but it is still taking part. So, keep your eyes peeled. It would be super if we managed to reach 2,000 species together.

It will be made known at the start of July whether we’ve been successful. The universities and colleges will use the results as input for improving biodiversity on their grounds. In the case of Leiden University, this will mainly be on the  Leiden Bio Science Park.

Text and banner photo: Nieske van der Voort
Photo of ringed plover: Pierre Rigou via Pixabay

Leiden University is getting greener

Leiden University can boast that it’s getting greener every year. In the past year, too, more than a 1,000 sq.m. of land on and around our campuses have been planted with new vegetation. We have gone further with creating green roofs, even where there are solar panels. On the roof of the Schouwburgstraat in The Hague there is now a solar-sedum roof where the sedum grows under the solar panels. The Westerdijk garage on the Leiden Bio Science Park (LBSP) has been given a green roof that provides wildlife with opportunities for nesting, shelter and food.

In the paved inner cities of Leiden and The Hague, we are adding greenery where possible. The patches of ground under fifty trees on the Rapenburg have recently been planted. What is special about this project is that students and residents will look after the area together. In The Hague, LUGO has provided the back garden of the Schouwburgstraat with more greenery.

Medicinal plants
This year, we will be continuing to work on the Hartlijn, on the Leiden Bio Science Park. This is the cycle and pedestrian path that cuts across the park. The Hartlijn will be bordered along its whole length by a biodiverse strip of garden with 21 species of recognised medicinal herbs. 

The University is currently developing a strategy for improving the quality and harmony of the green areas on the LBSP. We are aso working with the Leiden municipality to measure the fauna on the LBSP and to develop a label to provide insight into health, climate adaptation and biodiversity by sector. 

Higher education is working on biodiversity

Would you like to know what higher education in the Netherlands, including Leiden University, has already done to boost biodiversity on their sites? If so, you can watch this video from 2023.

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