Big Thicket National Preserve: Chronolog Citizen Science
About Big Thicket National Preserve
Big Thicket National Preserve (BTNP), a unit of the US National Park Service, is located in Southeast Texas, near the city of Beaumont and 75 miles northeast of Houston. Established in October of 1974, the preserve consists of nine land units and six water corridors encompassing more than 113,000 acres. The Big Thicket often referred to as a “biological crossroads,” is a transition zone between four distinct vegetation types – the moist eastern hardwood forest, the southwestern desert, the southeastern swamp, and the central prairies. Species from all of these different vegetation types come together in the thicket, exhibiting a variety of vegetation and wildlife that has received global interest. In 1981, Big Thicket National Preserve was also designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and in 2001 the American Bird Conservancy classified the preserve as a “Globally Important Bird Area.”
Project Description & History
This project positively impacts the longleaf restoration project that the preserve has been a part of for over 10 years. This project will help BTNP monitor both the natural reforestation of the habitat and the efforts that the preserve are leading, by manual control and fire control of the understory.
The Chronolog Citizen Science project engages visitors in the documentation of natural changes at each site. Big Thicket National Preserve hosts three Chronolog stations in the preserve, highlighting three different ecosystems. One is located along the Kirby Nature Trail along Cypress Tupelo Slough. This slough is a wetland ecosystem that goes through wet and dry periods during the year, which is great for a time-lapse study of the slough. Another station is located at the Pitcher Plant bog along the Turkey Creek trail. Here visitors can see one of four carnivorous plants found at Big Thicket, the Pitcher Plant. This location is of special interest, in the spring when all the pitcher plants are blooming and, in the fall, as they die off and change from green to brown. Some of the most dramatic changes to this location happen every 2 to 4 years when the preserve’s Fire Management Crew conducts a prescribed burn in this location, bringing new life to the bog. The final site is located in the Big Sandy Creek Unit, where there has been a monumental forest restoration project, resulting in over 100,000 longleaf pine seedlings planted in 2015 and 2016. Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) is 1 of 3 native pine species in this region of Texas. It was formerly one the most abundant pine species across the southeastern United States but has since declined due to logging and fire suppression. Both the bog and centennial forest are part of active reforestation projects, and the Chronolog pictures can provide photographic evidence of the natural reforestation.