By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jun 06, 2023 at 2:01 PM

This weekend, Milwaukee Public Museum will host its eighth annual BioBlitz, an event that challenges scientists and surveyors to collaborate to find as many species of plants and animals as possible in a 24-hour period.


Founded in part by MPM President & CEO Dr. Ellen Censky during her time at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History in the 1990s, the BioBlitz – June 9-10 at Havenwoods State Forest – has since spread around the globe.

“Biodiversity is the study of living things in a particular area,“ said BioBlitz organizer Julia Colby, who is MPM’s Invertebrate & Vertebrate Collections Manager.

“When we put that into context, many people think of the rainforest and the variety of plants and animals there. But biodiversity is in Wisconsin, too – in our lakes, in our parks and even in our own backyards.”

This weekend, more than 60 conservationists, biologists and nature lovers will visit Havenwoods, 6141 N. Hopkins St., which is the only urban state forest in Wisconsin.

The forest, grasslands, wetlands and ponds on the 237-acre site are managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, but were home to the Milwaukee County House of Correction from 1917 to 1945. From 1956 until 1963, it housed a U.S. Army Nike Missile base.

Nike Missile Base
The Havenwoods Nike Missile site. (PHOTO: Courtesy of Waymarking)

Surveying begins at 3 p.m. Friday, June 9 and the public is invited from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday to attend the Festival of Biodiversity.

Lunch is at noon and admission is free.

At the event, guests can take part in nature-related activities like pond scooping, DIY plant pressing and butterfly, plant, bird and nature walks. The surveyors will also be on hand to talk about their BioBlitz findings.

“These activities offer people the chance to engage with the outdoors in a unique way, and, for some, the opportunity to meet a scientist for the first time,” said Colby said.

“BioBlitzes also offer a platform to talk to the public about community science and why these large surveys are an efficient and effective way to collect data and document new species that may be used in research or for conservation efforts.”


There will also be stations with representatives from partners like ReFlo, Mequon Nature Preserve, Friends of Havenwoods State Forest, Riveredge Nature Center, Wehr Nature Center, Havenwoods State Forest and Xerces Society.

At last year’s BioBlitz in Bristol Woods County Park in Kenosha County, surveyors found two species previously in Wisconsin, the Packera glabella (aka butterweed) and the oak hairstreak butterfly.

“BioBlitzes are not only important biological inventories – they help better connect us to nature,” said Censky said.

“When we are more aware of the plants and animals that share our city and neighborhoods, we are more likely to appreciate our natural environment.”

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.