Biologist Lisa Standley, knee deep in muck, pushes her way through swamp trees and grasses overhead, pausing every few steps to speak a few words in Latin.
She points to one plant. “Onoclea sensibilis,” she says before pointing to another that seems to cover Fowl Meadow.
“Symplocarpus foetidus, or skunk cabbage,” she says, checking the names off a list of hundreds of species common to wetlands in the Northeast.
Standley is a curator of vascular plants at the New England Botanical Club and recently volunteered at the second annual Dedham BioBlitz, an effort to find and identify as many species as possible throughout town in a 24-hour period.
Dedham Natural Wonders, the organization that planned the event, hopes the findings will help residents around the region appreciate natural spaces and fill a void left when the state discontinued its Massachusetts Biodiversity Days a few years ago.
‘Probably 90 percent of people don’t think about [natural spaces], and it’s our world.’
This year’s event in Dedham brought teams of biologists and nature enthusiasts to several locations around the town — the Town Forest, Fowl Meadow, Wigwam Pond, and Wilson Mountain Meadow.
Others spent one night setting up a white sheet covered in a mixture of sugar, beer, bananas, rum, and molasses, to attract night insects that were then photographed and identified.
BioBlitz is not unique to Dedham. Several other towns in the area have held similar events.
Sharon holds a Biodiversity Day each year and the nonprofit Sharon Friends of Conservation keeps up a list of wildlife and plants that residents enter into a public online database.
In Concord, home of Peter Alden, the mastermind behind the first BioBlitz, teams have located close to 1,600 species in the allotted time.
For the Dedham search, Suffolk University biology professor Peter Burn went to Fowl Meadow. He said events like BioBlitz not only help him stay up on his plant and insect identification, they can serve as a valuable land management tool.
“Probably 90 percent of people don’t think about [natural spaces], and it’s our world,” Burn said, adding that if residents learn to care for natural spaces, they won’t disappear. “They’re not fragile if you leave them alone.”
However, Standley was quick to say that while BioBlitz was a good way to involve the community, a true study of the spaces would take much more time.
“BioBlitz is a one-day snapshot, a good introduction, but it doesn’t provide all the information you really need about what lives here,” she said. “For that, you would need to spend so much more time.”
Biologist Irina Kadis, who helped lead the opening hike through trails behind the NewBridge on the Charles center, said the event can also help the public realize the toll construction takes on the native plants and animals.
“Everywhere you’ve made nice trails, bridges — it’s the little things put by us that you’ll find bring in the invasive plants,” she said. “Some people think invasive is OK, but when native plants get wiped out, they don’t play the same role in the life chains.”
Organizers this year hoped to find 1,000 species of flora and fauna, twice what was found last year during a six-hour event. As of last week, about 700 species, both native and invasive, had been reported, said Stephanie Radner, the founder of Dedham Natural Wonders.
Commonly spotted plants included several types of ferns and sedges, and several teams also spotted butterflies, dragonflies, and even a red-orange nymphal leafhopper.
Kadis said she finds the abundance of invasive species the most frustrating.
“Beautiful or not, they don’t belong here,” she said pointing to a patch of green filled with non-native plants.
While the teams were out in the field, Radner and others worked the educational and community angle of the event at the Dolan Center in Dedham.
Stations were set up for children to learn about keying out — a process that leads the finder through a series of questions that ultimately identifies the plant or animal. Science author Melissa Stewart and the Blue Hills Trailside Museum also gave presentations.
Anthony Castrio, 17, and his friend Emile Okada, 16, said they attended the event to learn more about science and what sort of plants and animals lived in Dedham.
“Stuff like this make it easier for the beginner to see what’s out there,” Castrio said. “Plus, it’s interesting.”
It is community involvement that organizers hope to harness and use to educate and excite children and those not directly involved in science.
“We need to look at the beauty of these things and really sell that to the next generation,” Burn said.
Dedham Natural Wonders will publish a list of all the species found throughout the town. Over time, Radner said, she hopes to partner with other communities like Sharon to create regional field guides.
She also hopes the information will demonstrate the need for wildlife protection to town officials, who someday could provide such things as signs and boardwalks to create access to the nature areas hidden behind Dedham’s many neighborhoods and commercial buildings.
“A lot of people think of Dedham as Providence Highway . . . Legacy Place, the car dealers, the box stores,” she said, “and there’s a lot of open space in Dedham that we really just need to get access to and share with people so they realize it’s not just an asphalt parking lot.”
Visit www.boston.com/dedham to view an audio slideshow of Stephanie Radner talking about the Dedham BioBlitz.