Biodiversity in Šilainiai neighbourhood, Kaunas, Lithuania.
Kaunas city is changing rapidly and in this fast pace it is easy to overlook the details, even though they are important to us. In 2019, during the project “Šilainiai Bees” (Šilainių bitės), local community members have identified, that bees are important to them, however, there is a problem – the grass is being cut short in all neighbourhood so that the bees have not much to eat. Clearly defined and easy to manage “Food for bees – flowering meadow islands” were identified as one inexpensive and easy to do action, that could help to solve the problem. The pilot “Meadow island” is installed in Fort no. 8. We hope that it could potentially be an example/ inspiration to other “Meadow islands” in the rest of the city.
But what about the other species of animals and birds? We realised the we know very little about what is out there. What biological diversity is in our neighbourhood? What animals, plats, mushrooms grow here? And, when we find out what we have – how should we act, so that they don’t disappear?
Many Šilainiai residents are proud of how green the neighbourhood is. However, these green spaces are slowly shrinking or are under threat, often without realising, by the decisions of the residents themselves.
Fort no. 8 is a military heritage site that is now a park for the local communities. Part of the process of creating a long-term strategy for Fort no. 8, in summer of 2020, we have investigated its biodiversity. Collection of data was done collectively with local residents by using a free app iNaturalist from April until end of the year.
Together with biological diversity expert Tomas Pocius and ornithologist Mindaugas Kirstukas, we hosted a series of on-site educational events that triggered the curiosity of local communities to explore their local environment for the very first time. More than 100 participants in these events, more joining remotely via app, 249 animal and plant species identified in the Fort no. 8 area. Live online map can be viewed HERE.
June: Species search (“Šilainių rūšių ralis”) – a game, where individuals or teams in a specified time need to find, photograph and upload different species of animals and plants to the app iNaturalist. The one who uploads the most identifiable species wins.
The search happened in the Fort no. 8 area and was led by biological diversity expert, naturalist Tomas Pocius. Together with a small group we explored different areas of the fort and were surprised to discover plant species that you would not normally expect in a city-park, aswell as animals like newts – we found them in two water holes! With Tomas’ help participants were able to look at different bugs and insects that they’ve just found through a portable microscope and learn about their life and behaviour. The event sparked interest from from local families and youth and led to more explorations of our surroundings – just now – at night time….
Species search at Fort no. 8, 2020. Image by Vytautas Paplauskas.
July: Night Moth Watch – find out about night moths and other local insects, find them and photograph them, ask questions!
This one broke all our educational event records: it started 9 pm, was attended by many more families with children and youth that we could have expected and lasted until 2am! However, the most special thing was the depth of the educational experience: actively looking, joy of discovery and asking lost of questions! Urban garden area in the Fort no. 8 was full of curious citizen-scientists discovering this place in a completely different way. With the help of biological diversity expert Tomas Pocius our view and understanding of this environment and it’s ecosystem has changed and will never be the same. Things that we have never noticed before became visible.
National Moth Week celebrates the beauty, life cycles, and habitats of moths. “Moth-ers” of all ages and abilities are encouraged to learn about, observe, and document moths in their backyards, parks, and neighborhoods. National Moth Week is being held, worldwide, during the last full week of July. NMW offers everyone, everywhere a unique opportunity to become a Citizen Scientist and contribute scientific data about moths. Through partnerships with major online biological data depositories, NMW participants can help map moth distribution and provide needed information on other life history aspects around the globe.
Due to the incredible feedback we received during and after this event, we will try to continue Moth watching next year.
September: Bats! Fort no. 8 tunnels are Natura 2000 bat wintering grounds, however local communities does not know about this. There are no informing signs and there were no educational opportunities for local communities. Due to this lack of knowledge, bats are often disturbed at winter and population is decreasing. We have invited ornithologist Mindaugas Kirstukas, who works for Kaunas Lagoon Regional Park (an organisation keeping records of bats in this Natura 2000 area) to give us a talk about these mysterious creatures and lead a guided walk through the tunnels.
Photos of this event can be viewed in Facebook gallery.
– The fort tunnels are Natura 2000 bat reserve and entrance is prohibited from October 1st until May 1st.
IN THE NEWS
18 July 2020 Kauno diena, Naktinės drugelių paieškos Šilainiuose
30 November 2020 Kaunas landscape design festival
Press release (in Lithuanian only) – PDF Pranešimas spaudai: Silainiai Project 2020_06_05
Biological diversity specialist, naturalist – Tomas Pocius
Tomas Pocius studied Biology in Klaipeda University and Biodiversity at Vilnius University. He is currently working at the Lithuanian centre of non-formal youth education, Department of Natural and Ecological Education. Tomas is fascinated by the nature of Lithuania. In his free time he is looking for species that he has not yet discovered. Tomas enjoys hosting educational activities and popularization of science.
Tomas’ expertise is invaluable in collecting and systematizing the data, recognizing the species and leading the ‘species search’ in the neighborhood on 6th of June.
Vutautas Paplauskas has studied visual arts and in his work, he pays special attention to composition, light and colors. Vytautas has been working as events and editorial photographer for more than five years and has been the main photographer for Šilainiai Project events since 2019. Having started photographing Šilainiai bees last year, in 2020 Vytautas is going to continue to capture different species of animals and plants in Šilainiai.
I appreciate the simple humanity in his photos and professional, sensitive and humble work attitude. Evelina Šimkutė
Photographer – Saulius Irmantas
Saulius Irmantas photographing birds at Kaunas fort no. 8
Saulius Irmantas grew up next to the fort no. 8 and he knows the history of Kaunas Fortress very well, he even worked as a guide in fort no. 9 in teenage years! Saulius normally works at the events and photo-shoots and this was his first task to photograph wildlife. The job was not easy. It was important for us that the photographing process was done ethically and the birds were not disturbed in any way, so Saulius spent three days in the fort, taking time and observing the wildlife and taking some breathtaking images, some of them seen below.
Graphic designer – Kotryna Ražinskaitė
Kotryna is creating the poster, visuals for social media and the actual Kaunas Fort no. 8 biodiversity map. The map will be full of illustrations and will be aimed at the youngest residents of Šilainiai neighbourhood. Map will be available in 2021.
Being curious and genuinely interest in the values of the projects, her graphic design and illustrations brings out the well-thought through messages to the screen or on-print. Evelina Šimkutė
Project coordinator – Evelina Šimkutė
Photograph by Justė Vyšniauskaitė
Leader of Šilainiai Project, Evelina is an artist and creative placemaker, she creates project concepts, initiates them and coordinates the process.
VšĮ Kaunas Fortress Park
Association “Kaunas Fortress” Fort no. 8 volunteers
Project dissemination partners
Kaunas Vincas Kudirka public library, Šilainiai department
Kaunas City museum, Kaunas Castle department
Kaunas Photography Gallery
This project is supported by
Actors of Urban Change is a program by MitOst e.V. supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung. It connects people working on new forms of sustainable urban development in Europe, and promotes a culture of co-creation as a driving force for positive change.
Path in Fort no. 8, photograph by Saulius Irmantas