A “BioBlitz” is a 24 hour event in which volunteer teams comprised of teachers, scientists, naturalists, students, families and community members come together to find and identify as many plants, animals, fungi, microbes and other organisms as possible within a given space. National Geographic is aiding in conducting a BioBlitz in a different national park each year leading up to the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS) in 2016. The 2014 BioBlitz occurred in March in San Franciso’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area, in 2015 they will head out to Hawaii to inventory Volcanoes National Park (May 15-16, for more information check out: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/projects/bioblitz/volcanoes-hawaii-2015/).
The BioBlitz inventory aims to discover, identify, count, map and learn about as many organisms as possible within the 24 hour period. These events also provide an opportunity for scientists and the community to learn and perform field work together, educated volunteers will collect meaningful and helpful data. Data collected gets added to the park’s official species list and will be used as a baseline for the future as well as in educational and interpretive materials. Large events such as the BioBlitz, supported by important sponsors like National Geographic really help to highlight the importance of biodiversity, not just in these exceptional pockets of pristine preservation, but everywhere.
As much as the BioBlitz is about gathering the community around environmental issues, inspiring children and creating awareness of the precariousness of biodiversity it also aids the National Park Service in providing natural resource baseline data. Approximately 15 years ago the NPS launched the “Natural Resource Challenge”, this effort was all about establishing baseline data regarding background conditions for the resources they were charged with managing, which would then help them develop a routine monitoring program. So, 2,700 schoolchildren and 300 scientists were invited into the park system to help construct a basic understanding of what is going on with those resources. However, collecting reliable data from non-scientists can prove challenging as they may not be equipped to fully explain what they observe. BioBlitz was paired with INaturalist, an organization with a smartphone application that connects people who are outdoors with knowledgeable scientists in an effort to help them identify species with which they come into contact.
INaturalist helped BioBlitz volunteers identify a record number of organisms in Golden Gate National Recreation Area this year; over 10,000 images were uploaded resulting in the identification of over 2,000 species, including 80 previously unrecorded as living in the park and 15 endangered species. Educating volunteers and providing them with tools for reliable data collection allows this snapshot of the park to be used to gauge changes in the park over the next decades and possibly centuries. National Geographic may put on the most publicized bioblitz events, but they certainly are not the only ones, check with chapters of your local outdoors clubs, state and national parks near your and regional NPS branches to find out how you can get involved with preserving our country’s biodiversity!