An inventory of a given time constraint, usually 24 hours, in which all living things in a defined unit of land and/or water are located and identified. In a bioblitz, expert scientists from multiple disciplines (botany, zoology, mycology, etc.) are invited to visit the defined unit to undertake inventories according to their skill and interest. Public participation (see also citizen science) is generally integral to a bioblitz.
That's my own definition. I'm sure it's more concise elsewhere, but I'm rolling with it.
In our case, BioBlitz (with two capital Bs) was all of the above, but specifically the one that National Geographic sponsors. National Geographic has been in the process of choosing a national park each year in which to conduct their BioBlitz. They announce the following year's selection at the closing ceremony for the current one. They've done it for 8 so far, including ours; next year, as they just announced, will be at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. And the tenth, to be announced next year, will coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016.
So, a year ago, it was an abstract concept that was blocked off on our calendars. We knew it would be something incredible and unprecedented. Thanks to attention to detail by dedicated staff and interns from the National Park Service and The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, by the time early March rolled around we all had a fairly good idea when and where to be during the chaos.
The planning paid off -- the events, from what I experienced, were quite streamlined. About 9,000 people and over 300 scientists flocked in from other parks and academic institutions. One father/son came from Hawai'i because the dad wanted his son to experience it. What a way to travel!
|Sam Hasek enters bird species seen by bicycle on smartphone via the iNaturalist app. Photo: Anand Varna.|
Moreover, iNat also encourages one to participate with a larger community of people across the country and world who are experiencing nature on their own level -- from novice to professional. As an iNat user, you are able to ask for help identifying what you've seen from other users who may be more familiar with a particular animal, plant, fungus, whatever. Got a moth in your pantry? Put its photo on iNat, call it a "moth", select "ID Please", and within minutes someone might tell you what it is.
Now that BioBlitz is over, the dust is settling -- and it's back to doing what we love: working with volunteers, planting a few more plants as the rainy season comes to a close, and pulling lots of weeds. There's a bit of postpartum depression circulating as this milestone has passed us. But the ray of light is that this is really only the beginning: 2,700+ students came during the event to get inspired to learn the wonders of their local national park, and many of us have been inspired to collaborate with eachother and the public in new ways.
My BioBlitz went as follows:
Friday morning, I was one of a group of scientists assigned with a station to host busloads of students from Dianne Feinstein elementary. Situated with the Golden Gate Bridge as my backdrop, I was given about 10 minutes for 5 different groups of 10-15 5th graders. My job was to tell them about birds. I decided I'd tell them about bird biodiversity there; then I had them listen to bird song for exactly one minute and describe what they heard to the group; then they had some time to use binoculars. One kid, when I asked what he saw, reported, "I saw a beggar" on the Golden Gate Bridge. (I didn't put that on iNaturalist.)
Friday afternoon, I co-led a nature walk with some other great scientists from the Bay Area. We had placed coverboards -- old plywood boards in contact with soil -- to encourage salamanders, lizards, millipedes, isopods (pillbugs and roly polys), and other critters to take refuge under them. Then, during the walk, we revealed the critters. We also took note of plants, birds, butterflies, whatever the group could identify. It was a great convergence of skill sets that made us all want to do more than just a short 2-hour walk.
Left with some daylight, I went birding and was lucky to have a red crossbill land right in front of me, bathe in a puddle, then disappear into the canopy. I think it was the only red crossbill inventoried during the count period of Noon Friday to Noon Saturday. (150 bird species were tallied across the whole park during the event.)
And speaking of BioBlitz magic -- before the above walk began, a few of us were lucky enough to see a majestic adult bald eagle fly over our heads. This was in a place where they are very unusual. Swept away in the moment, I announced it loudly to about 30 people who were there, hoping they could see it and photograph it (I guess I said something kind of cheesy and patriotic, but I really don't remember exactly). Unfortunately, it soared away, but it was a powerful moment.
On Saturday morning, the 7-11am birding-by-bike inventory that I led ironically saw some of the heaviest 4 hours of rain that the Bay Area has seen in 6 months. But spirits were high, and the group of four, later three of us, stuck it out, enjoying the much needed rain, and cataloging 44 bird species. This included the elusive Wilson's snipe.
In the blogs/news: