For the past nine years, the National Park Service and National Geographic have invited scientists and members of the public to gather together to conduct a natural census of a specific region. Participants spend 24 hours attempting to spot and identify as many species of plants, animals, microbes, fungi, and other organisms as possible in what organizers have termed a BioBlitz.
To mark the tenth BioBlitz and to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the National Park Service, organizers took what was already one of the largest citizen science activities in the nation and expanded upon it: This year's National Parks BioBlitz will be held in national parks across the country. More than 250 events have been planned, occuring everywhere from the National Park of American Samoa to Glacier Park in Montana, from Gates of the Arctic National Park and Bering Land Bridge National Preserve in Alaska to the Canon San Cristobal Natural Protected Area in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and from Acadia National Park in Maine to the George Washington Carver National Monument in Missouri.
The celebration will kick off in Washington, D.C., this Friday, May 20, where more than 200 scientists and naturalists, more than 2,600 local students, and thousands of members of the public are expected to turn out for a BioBlitz spanning nineteen parks across the region. Census events in the field vary by location, with some beginning as early as at 7 a.m. on the 20th and others concluding as late as 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 21. Participants may sign up to conduct species inventories at one or more sessions, each of which lasts between one and three hours. Sessions include an invasive species fishing derby; inventories of dragonfly larvae, wildflowers, fungi, and molluscs; a wetlands inventory conducted by canoe; early-morning bird inventories; and nighttime inventories of moths and bats. Science NetLinks hopes to cover some parts of the event, so be sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter to learn about new BioBlitz resources!
An accompanying Biodiversity Festival will run both days, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It features free activities, ranging from music and dance performances to animal demonstrations, designed to entertain and educate the entire family. The closing ceremony, 4:30–5 p.m. on the 21st, will reveal the species tallied during the event.
Fox at the Lincoln Memorial. Photo Credit: Kirstin Fearnley. All rights reserved.
If you aren't in the greater-D.C. area, check out this map to find information about BioBlitz activities at locations near you. While a few events at parks around the country have already taken place, many will be held on Friday and Saturday, May 20–21. A few locations even have events scheduled for this summer and this fall. Organizers suggest BioBlitz inventories are best suited for those aged 8 and older, unless noted otherwise.
Be sure to visit the Science NetLinks BioBlitz collection of resources, where you'll find videos from Bob Hirshon from five of the previous BioBlitzes. While there, you also can discover lessons, podcasts, and tools, including the iNaturalist app used to catalogue sightings during the event, to help you take part in this year's National Parks BioBlitz — or even to hold a BioBlitz of your very own!