Step into Nature’s Classroom This Summer
Did you know that there are millions of as-yet unidentified plants, animals, and other organisms living on our planet today, or that many will become extinct before we even know they exist?
What if you could help scientists discover those species while exploring the outdoors, learning more about plant and animal life, and meeting other aspiring citizen scientists and student scientists in your own community?
Welcome to BioBlitz 2016!
What Is a Bioblitz?
A bioblitz is a timed event, usually 24–48 hours, during which scientists, teachers, families, and students work together to identify and catalogue plants, animals, and other organisms living in a certain area such as a park, a stream, or even a city neighborhood. These citizen scientists then upload that information along with photos to the free iNaturalist app so professional scientists and ordinary citizens alike can easily share knowledge about life on our planet. (The app is available as a free download for both Android and iPhone.)
Ecologists can use the information collected to map and protect endangered species. Hikers can use it to avoid poisonous plants. Park rangers can use it to identify and remove invasive species that threaten local habitats. Ordinary people around the country can use it to learn what’s growing in their own backyards.
In celebration of the National Park Service’s (NPS’s) one-hundredth anniversary, the NPS and the National Geographic Society will be hosting hundreds of organized bioblitz events in parks around the United States throughout the year. You can be part of it this summer, and with the scheduling flexibility of virtual school, many students can enjoy participating in educational activities like this year-round!
Check out the video below to get inspired, and then read on!
What Can You Learn and Contribute at a Bioblitz?
Working with park experts and volunteer naturalists and scientists at these events, you can learn how to:
- Observe and describe the plants, animals, and other organisms living within a local area.
- Classify those organisms by taxonomy, the scientific naming and ranking convention for plants, animals, and other organisms.
- Map the locations and living conditions (temperature, soil characteristics, moisture, etc.) of the species you observe.
- Share the information you collect via the iNaturalist app or field reports.
- Work as a team with other student scientists and citizen scientists pursuing a common scientific goal.
While you’re learning, the data you collect can provide scientists with more of the information they need to protect the earth’s biodiversity. Defined as the variety of life at all levels from ecosystems to microorganisms, biodiversity provides us with food, water, and medicine derived from nature as well as helping the planet recover from natural disasters.
Find a Bioblitz Near You or Organize Your Own
Although bioblitz events are scheduled across the country throughout the year, many will take place simultaneously the week of May 16–May 22. Some will be even be live-streamed on giant screens on the National Mall in Washington, DC, during the NPS BioBlitz and Biodiversity Festival, May 20–21.
Don’t see an event near you? Why not practice your leadership skills and organize one of your own? Here are a few resources that can help:
- The National Geographic Society’s website provides detailed directions, equipment lists, and resource links for designing a bioblitz learning experience or conducting a bioblitz in your neighborhood.
- iNaturalist.org provides a how-to guide on organizing a bioblitz as well as step-by-step instructions and easy-to-follow video tutorials on setting up your project in the iNaturalist app.
Keep Discovering and Contributing Year-Round
While bioblitzes are usually timed events, there’s nothing to stop you from learning about nature and contributing what you learn all year long. So get out there with your smartphone and record your observations about life on this beautiful planet. Millions of creatures, including your fellow scientists, are counting on you!
What kind of activities does your family enjoy? Are you participating in a BioBlitz 2016? Tell us what you discovered in the comments below.