October 21, 2013

Beyond BioBlitz

by Sally Plumb from National Park Service

Preserving biodiversity—from a beetle to a grizzly bear—allows us to understand how the pieces of an ecosystem fit together and helps us to detect long term changes in our environment. The NPS Biodiversity Discovery program provides opportunities, such as bioblitzes, for professional scientists to join with people of all ages and backgrounds, especially next generation stewards, in the discovery of living organisms in our national parks. These efforts not only provide better information for managing resources, they also provide opportunities for people to experience the thrill and excitement of scientific discovery.  Since the beginning of the Call to Action, at least 83 parks of all sizes, including cultural, urban, and wilderness parks, have engaged in biodiversity discovery efforts of multiple levels and scopes. These efforts have involved more than 17,500 participants and resulted in the discovery of approximately 5,200 species.

A key part of the NPS Biodiversity Discovery Program and Call to Action Item #7 (Next Generation Stewards) is a ten year collaboration with the National Geographic Society in which a large scale BioBlitz is accomplished each year in a different NPS unit. The 2013 NPS/NGS effort took place in Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. Nearly 3,000 people joined in the adventure. Despite heat, humidity, and hungry mosquitoes, BioBlitz participants walked trails and cruised waterways to inventory the Barataria Preserve’s wetlands. As the field trip handouts said, “Look up! Look down! Look all around!” The payoff was a big one: 458 species positively identified in 24 hours (scientists are still working on some of the trickier ones), smiles, stories, and a new appreciation of the world around us.

During the BioBlitz, the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation initiated a “Collaborative Storytelling Project,” to capture stories about participants making connections with nature, and how people are inspired and transformed by this connection. This project resulted in a video “Inspired by Nature,” and includes interviews with two of the NPS Biodiversity Youth Ambassadors: Ben Clark and Parker Hopkins. The Ambassadors are also highlighted on the Foundation’s website. The National Geographic Society has also just released a video,“Imani’s BioBlitz,” showcasing the experiences of a 7 year old girl from Bridgeport, Connecticut. “BioBlitz 2013 was a lot of work, but it was all worth it,” said Dusty Pate, Jean Lafitte’s natural resource program manager and leader of the park’s BioBlitz team. “Those kids’ reactions are exactly what we were looking for. It feels good to know we changed some lives.”


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