Ever wondered how many different kinds of fish there are in a stream? Or plants in a meadow? Or bugs in a garden? You’re not alone! Scientists wonder this kind of thing all the time, too, and are always trying to get an accurate idea of where different species live and how many of them live there.
We may think of scientists as folks in lab coats cooped up in laboratories, but many scientists work outside, and these scientists could include you! Scientists rely heavily on information collected by people in the general public, whom we sometimes call “community scientists.” Community scientists provide an invaluable service, especially when it comes to keeping an eye on local plant and animal populations.
That’s where the BioBlitz comes in. A BioBlitz is a project where a group of people examines a specific area and attempts to document every different kind of plant and animal in that area. The information gathered in these BioBlitzes is very important for understanding the health of an ecosystem and how that health may be changing.
Anyone can participate in a BioBlitz. All you need is a smartphone or camera and good observation skills. By using an app called iNaturalist, you can upload pictures and location information for all your sightings to a massive worldwide database where experts will help identify your findings. This information then becomes available to anyone seeking to understand where certain species live, or what kind of creatures live where.
Bartram’s Garden is hosting a BioBlitz on Saturday, April 27 from 9am to 4pm. We will have maps of different habitat areas to explore, as well as some volunteer naturalists on site to answer questions and give tips on where to look for certain species. John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is also hosting a BioBlitz the same weekend: 9am to 4pm on 4/27, and 10:30am to 12:30pm on 4/28. These BioBlitzes are both part of the City Nature Challenge, an international competition among cities to see who has the highest biodiversity—the widest variety of plants and animals—in their city. Learn more at citynaturechallenge.org, and we’ll see you next weekend!