Encyclopedic Entry

Participants blitz the Indiana Dunes.

Photograph by Keene Haywood

A bioblitz is an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time. A bioblitz is also known as a biological inventory or biological census. The primary goal of a bioblitz is to get an overall count of the plants, animals, fungi, and other organisms that live in a place.

Species in a bioblitz are categorized into groups that have similar characteristics. These are known as taxonomic groups. Some examples of taxonomic groups include mollusks, vascular plants, fungi, and birds. The end result of a bioblitz is a tally of species found in each of these groups.

A bioblitz differs from a scientific inventory in a number of ways. Scientific inventories are usually limited to biologists, geographers, and other scientists. A bioblitz brings together volunteer scientists, as well as families, students, teachers, and other members of the community.

While a scientific survey often focuses on unique or isolated areas, bioblitzes focus on areas that are connected to residential, urban, and industrial areas.

Finally, biological surveys may take a long period of time to conduct. A bioblitz lasts a short period of time, normally 24 hours. Team members work around the clock to inventory as much as possible in the time given, blitzing the natural area to complete their task.

These differences make a bioblitz a unique biological survey that encourages a relationship between the natural and human communities of a given area. Citizens work alongside scientists to learn about the biological diversity of local natural spaces. In the process, they gain skills and knowledge, and develop a stronger connection to their home environment. A bioblitz aims to promote and improve local natural spaces by empowering citizens to better understand and protect biodiversity.

Hundreds of bioblitzes have been conducted all over the world, primarily in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Europe. The first bioblitz was sponsored by the National Park Service and the National Biological Service in Washington, D.C.s Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in 1996. Surrounded by heavy residential and industrial development, Kenilworth Park was thought to have very little biological diversity. Scientists, however, tallied more than 900 species that first year and added even more species to their list at successive Kenilworth bioblitzes.

In 1997, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History conducted a bioblitz at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvanias Riverview Park. This bioblitz was the first to invite community members to observe the scientists conducting the inventory. Since then, almost all bioblitzes have involved the public.

Bioblitz Programs

The National Geographic Society has conducted a bioblitz every year since 2007. The first National Geographic BioBlitz was held in Washington, D.C.s Rock Creek Park. National Geographic now conducts its BioBlitz in a different national park each year, leading up to the National Park Services centennial in 2016. The 2011 National Geographic BioBlitz will take place in Saguaro National Park, Arizona.

The 2010 National Geographic BioBlitz took place in Biscayne National Park, off Floridas Atlantic coast. The event is considered the United States first marine bioblitz. More than 2,500 people participated in the event, including more than 1,300 school children and 150 scientists.

In 24 hours, participants identified more than 800 species. On land, participants observed a number of species rare to the park, including the silver-banded hairstreak butterfly, mangrove cuckoo, bay-breasted warbler, and nesting roseate spoonbills. The 2010 BioBlitz also identified 22 species of ants that had not previously been documented in the park. Scientists found a number of unique trees, including the paradise tree, Bahama strongbark, and pigeon plum. These specimens are considered the largest of their species in the United States. Underwater, park divers observed marine species, including black, red, and gag groupers, a type of large fish. They also identified 11 species of lichen not previously documented in the park.

Started in 2007, the annual Whistler BioBlitz targets alpine and valley ecosystems across the Whistler region of British Columbia, Canada. Results from each years Whistler BioBlitz have contributed to the Whistler Biodiversity Project, an ongoing effort to catalog and protect the regions biodiversity. Since 2007, participants in the Whistler BioBlitz have documented more than 2,000 species, including 500 species previously undocumented in the area. In 2010, Whistler BioBlitz participants found about 100 previously undocumented species, including dragonflies, truffles, bats, moths, and spiders.

Like many current bioblitz campaigns, the Whistler BioBlitzs species sightings have been put into an interactive map that is available online. Bioblitz maps allow participants to easily input data about their sightings and allow the public to get an in-depth look at their local environment.

Online communication also supports a new variation of the bioblitz: the blogger blitz. Instead of gathering participants to inventory one location, participant blogs pledge to conduct individual surveys of biodiversity in their home areas. These results are compiled and mapped, raising awareness about biodiversity across a larger area.

Environmental organizations have used blogger blitzes to conduct surveys of specific groups of species. The Great Backyard Bird Count, for example, is a four-day count of birds across the United States and Canada that uses online resources and mapping to report its results. These types of events use new technologies to broaden the scope of the bioblitz format, inventorying a greater variety or number of species through a larger network of participants.

Vocabulary

Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry

alpine

Adjective

having to do with mountains.

bioblitz

Noun

a field study in which groups of scientists and citizens study and inventory all the different kinds of living organisms within a given area.

Encyclopedic Entry: bioblitz

biodiversity

Noun

all the different kinds of living organisms within a given area.

Encyclopedic Entry: biodiversity

biological inventory

Noun

a field survey in which groups of scientists study and catalog all living organisms within a given area.

biologist

Noun

scientist who studies living organisms.

blog

Noun

online journal.

blogger blitz

Noun

project where bloggers conduct and record the results of individual surveys of biodiversity in their local area.

butterfly

Noun

type of flying insect with large, colorful wings.

catalog

Verb

to list or order by type.

categorize

Verb

to arrange by specific type or characteristic.

census

Noun

program of a nation, state, or other region that counts the population and usually gives its characteristics, such as age and gender.

Encyclopedic Entry: census

centennial

noun, adjective

100-year anniversary.

characteristic

Noun

physical, cultural, or psychological feature of an organism, place, or object.

coast

Noun

edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

Encyclopedic Entry: coast

compile

Verb

to put together.

cuckoo

Noun

common, medium-sized bird.

data

Plural Noun

(singular: datum) information collected during a scientific study.

development

Noun

construction or preparation of land for housing, industry, or agriculture.

dragonfly

Noun

insect that preys on mosquitoes and other insects.

ecosystem

Noun

community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

Encyclopedic Entry: ecosystem

empower

Verb

to give authority or power.

environment

Noun

conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

fungi

Plural Noun

(singular: fungus) organisms that survive by decomposing and absorbing nutrients in organic material such as soil or dead organisms.

general public

Noun

large population, not identified by demographic factors such as skills, income, or ethnicity.

geographer

Noun

person who studies places and the relationships between people and their environments.

grouper

Noun

bottom-dwelling marine fish native to non-polar waters.

industrial

Adjective

having to do with factories or mechanical production.

interactive map

Noun

representation of spatial information that allows users to input data or choose data to be displayed.

isolate

Verb

to set one thing or organism apart from others.

lichen

Noun

organism composed of fungus and algae.

marine

Adjective

having to do with the ocean.

mollusk

Noun

type of invertebrate animal.

National Geographic Society

Noun

(1888) organization whose mission is "Inspiring people to care about the planet."

national park

Noun

geographic area protected by the national government of a country.

National Park Service

Noun

U.S. federal agency with the mission of caring "for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage."

organism

Noun

living or once-living thing.

primary

Adjective

first or most important.

residential

Adjective

having to do with people's homes.

species

Noun

group of similar organisms that can reproduce with each other.

specific

Adjective

exact or precise.

specimen

Noun

individual organism that is a typical example of its classification.

spoonbill

Noun

type of bird with a large, flat bill.

successive

Adjective

following in order.

tally

Noun

a recorded number of items.

taxonomic group

Noun

things, such as organisms or ideas, organized by their relationship to each other.

truffle

Noun

valuable, edible underground fungus, related to a mushroom.

unique

Adjective

one of a kind.

urban

Adjective

having to do with city life.

valley

Noun

depression in the Earth between hills.

vascular plant

Noun

group of plants which have specific tissues for transporting water and minerals throughout the plant.

warbler

Noun

type of small songbird.

watershed

Noun

entire river system or an area drained by a river and its tributaries.

Encyclopedic Entry: watershed

Credits

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Writer

Melissa McDaniel
Erin Sprout
Diane Boudreau
Andrew Turgeon

Illustrator

Tim Gunther, Illustrator
Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society

Editor

Jeannie Evers
Kara West

Educator Reviewer

Nancy Wynne

Producer

Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society

Sources

Dunn, Margery G. (Editor). (1989, 1993). "Exploring Your World: The Adventure of Geography." Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society.

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