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, traditionally 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, Pennsylvania's 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.
The National Geographic Society has supported BioBlitzes 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 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 year's Whistler BioBlitz have contributed to the Whistler Biodiversity Project, an ongoing effort to catalog and protect the region's 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 BioBllitz: 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.