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Natural Feature: Bioblitz

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Many academic and conservation agencies conduct an annual bioblitz to expand the knowledge of a particular natural environment. But what exactly is a bioblitz?

What is a Bioblitz?

The term “bioblitz” was first developed in 1996 by Sam Droege in the United States (Source: Robinson, L.D., Tweddle, J.C., Postles, M.C., West, S.E., & Sewell, J. [2013] Guide to Running a BioBlitz. Natural History Museum, Bristol Natural History Consortium, Stockholm Environment Institute York and Marine Biological Association) and the term has become internationally recognized. Bio means “life” and blitz means “to do something quickly and intensively” and that’s exactly what a bioblitz is – a collaborative effort to discover and catalog as many species of plants, animals, and fungi as possible, within a specific area, over a defined period of time (usually 24 hours). This unique combination of taxonomic inventory, public outreach, and science education usually involves trained scientists, naturalists, students, teachers, families, and other community members working together to provide a snapshot of life found in an area.

Public participation is what separates a bioblitz from a traditional biological inventory. Bioblitzes provide an opportunity for all participants to connect to their environment while generating data that contributes to knowledge about site diversity. Experts are able to share their expertise and enthusiasm for nature in an informal way, while members of the public are able to contribute to a genuine scientific study. Scientific experts often record only the rare or interesting species they see, but bioblitz participants aim to record everything, common or rare, to give a full picture of the biodiversity of an area on a particular date. In this way, bioblitzes provide quality data that can be added to local and/or national scientific and conservation databases.

Throughout the years, ANHC staff members have participated in different bioblitz events, while data from other bioblitzes have contributed to ANHC’s Arkansas Heritage Program biodiversity database. Currently, ANHC is a sponsor for the upcoming University of Arkansas Entomology Club’s Woolsey Wet Prairie Bioblitz on September 10 and 11 in Fayetteville. An ongoing restoration project, Woolsey Wet Prairie Sanctuary is adjacent to the West Side Wastewater Treatment Facility and is a 46-acre public mitigation site constructed to offset the permanent alteration of 10 acres of wetlands caused by the facility. Organizers hope that data will help management officials assess the success of this restoration.

For more information about the Woolsey Wet Prairie Sanctuary Bioblitz, contact Stephen Robertson at [email protected] or to volunteer, contact Aaron Cato at [email protected] .

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