Every year, National Geographic and the U. S. National Park Service for a 24-hour BioBlitz, bringing thousands of people from a major city together with scientists, photographers, and other experts to explore the wilderness on the city’s outskirts. This year, from noon to noon on May 17th and 18th, we’ll be exploring Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve outside of New Orleans, Louisiana. Follow along on this blog and with BioBlitz on Facebook.
We spoke with NG explorer, blogger, lizard expert, and photographer Neil Losin on his thoughts going in to this year’s event.
This isn’t your first BioBlitz. What is it you love most about them?
I’ve been to two previous BioBlitzes: Biscayne National Park in 2010 and Rocky Mountain National Park in 2012. Those two environments could scarcely be more different from one another, but the spirit of the event is the same. Everyone participating in the BioBlitz is excited — excited to make new discoveries (as we inevitably do) about the nature in our own backyards, excited to meet new people, excited just to be outside for the day.
Have you ever been to Jean Lafitte National Historical Park before?
No! In fact, I’ve never been to Louisiana, apart from driving through it on I-10. This will be a really fun BioBlitz for me, because I’m really not too familiar with the environment. I haven’t spent much time in the kind of swampy forests that we’ll be exploring this weekend, so a lot of the wildlife should be new to me!
Are there any particular science questions you’re hoping to answer?
This year, I’m leading bird inventories, and since birds are pretty well documented, there aren’t any pressing science questions that I’m aware of. I hope that many of the participants in the BioBlitz will experience inventories like the bird walks I’m leading — where we’ll probably be able to identify every bird we see — as well as inventories of less “charismatic” creatures like aquatic invertebrates, where even the experts might be stumped by some things they find… We know some groups a lot better than others, and I think participating in both kinds of inventories can be really fascinating.
What’s a favorite memory of exploring nature near you when you were growing up?
When I was growing up in Virginia, going out into my local parks in the spring and experiencing all the signs of spring became an annual ritual. Things began in April with the blooming of the first wildflowers — bloodroot, spring beauties, trout lily. By early May, the neotropical migrant songbirds were passing through, and the treetops would be filled with colorful warblers, vireos, and tanagers. There’s something incredibly satisfying about knowing what plants and animals you’re likely to see next as the seasons change! And every year you go out to observe nature, you become more aware of everything that’s going on in your natural surroundings.
Is there one piece of wilderness you feel you know the best and feel the closest to?
Wherever I’ve lived over the years, I try to get to know a local piece of nature — ideally a place to which I can walk or ride my bike — really well. Growing up in northern Virginia, that place was the humble Lake Accotink Park. Lake Accotink isn’t a big lake, or a pristine one, but I managed to learn an awful lot about nature from exploring that little patch of green in the midst of all the suburban development around it.
How do you stay aware of or in touch with the natural world around you on a daily basis?
Whenever possible, I try to go out with my camera on a regular basis. I find that I experience nature very differently when I’ve got a camera with me. The camera forces you to slow down and really appreciate what you’re seeing. To capture a good photograph of a plant, animal, or landscape, you really need to spend time with it… to see it from different perspectives, and in the case of an animal, to observe its behavior. And through that process, you can really get to know the nature around you.
Each individual BioBlitz may only last 24 hours, but there’s always more to learn! Follow along on Facebook and through the NewsWatch Blog!