By Veronica Del Bianco
As a member of the Natural Leaders Network, I am dedicated to empowering a worldwide movement to strengthen the bond between children and nature. At the most basic level, this means inviting all kids – regardless of gender, race, household income or geographic location – into nature as a place to play, respect, and explore without fear.
When I was a kid, my invitation arrived via my subscription to National Geographic Magazine. Flipping through the pages each month, I soaked up the places, creatures, and cultures, and dreamed that some day, when I grew up, I would write for the magazine.
This past weekend, I lived out a small part of that childhood fantasy conducting an aquatic invertebrate species inventory in collaboration with scientists and National Geographic ambassadors at the 2013 BioBlitz in Jean Lafitte National Historic Park.
Traveling along the bayou in an aluminum platoon boat, we retrieved samples with dip nets and sweat. Darting Whirligig Beetles, wide-eyed Mayfly larvae, camouflaged water stick insects, and their friends filled our containers. We squinted to see them swimming around because despite being called “macro invertebrates,” aquatic invertebrates are actually very small.
Today’s adventure was like many field trips I have conducted over the last decade as an environmental educator in New Orleans, except for one major difference; this was also serious science. Our effort today was part of something greater than our individual actions alone. We helped expand the park’s official species list and understanding of its biodiversity.
I believe that encouraging participation in citizen science experiences like BioBlitz is the next logical step in strengthening the bond between children and nature. It demonstrates to kids, their families, and their educators, that they are not only welcome to enjoy natural places but can actively participate in exploring and protecting these habitats. Not “someday” when they are grown-ups, but today.