In the way we generally talk about it, a BioBlitz is a lighting-fast movement of people out into natural surroundings to identify every species of plant, animal, fungus, and “whatever” that they encounter.
It’s about people going out to “blitz the bio” around them.
After several years of National Geographic teaming up with the U.S. National Park Service for such an event though, it’s becoming clear that the opposite is perhaps a more accurate description of what’s going on: we the people are being blitzed by the bio.
Go Out and Let It In
This weekend for 24 hours between Friday and Saturday afternoon, #BioBlitz2014 is happening in Golden Gate National Recreation Area around San Francisco, California, and the many kinds of parks involved show a gradient of integration with human building and development.
The bulk of the coastal area to the north is a collection of several ecosystems that have been preserved in a more natural state than the ever-growing city areas surrounding them. There is Point Reyes National Seashore, Muir Woods with its towering redwood trees, Samuel P. Taylor State Park, and the hills and coasts of the Marin Headlands. There are also park-like places that preserve areas altered by humans in the past such as the lighthouse, Presidio, and Chrissy Field.
Beyond all this, San Francisco has many beloved tree-and-grass-filled parks and squares, as well as gardens, flower boxes, and front and back yards around its famous Victorian era homes.
The people of this storied city (like people everywhere) are surrounded by nature. From cracks in the sidewalk to preserved wildernesses, humans are really never separated from nature. It’s just hard to notice or appreciate it until you start looking. And that’s what BioBlitz does: it doesn’t force you out into nature, it gets you to let the nature around you in.
This year’s event will be attended by several National Geographic explorers or their team members. Photographers, marine biologists, and innovative technicians will all take part, hiking into the wilderness to count and record species, or setting up booths at the central festival to educate fair goers about their work and the importance of maintaining awareness and integration with the natural world.
We will have blog posts each day, and participants in the parks are all encouraged to share their experiences on social media. You too can be a part of the mission by reading and commenting on our blog posts and joining the conversation using #BioBlitz2014.
The best thing you can do to participate in BioBlitz from wherever you are is to get outside and take stock of the wild world all around you. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Local Tree Map: Walk around your block or neighborhood with a pencil and paper and write down a note about every tree you pass, marking them all on a rough map you draw. Record how tall, how thick, what kind of bark, buds, or leaves, or anything else that strikes you; maybe there’s a nest, bird or squirrel, or a memorable branch or scar. While out or back home, identify the species if you can. Whatever it is, find something that gets you to notice and remember each tree as an individual organism, sharing your home territory year after year, a living part of your everyday world.
Bird Alert: Sit in your yard or a nearby park for an hour or more. Make a series of lists of locations around you, and under each title record the time, number, description, and behavior of any birds you notice. Start with only very close by if you like, but then widen your field of listening attention and note any birds and their activity you can discern from a distance as well.
Bug Watch: You might wait a lifetime to go to Africa and still not witness lions hunting zebras or anything of the like. But all around us every day, wildlife of the smaller kind goes through all the drama of a Nat Geo big cat documentary. Wander your local area on the lookout for these miniature epics and simply watch. It could be a spider building a web, ants breaking down and carrying food, a mantis on the hunt. Whatever catches your eye, get comfortable and take it all in for as long as it lasts–three minutes, ten minutes, an hour? See if you can tell what they’re doing and why. If you had their same body form, would you use it the same way?
Peer Into the Unseen World: Get a magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe. Go outside and just start looking. Closer. For a longer time. Let yourself enter into the tiny world you discover.
However you spend your time this week and weekend, let the nature all around you sink in. Be a part of #BioBlitz2014.
Get blitzed by the bio!