Hawaii has a unique ecosystem. Because the islands were created by volcanoes, all life had to arrive either by water, wind, or wings, says Dean Gallager, a ranger at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. The steaming slopes and lush valleys of this island ecosystem were the location of this year’s National Geographic and National Park Service BioBlitz.
Inviting students and other visitors from the region and abroad to explore the park, the goal of the BioBlitz was to spread interest, awareness, and connection to the natural world and help identify the many diverse and often unique species found there.
“It’s very important to know what is in the forest at any one time, as a baseline,” says Curtis Ewing, an entomologist from the University of Hawaii, “so in the future when people come out and they look in the forest they will know what was here in the past and they will know if anything is disappearing or if there is new invasive species that have come in.”
With this year’s BioBlitz provided such a baseline, future researchers will be better positioned than ever before to notice changes to the ecosystem of the park, and understand the natural response to those changes.
Dean Gallagher sees a direct impact on the lives of BioBlitz participants as well. As opposed to kids “just being given bad news about things that have happened in the past, giving them a sense of hopelessness,” he says BioBlitz can help instill in them a modern sense that “we can make a difference, and we are making a difference.”