Do you want to discover the biodiversity of a place? Maybe you'd like to engage more people in nature? A BioBlitz can help! These events are typically short (a day to a few weeks) where a group of naturalists focuses on capturing a snapshot of a region's biodiversity. However, you can always adjust the criteria of your BioBlitz to best fit your needs, whether that means extending the event's duration or focusing on specific taxonomic groups or species. There are no rules for BioBlitzing!
How to Create a BioBlitz
Selecting a data collection platform
Once you have decided to conduct a BioBlitz, you must decide how participants will compile and submit their data. Old fashion paper checklists in the mail are one method, but we recommend using an online crowd-source platform such as iNaturalist, eButterfly, eBird, Odonata Central, or others depending on your focus.
The most popular program for these events is iNaturalist – a platform created as a means for community naturalists to connect, learn from one another, and store occurrence data (location, date, and photographic or audio evidence of an organism). iNaturalist contains an Identify feature, enabling iNaturalist users to verify or assist in the identification of each observation. Once the identification of an observation has been confirmed by other users, becoming ‘Research Grade’, they are pulled into larger biodiversity platforms such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and the Vermont Atlas of Life, where they join millions of other occurrence data for easy curation and analysis by researchers and community naturalists alike.
Creating a BioBlitz in iNaturalist
iNaturalist makes bioblitzing easy – when creating the bioblitz page, you can select a region, taxonomic group(s), date range, and more, to create a filter which iNaturalist runs observations through. Each time the bioblitz page is loaded, iNaturalist pulls up all observations meeting your filter criteria and generates easy-to-view summaries of your results in real time.
To start a bioblitz project in iNaturalist, you must first sign up for an account. Visit https://www.inaturalist.org/, click Create account, and follow the prompts to complete your sign up.
To set up your bioblitz, you will navigate to the Community tab and select Projects:
Once you have navigated to the Project page, click Start a Project:
You will be taken to a new page where you can select your project type. Scroll down to Collection Projects and select Get started to enter the criteria of your bioblitz:
An Example: Creation of the Vermont Lady Beetle Blitz
Let’s say that I want to create a June bioblitz for ladybug species found across the state of Vermont. I would start by entering my project name, uploading project icon and banner photos (both are optional, but they add a nice touch to the project page), and writing a short description explaining the purpose of this bioblitz:
Here is the above information, as seen on the completed project page:
Next, I select taxa, regions, and iNaturalist users that I want to include (or exclude) from the bioblitz. Each filter in this section can have multiple addendums, and a combination of Include and Exclude filters can be used. In this case, I only want iNaturalist to curate lady beetle (ladybug) observations in Vermont. Therefore, I use the Include filters to specify the taxa (lady beetles) and region (Vermont):
Add any other specifications necessary, including the date range:
Finally, click Done at the bottom of the page, and your bioblitz project will go live!
An important aspect of a BioBlitz is the community! Here are a few tips on spreading the word and engaging with your participants before and after the event.
Spread the Word
As the old saying goes, many hands make for a light load, and the same holds true for BioBlitz outreach. Here are some groups you may consider contacting to ask if they would be willing to share your BioBlitz event information with their constituents or even collaborate with you.
- Local conservation organizations who facilitate and/or participate in community ecology-related events (such as VCE!)
- Town Conservation Commissions
- Social Media Groups
- Public Libraries
While iNaturalist is a relatively intuitive platform, there is a lot to explore. Learning how to use iNaturalist on the fly can be a little overwhelming. It can be beneficial to hold an iNaturalist training lesson before the BioBlitz or provide participants with resources. Here are some training materials and resources to get you started:
Engagement with Participants
After creating your bioblitz project in iNaturalist, you have an option to use the project journal:
From here, you can create posts with updates, event information, and helpful resources. When you post these updates, people who have joined the project (see image below) will receive these updates on their dashboard, and their email, depending on their selected iNaturalist settings. If you plan to use the journal, make sure that participants know to join the bioblitz project so they can receive these updates.