BioBlitz Inspires Inclusion of Citizen Science in Pollinator Research

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A BioBlitz is a rapid species inventory that generally occurs over a 24 hour period with scientists and citizen scientists counting as many species as they can over this time in a given place. The goal of BioBlitz programs is to get the public excited about the science opportunities within their own backyard while at the same time documenting biodiversity. BioBlitz events occur around the country and the world and are sponsored by organizations such as the National Park Service, National Geographic, and local nature centers. Participating in a BioBlitz allows a diverse community to come together, do great science, and enjoy nature. The data gathered by these BioBlitzes is extremely important, allows for mass amounts of data to be collected, and can cover large geographic areas.

Developing a Passion for Citizen Science

We spoke to Sarah Whipple, a senior Ecosystem Science and Sustainability (ESS) student at Colorado State University (CSU) about her work with citizen science, BioBlitzes and the Rocky Mountain Sustainability and Science Network (RMSSN) project. What follows is her description of her experience with citizen science and BioBlitzes.

“For the past three years here at CSU, I have been involved with Dr. Gillian Bowser’s lab, which focuses on engaging minorities in research opportunities within the National Parks. Dr. Bowser’s lab is a part of the larger organization, the Rocky Mountain Sustainability and Science Network (RMSSN), which brings in participants from around the world to participate in ecological fieldwork and citizen science projects.

My passion for citizen science began when I was fortunate enough to travel to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to participate in an National Park Service (NPS) sponsored BioBlitz. The goal of the BioBlitz program was to get the public excited about the science opportunities within their own backyard. I was paired with local entomologists studying beetles and immediately fell in love with both insects and citizen science as a whole. Everyone within our team and the NPS certainly saw the potential for citizen science to be used as a non-invasive, sustainable way to collect species records for a prolonged period of time.

From this experience, we decided to commit to using citizen science on our current pollinator research studies within Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. The long-term goal of this project is to track pollinator biodiversity and identify declines that may be happening within the park as a result of climate change and other human factors. This is important to study because pollinator health affects not only ecosystem functioning and widespread species diversity, but it also affects our food systems as well; and the implications of pollinator decline would have detrimental impacts on everyday life.

Without citizen science, our project would not be as successful or inclusive as it is currently; most recently, our student teams may have discovered a new species of dragonfly within Yellowstone that curators believed might have resulted from two coevolved species as a result of anthropogenic factors. This is proof that citizen science can have an unexpected impact, and, of course, it motivates us all to get back out in the field and try to relocate this specimen in order for other citizen scientists to verify it as a new species! In addition, most of our team comes from a not necessarily traditional entomology background, so citizen science enables those who have a passion for learning and exploration to get their hands dirty and obtain scientific knowledge in a hands-on way.”

Feeling Inspired?

*If you are interested in learning more about the project, or you would like to become a part of the team, please email RMSSN2017@gmail.com, or check out the project on iNaturalist.*

Interested in participating in a BioBlitz? Check out these websites to find a BioBlitz near you!

For more inspiring citizen science projects, read:

Photo Credits:

Cover photo: Philip Brown on Unsplash

Second photo: iNaturalist (observer rmssn)

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