Through pouring rain in the redwood forest at Muir Woods National Monument, 14-year-old Ben Clark is grinning from ear to ear. He is participating in a predatory beetle inventory during the 2014 National Park Service–National Geo graphic Society (NGS) BioBlitz at the parks geographically associated with Golden Gate National Recreation Area (California).
Ben is an NPS Biodiversity Youth Ambassador. Initiated in 2010, the ambassador program has the mission of cultivating youth leadership that inspires next-generation environmental stewards in schools and communities. To date, five ambassadors have been selected by the host parks of the NPS-NGS BioBlitzes, while a sixth, Ben, was selected by the Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate.
Ben’s interest in biodiversity began during the 2011 Rocky Mountain National Park BioBlitz. While looking for amphibians in an alpine pond, Ben found a damselfly larva and learned that it was not native to the area. He became fascinated with the question of how it came to be there. In Ben’s words, “It was that one little fly that opened my eyes to biodiversity.”
Since that time, Ben’s work to further biodiversity awareness has been inspiring. While attending the 2013 bioblitz at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in Louisiana, he was selected as an interviewee in a minidocumentary by the E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, Inspired by Nature (http://EOWilsonFoundation.org/nps-biodiversity-youth-ambassadors/). At his school, St. Ann Academy, Ben helped implement a schoolwide bioblitz at a local estuary, with an accompanying biodiversity festival featuring exhibits on the biodiversity of 38 national parks. This growing awareness of biodiversity resulted in 42 students, parents, and teachers traveling from Ben’s home community of Bridgeport, Connecticut, to participate in the Golden Gate BioBlitz. Ben was recently selected as an “Everyday Young Hero” by Youth Service America, an organization that engages young people to change the world and that sponsors Global Youth Service Day, the largest volunteer event in the world.