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Contact: Carol Seitz, (202) 775-6186
Contact: Linda Friar, (305) 242-7714
Within sight of Miami, yet worlds away, Biscayne National Park features a rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands and fish-bejeweled coral reefs. To better understand, appreciate and protect this natural and national treasure, the National Park Service and National Geographic Society are teaming up to host the two-day Biscayne BioBlitz, April 30-May 1, 2010, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Part scientific endeavor, part festival and part outdoor classroom, the BioBlitz will bring together more than 100 leading scientists and naturalists from around the country, hundreds of public volunteers of all ages, and nearly 1,000 students (mainly grades 5-12) from the greater Miami area. Together they will comb the park, observing and recording as many plant and animal species as possible in 24 hours. Inventory activities include counting fish on snorkeling trips, catching insects by day and night, spotting birds, exploring mangroves, netting aquatic organisms, and observing and using technology to better understand the diverse ecosystems of this unique national park.
In this extraordinary experience, open to the public, participants are invited to work with experts to count, map and learn about the park’s diverse organisms, ranging from microscopic bacteria to sea turtles weighing hundreds of pounds. This free event is open to “explorers” of all ages. While children ages 10 and older may participate on inventory teams with their parents, there also will be age-appropriate activities for younger kids at the BioBlitz’s “base camp” at the Dante Fascell Visitor Center at Convoy Point, located at 9700 SW 328 Street, Homestead, 8 miles east of U.S. 1. Off-site parking with shuttle bus service will be available at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Biscayne National Park Superintendent Mark Lewis said, “This will be a great family event, and we invite everyone who knows Biscayne, or wants to know the park better, to come out and experience the fun of discovery in the outdoors.”
Festivities will begin on Friday, April 30, at 11:30 a.m. with a kick-off ceremony. The 24-hour race to document the biodiversity of Biscayne National Park will begin promptly at noon, when teams go near and far to begin the species inventory. Due to limited boat space, advance registration at www.nationalgeographic.com/bioblitz is required to reserve a spot on a snorkeling boat or ferry to Elliott Key, where many of the inventories will take place. As the Ranger Station at Elliott Key will serve as a departure point for many inventory teams, those with their own boats who wish to participate in activities there can go directly to Elliott Key. However, docking space at Elliott Key will be limited, and overnight docking or camping will be prohibited for the duration of this event.
There also will be ongoing educational opportunities at base camp for those interested in staying on the mainland. People can watch scientists doing round-the-clock research to identify and document species collected in the field. Additional activities throughout the day include live music, animal demonstrations, science experiments and educational activities provided by prominent South Florida science and environmental organizations. Members of the public can even “graduate” from Biscayne’s Biodiversity University by participating in select activities at base camp.
“This is one of the first marine-based BioBlitzes in the United States, if not the first,” said John Francis, National Geographic’s vice president of research, conservation and exploration. “As a marine biologist myself, I appreciate the amazing scientific talent we have pulled together to explore this breathtaking park. As a father, I also know how little time children spend exploring the outdoors in this wired world. We hope the BioBlitz will introduce kids to the amazing wildlife that exists above and below the water. Our dream is to inspire them to explore their own backyards and enjoy and preserve natural treasures at Biscayne and beyond.”
Park Superintendent Lewis added, “The United Nations has declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity, and it is exciting to have top talent and the general public putting the spotlight on Biscayne. We want to make people aware of the amazing array of resources that exist within the park and in their own backyard. Having that increased awareness will make them better able to appreciate and protect their environment.”
After the initial BioBlitz species count is announced shortly after noon on Saturday, May 1, the Celebrate Biodiversity Festival will begin, offering an afternoon of family entertainment, learning and fun. The public will be able to speak to scientists, visit display tents and enjoy on-stage entertainment, including the music of Billy B and local favorite Grant Livingston. The “Endangered World” art exhibition, with Miami artist Xavier Cortada, will also be featured at the festival.
For more information about the Biscayne BioBlitz, visit www.nationalgeographic.com/bioblitz. While advance registration is required to reserve a spot on the snorkeling boat or ferry to Elliott Key, no registration is required for the Celebrate Biodiversity Festival and for general exploration of base camp.
Those who cannot attend the BioBlitz in person can take a virtual adventure at www.nationalgeographic.com/bioblitz. Throughout the event, the site will feature a streaming Twitter feed, blogs, video clips of scientists and regularly updated photo galleries that capture the finds and experiences of participants.
The Biscayne BioBlitz has been made possible through the support of foundations, nonprofit organizations and corporations. In addition to Knight Foundation, nonprofit and foundation support comes from the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation, the Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation, the Adelaide M. and Charles B. Link Foundation, the Verizon Foundation and the South Florida National Parks Trust. Corporate support includes Southwest Airlines, Spectrum Brands, Oracle, Verizon Wireless, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Homestead-Miami Speedway, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Immaculate Baking Company.
Biscayne National Park is one of 392 units of the National Park System, ranging from Yellowstone to the Statue of Liberty. Miami’s closest national park, Biscayne is a paradise for marine life, water birds, boaters, snorkelers and divers. More than a half million visitors come to this national park each year. More information can be found at www.nps.gov/bisc.
National Geographic has had a close relationship with the National Park Service since the Service’s inception; the Society helped draft legislation to establish the Service in 1916. National Geographic has given grants to establish or sustain national parks and has extensively covered the parks in its media for nearly a century. The Biscayne BioBlitz is part of the Society’s and National Park Service’s latest joint venture. This event is the fourth of 10 annual BioBlitzes that will be held at urban national park units around the country, leading up to the Park Service’s centennial in 2016. The first BioBlitz was held at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., in 2007; Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California was the BioBlitz site in 2008; and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was the site of the third BioBlitz in 2009.
The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society works to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 375 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; exhibitions; live events; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 9,200 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote informed, engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.