City Nature Challenge at Cabrillo National Monument – A Celebration of Science for the Entire Community

May 15, 2019 Posted by: Samantha Wynns
The Natural Resource Management and Science Division of the National Park Service is tasked with the preservation and protection of the incredibly abundant natural resources of our national parks. Such a monumental job is a challenge for the scientists the NPS employs – thousands of species inhabiting millions of acres can be extremely difficult to monitor, and scientists don’t always have the time or the manpower to do so. One of the best solutions to these challenges is that of citizen science projects. Such projects harness the power of the people to assist in data collection and analysis, fostering a sense of community as local enthusiasts get involved. There are many NPS citizen science projects: from restoration work, to birding, to phenology programs, to climate effects on trees, the community is helping to serve the mission of the NPS. One such program just occurred at Cabrillo National Monument – a 24 hour BioBlitz!

A chaperone shows a student from High Tech Elementary school how to use iNaturalist on one of the school’s ipads by snapping a photo of a Lemonade Berry plant. NPS Photo courtesy of Shelley Glenn Lee – The students of High Tech Elementary School brought their families along to join in the BioBlitz fun.

A chaperone shows a student from High Tech Elementary school how to use iNaturalist on one of the school’s ipads by snapping a photo of a Lemonade Berry plant. NPS Photo courtesy of Shelley Glenn Lee – Students and chaperones from High Tech Elementary take a photo of Lemonade Berry (Rhus integrifolia), a native plant.

Park Ranger Stephanie Root holds a device called an Echometer Touch as she guides biologists and volunteers on a walk around the park, searching for bats. NPS Photo courtesy of Kristen Lalumiere – Biologists and volunteers walk the park at dusk, hoping to pick up bat calls on a device called Echometer Touch.

A BioBlitz is a concentrated effort to discover and document as many species of plants, animals, and other organisms in a certain period. This helps map the biodiversity of a given area and can be used as a tool to measure impacts and changes over time. This “snapshot” of biodiversity is a great way to connect the community with citizen science and the outdoors in a fun, interactive, and engaging way.  Cabrillo’s BioBlitz was held in conjunction with the City Nature Challenge, where cities across the world competed for the highest number of species, observations, and observers. Utilizing the free platform iNaturalist, participants made observations of organisms around them and posted these observations to a database that’s used by organizations such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and researchers across the globe. This crowdsourcing event racked up 2,096 observations and 444 species – in one day, participants of Cabrillo’s BioBlitz accounted for approximately 20% of all of San Diego County’s observations for the entire four-day span of the City Nature Challenge. But even more than this substantial scientific contribution is the creation of community amongst fellow science, nature, and national park enthusiasts. Scientists, school children, families, teachers, volunteers, park staff, and the public all got together to marvel at the beautiful biodiversity Cabrillo has to offer. This fact alone makes for a successful citizen science project – in this rapidly changing world, the people’s support of the NPS mission to preserve and protect is more crucial than ever. 

An SDSU herpetologist holds up a canvas bag containing a baby Southern Pacific Rattlesnake while biologists look on. The unharmed snake is being relocated to a location underneath plants that are away from the tidepool trail. NPS Photo courtesy of Samantha Wynns – SDSU graduate students and rattlesnake experts are called in to move a baby Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri) away from a well-used path.

Four women pose for a picture in front of the backdrop of the city of San Diego. Two of the women are scientists from Cabrillo National Monument, and two of the women are scientists from Joshua Tree National Park. NPS Photo courtesy of Samantha Wynns – Four scientists with the National Park Service bask in the glow of a successful bioblitz!

Bioblitz, City Nature Challenge, iNaturalist, Cabrillo National Monument, National Park Service, Citizen Science, Community Science, Find Your Park, Biodiversity, Global Biodiversity Information Facility, GBIF

Last updated: May 15, 2019

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