National Parks BioBlitz Takes Stock of Species in Parks

Weir Farm BioBlitz
Tens of thousands of experts and citizen scientists of all ages came to identify species in national parks, including at Weir Farm National Historic Site.

Photo by National Geographic Society

News Release Date: May 25, 2016

Contact: Kathy Kupper, National Park Service, 202-208-6843

Contact: Carol Seitz, National Geographic Society, 202-247-0953

Events held in 120 parks; species count tops 6,986;including 403 threatened species

Washington — During two intensive days of exploration and documentation, the National Parks BioBlitz, May 20-21, 2016, captured a vivid snapshot of the unique plant and animal biodiversity in our national parks. The National Park Service and National Geographic event, sponsored by American Express, involved more than 120 national parks and tens of thousands of experts and citizen scientists of all ages and backgrounds.

The BioBlitz was part scientific endeavor, part outdoor classroom excursion and part celebration of national natural heritage. Families, scientists, school groups, and individuals swarmed parks, observing and recording as many plant and animal species as possible within a 24-hour period.

"I am thrilled that so many people became citizen scientists this weekend," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "Everyone had a great time finding plants, amphibians, bugs, animals, birds, and even fossils in parks throughout the country. Their discoveries make a difference and will be used to establish baselines against which we can measure changes in ecosystems."

Highlights include:

  • An initial scientific species count, of 6,986, with more than 60,000 observations recorded during the two-day event and lead-up events in recent months. Organizers expect this number to increase greatly over the next few months as more species are identified and the final numbers tallied.
  • The National Parks BioBlitz—Washington, D.C. was the cornerstone of the national event. Nearly 300 scientists and experts led more than 2,600 students and thousands of members of the general public in 13 of the National Capital Region's parks. As of the end of the weekend, more than 1,000 species were recorded.
  • Channel Islands National Park featured a live broadcast of an interactive dive with renowned oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle. The feed was featured online and enabled the public to follow the exploration of one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world, the giant kelp forest.
  • At Cabrillo National Monument, Green Abalone (Haliotis fulgens) was documented. For the past thirty years, Abalone have faced substantial conservation concerns due to overharvesting and disease. Their presence in the Cabrillo Rocky Intertidal Zone can be described as ephemeral at best.
  • At Gettysburg National Military Park, more than 750 school students identified 166 species, including a 30-pound snapping turtle, in the park's first ever BioBlitz.
  • Knife River Indian Villages National Historical Park conducted an ArcheoBlitz. A centuries old bison tooth was found at Big Hidatsa Village, which was occupied from about 1740 to 1850. DNA extracted from this tooth can provide data on bison populations before their near-extinction at the end of the 19th century, a useful comparison for managers of modern herds.
  • At Great Smoky Mountain National Parks, experts teamed up with about 100 fifth graders. Together they explored plants and insects and discovered nearly 200 species.
  • At Weir Farm National Historic Site, 375 school children joined more than 200 other participants, and counted more than 340 species.
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve conducted a lichen survey and added several new species to their park list. One of those identified was Xanthoria elegans. This species of lichen resided on the international space station for eighteen months.
  • At Bandelier National Monument, more than 100 researchers and volunteers conducted 17 inventories that included searches for terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, birds, reptiles and amphibians, plants, pollinators and bats. They made 877 iNaturalist observations and identified 361 species. The most observed species was the Silver-haired bat.

This National Parks BioBlitz was the 10th in a series of BioBlitzes hosted by the National Park Service and the National Geographic Society. Since 2007, as part of the run-up to the NPS Centennial, the two organizations have collaborated to hostannual BioBlitzes in different national parks close to major urban areas.

"Nine years ago at the first National Geographic –National Park Service BioBlitz in Rock Creek Park, we had about 1,000 people documenting species on paper," said National Geographic Society President and CEO Gary Knell. "This year, for the National Park Service Centennial, tens of thousands of people have joined forces at more than 120 parks for the first nationwide BioBlitz. This massive effort to uncover the amazing natural resources in our parks dovetails with National Geographic's longtime commitment to exploring and protecting our planet."

"American Express is committed to serving and preserving our nation's parks and public lands," said American Express Foundation President Timothy J. McClimon. "As we gear up for the National Park Service centennial, we are excited to sponsor BioBlitz and empower volunteers across the country to discover and celebrate the wealth of biodiversity in our national parks."

American Express is also a premier partner of the 2016 National Park Service centennial. To learn more, visit amex.co/goparks.

The National Parks BioBlitz used the iNaturalist app to deliver real-time information on species finds. During BioBlitz, iNaturalist's weekly record was beat by more than 10,000 observations with a grand weekly total of over 64,800 observations in one week.Parks and partners shared their BioBlitz activities via social media, using the hashtags #BioBlitz2016 and #FindYourPark. Many parks broadcast portions of their events on social media sites such as Periscope, Snapchat, and Facebook Live, engaging visitors from around the world.

Verizon provided financial and in-kind support to allow thousands of students participating in the national capital region to have access to Verizon powered tablets to document their species finds on iNaturalist. Southwest Airlines and the Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation also contributed generously to the cornerstone event in and around Washington, D.C. Additional nationwide collaborators included the National Park Foundation, the National Park Trust, The Nature Fund, and many park-specific friends groups. 

Additional parks will conduct BioBlitz events throughout the National Park Service Centennial. More information, including an interactive location map, is available at natgeo.org/bioblitz.

About the National Park Service

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 411 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. To learn more about the National Park Service, visitwww.nps.gov.

About the National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit membership organization driven by a passionate belief in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to change the world. We fund hundreds of research and conservation projects around the globe each year. With the support of our members and donors, we work to inspire, illuminate and teach through scientific expeditions, award-winning journalism, education initiatives and more. For more information, visitwww.nationalgeographic.org.

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NOTES: Images for media use are available at http://bit.ly/bioblitz_2016



Last updated: May 25, 2016

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