The BioBlitz: In 5s

Disclaimer: OK, so this post is 2 weeks late as a result of my temporarily misplacing my thumbdrive and getting caught up with other work. Sincerest apologies! The good news is, it’s still plenty relevant, because BioBlitz is a year-round initiative. And in fact, planning is already underway for the 2010 signature event in Biscayne Bay, Florida. Look for more BioBlitz news in upcoming months here on the blog!

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This past weekend [er, May 15], I trekked out to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (INDU) to take part in the 3rd annual BioBlitz, a 24 hour species inventory hosted by National Geographic and the National Park Service. While not quite as sunny as last year’s event at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA or “SAMO”), it was no less rich of a scientific endeavor. At SAMO, I was primarily occupied with public outreach, manning an activities booth. This year, my focus was a citizen science collaborative mapping project. Along with a few other staffers, I led four groups of local students using National Geographic Education’s new Fieldscope tool to track ecological succession along the dunes. But that was just one of the activities taking place at the park. Here are some highlights, in the spirit of “Five for Friday.”

5 Favorite Blog Posts
For the past two years, National Geographic’s Ford Cochran and Emily Landis have braved extreme temperatures and sleep deprivation to bring round-the-clock coverage of the Blitz. Here are my five favorite posts from this year’s Blog:

Born of Nature and Industry
An intro to INDU.

Where the Wild Things Are
BioBlitz kickoff.

I Love Everything About this Event!
Students and teachers sound off about WHY they decided to participate in the BioBlitz.

Are You Recycling Tonight?
“Green-E,” the Environmental Elvis, made a special appearance at INDU. He did not disappoint.

Fair Warning
Enough said.

5 Favorite INDU Memories

poison_ivy-thumb-608x405.jpgSummiting Mt. Baldy for the first time
Not so much a mountain as a large dune, Mt. Baldy is well worth the
short ascent. It’s pretty surreal to gaze out at the massive expanse of
Lake Michigan and see Chicago in the distance, framed by steel mills in
the foreground of this mixed-use park.

The students!
Despite the rain that plagued us throughout much of the Fieldscope
inventories, all four groups of students retained high spirits and
solid work ethics. Impressive mettle!

Hiking in a downpour
After getting “lost” from our group, two other National Geographic
staffers and I (I know, you’d think geographers would be immune to this
sort of thing) got caught in a downpour, and my jeans were not exactly
waterproof. After the initial shock wore off and we accepted the
futility of our soaked state, we enjoyed a lovely hike through the
forested dunes, culminating with the sighting of a majestic heron. It
was much better than being stuck in the science tent without power, and
it made my dip in the hotel Jacuzzi that much more indulgent!

Personal dune guide
A group of us joined an inventory with a University of Chicago
professor who has been studying ecological succession on the dunes for
over 50 years. He pointed out all kinds of unique sights and species.
What a treat!

Dinners at the Portage Lakefront & Riverwalk and Quaker Steak & Lube
We kicked off the BioBlitz Thursday night with a sunset dinner at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, a brand new, LEED gold-certified development built on the site of a former brownfield
along the shore of Lake Michigan. Saturday night, we celebrated a
successful BioBlitz with a trip to another extreme on the dining
spectrum–the Quaker Steak & Lube, “America’s #1 Motorsports-themed
family restaurant.” Located in the strip mall that contained our hotel,
the scenery was distinctly less impressive than that first night on the
lake, but the food was equally delicious and the company just as

Thanks all for a fantastic BioBlitz!
And now, for the final five-fer:

5 Reasons YOU Should Attend a BioBlitz

Explore a new environment
The annual NPS/NGS BioBlitzes are hosted at “urban” parks close to
major metropolitan areas. These hidden gems are often less well-known
than the celebrated NPS flagships such as Yellowstone, Great Smokies,
or Death Valley.  Get out and discover the natural wonders you never
knew existed in your backyard!

Do real science
It’s one thing to follow a structured experimental procedure in a lab;
it’s another to work alongside scientists in the field. BioBlitz gives
students and the public a unique opportunity to engage in a real
scientific endeavor. Through this spirited data collection “race,” they
learn that science can be fun!

See kids awestruck
There’s nothing cuter than a young kid encountering a critter for the
first time, gesturing wildly with eyes wide open. Many of the urban
students who attend the BioBlitz have had limited opportunities to get
out in nature, and their excitement upon seeing new plants, bugs, and
larger animals is palpable–and downright contagious!

Meet fantastic folks
BioBlitz scientists, conservationists, park staff, volunteers and
attendees are notoriously “good people” of great passion, with
interesting backgrounds and stories–not that I’m biased. Spend an hour
in the science tent and you’ll make new acquaintances, like my
professor friend from the University of Chicago.

Build awareness
At MWW we’re all about awareness building–about the wonderful world
around us, and about the critical importance of geographic education.
The BioBlitz advances both these goals by engaging students and members
of the public in experiential ecological education, and demonstrating
why it’s so important to conserve our natural resources.

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