BioBlitzing on the Bayou

By Sean O’Connor

As the sun shines at high noon over New Orleans this Friday, a group of more than one thousand scientists, students and curious people will spread out across the Barataria Preserve (a section of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve) as part of the 2013 National Geographic BioBlitz—their goal: identify and count as many species as possible, in 24 hours.

This is the seventh annual National Geographic BioBlitz, conducted in partnership with the National Park Service. It’s been done in the mountains, on a lakeshore, in an urban park, on a key, and in the desert. It’s been done in sunny southern California and in rainy Indiana. Now it is time to let the bayou of southern Louisiana shine. The Barataria Preserve is a wetland ecosystem, or bayou, that houses different habitats. Coastal Louisiana is a flat place, but even the smallest differences in elevation across the preserve make for drastic differences in the flora and fauna, making the Barataria Preserve a rich and biologically diverse place. Scientists know there are alligators, armadillos, dwarf palmetto trees, and great blue herons in the park, but they know much less about the invertebrates and other small organisms—the insects, microorganisms, springtails and arachnids—that call the park home.

Whether a tiny invertebrate or a large, invasive nutria, all of the species observations collected during the BioBlitz will be mapped out and visualized on the National Geographic FieldScope tool. FieldScope is a web-based GIS for visualizing and analyzing scientific data collected by professional and citizen scientists. It is also a tool for exploring the geography of a place.

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Check out the FieldScope project set up for the Jean Lafitte BioBlitz and get to know the New Orleans area in a new and different kind of way. Stay up to date on the scientific discoveries happening at the event: all observations will be added to FieldScope as they happen, sometimes with a slight delay, as information collected from the the field trickles back to the data team at the temporary BioBlitz base camp at the park’s Education Center.

Participants in the BioBlitz will also be using a specially set up mission in Project Noah to submit their wildlife spottings from the park. The geo-tagged spottings collected with mobile phones are viewable on FieldScope, as well as in the Project Noah online community.

Bioblitzing is a blast, and you’ll be surprised what sorts of wildlife you’ll find in your own location—whether its your backyard, schoolyard, or a park near you. Join us this weekend by following along with our BioBlitz discoveries from Jean Lafitte and consider bioblitzing yourself! (Find bioblitz education resource here).

Upload your spottings to Project Noah and share with us on Twitter and Instagram by using #bioblitz !

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