Article and photos by Bill Hafker
It’s tough on those of us who thrive on getting with a group of friends to hike, bike, kayak or otherwise just get outside and observe nature, to feel locked out of doing that. However, it is still possible to find ways to stay safe and enjoy the outdoors. Whether you just go into your backyard, or find a trail or park that’s open, you can still take part in doing the citizen science/monitoring work you love. If you enjoyed participating in the City Nature Challenge during April, or if you missed it and wished that you could have been part of advancing a group goal in support of the environment while doing socially distanced nature observations, it’s not too late to do so!
The first-ever International Socially Distant BioBlitz was held on April 5th. It connected 346 participants who together made over 12,500 observations documenting more than 3,000 species. It was such a success that the organizers at Antioch University New England did it again on May 3rd. I participated on that day by spending hours documenting everything I could find on a trail near my home. I had a great time being one of 417 participants from 52 countries, contributing 241 observations and 134 species to their new record numbers of over 22,000 observations and 6,137 species. I’m planning to try to participate in the upcoming BioBlitzes by walking the same trail each time to see how the species present change, and hoping to find things that I didn’t see the times before. What was especially cool this time was that I received a comment from someone in the iNat community who thinks I may have posted an invasive beetle not previously documented in the east. My pictures weren’t good enough for him to be sure of the species, so I’m hoping to find it again on a subsequent date so that I can send him the specimen that he requested.
Based on their success, the organizers will be holding these Socially Distant BioBlitzes on a tri-weekly basis until stay-at-home orders are lifted across the globe. Hopefully you can join the next ones, and encourage others to participate as well. Info can be found at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/socially-distant-bioblitz-5-24-2020. Everyone is encouraged to also check out the Socially Distant BioBlitz series, an umbrella project that keeps track of cumulative totals and compares individual bioblitzes at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/socially-distant-bioblitz-series.
Per current VMN policy guidelines, participation in these bioblitzs can not be counted as service hours because they are not considered to be sufficiently focused on work with local partners or state sponsored agencies supporting beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within our own community.