Observe Locally – Help Globally :  Participate in the next international Socially Distant BioBlitzes, June 14th, July 5th

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! 

American Carrion Beetle

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   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

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.

Two bioblitzes – citizen science in action, Sep. 13-14 & Sep. 29

Eastern Virginia Rivers National Wildlife Refuge Complex is doing a couple of BioBlitzes this September:

BioBlitz: Presquile NWR
What? A BioBlitz is an intense period of biological surveying in attempt to identify all living species within a unit of the refuge. During this BioBlitz, biologists and citizen scientists will have the opportunity to assist the refuge with a biological inventory of Presquile National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Surrounded by the James River, Presquile NWR contains freshwater marshes, a network of creeks, fields, and hardwood forests. While attending this event, surveyors are welcome to explore the extent of the refuge and will be given a data sheet to record all identifiable species. You can also opt to record your information in your iNaturalist app.


Surveyors have the option to choose between two survey periods. Space is limited as each survey period can have 14 surveyors. Spots will be filled on a first come first serve basis. Please specify which survey period when you RSVP to

Survey Period 1: An overnight survey for those who plan to inventory wildlife at night and/or in the early morning. Overnight surveyors will be able to stay in the bunkhouse. The pontoon boat departs for Presquile at September 13, at 5p and returns for pick up on September 14, 9a. (max. capacity 14 surveyors)

Survey Period 2: Pontoon Boat Departs on September 14 at 10a and returns at 3pm. (max. capacity 14 surveyors)

Where? Henrico, VA. Directions to the pontoon boat launch will be distributed closer to the event.

What to Bring? Any equipment you may need to complete your survey (ie, binoculars, field scopes, water quality measurement devices). Survey Period 1: We will send a separate email closer to the event. Survey Period 2: We will provide water and snacks but be sure to bring your own water bottle and lunch.

RSVP? Email Lauren at with your specified Survey Period if you are interested or have any questions. We look forward to seeing you there!

BioBlitz: Fones Cliffs
What? A BioBlitz is an intense period of biological surveying with the objective of identify all living species within a tract of the Refuge. During this BioBlitz, biologists and citizen scientists will have the opportunity to explore our newest Refuge tract while contributing valuable data to the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. This Refuge tract contains various habitats. It borders the Rappahannock River and consists of fields, mixed forests and ravines. While attending this event, surveyors are welcome to collect data within the extent of the Refuge and will be given a data sheet to record identifiable species. Surveyors can also opt to record information in the iNaturalist app. Please note, surveyors are only to collect data within the Refuge boundary which will be represented on a map upon arrival.

When? Sunday, September 29, 9a-3p

Where? Carters Wharf Road, Warsaw, VA; Google Maps Link: Signs will guide you from Carters Wharf Road to the cliffs on the day of the event.

What to Bring? Any equipment you may need to complete your survey (ie, binoculars, field scopes, snake tongs, field guides). We will provide water and snacks, but be sure to bring your own water bottle and lunch.

RSVP? Please email Lauren at Lauren_cruz@fws.

Join bioblitz at Oxbow Farm, near Front Royal, July 14

Joe Guthrie of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute invites you to a citizen science volunteer opportunity (Service Code C200). On Sunday, July 14th 2019 VWL and their partners at The Clifton Institute ( are co-hosting a BioBlitz at Oxbow Farm in Warren County, near Front Royal (What’s a BioBlitz? See here)

The Oxbow Farm BioBlitz will be limited to 30 participants, including staff from VWL and Clifton. To ensure a spot at this one-time event, register by using the following link (scroll to the bottom of the linked page and look for the REGISTER icon; select “1” and leave the registration fee at 0.00, then click “Submit”):


The draft schedule is as follows:

6:30-9:30 AM: Bird walk

10:00 AM-12:00 PM: Reptile and amphibian walk

3:00-4:00 PM: Flying insects walk

4:00-5:00 PM: Terrestrial arthropod walk (turning over logs and rocks)

3:00-5:00 PM: Fungi walk

3:00-6:00 PM: Plants & wildflower walk

8:30-10:00 PM: Night creatures (insects at black lights, reptiles and amphibians)


We will use the popular iNaturalist platform/app to collect, review and document everything we find during the BioBlitz.

If this interests you, please sign up by registering at the link above. If you have questions, please email (cc-ed above) and Joe Guthrie ( Some of you may have visited Oxbow in the past and know how special it is. For those of you who’ve not seen Oxbow, here’s an opportunity.

City Nature Challenge–Save the dates, 26-29 April 2019

Citizen scientists throughout the Washington DC metro area will be participating in the 2019 City Nature Challenge, a competition among 130 cities around the world to find and document the diversity of species. No experience required—just a mobile device and a love for nature. Participants will make observations of wild plants and animals using the free iNaturalist app (for Android or Apple).

Why get involved? By participating, you’ll not only get out and see some great urban nature, you’ll help scientists collect data on the biodiversity of our region (and the planet).

Great video to share

Find out how it works!

See the results from the 2018 City Nature Challenge.



Help with the Arlington Bioblitz, September 15th

Glencarlyn Picnic Pavillion #1, 401 S. Harrison St., Arlington VA

Saturday, September 15th

9 am – 4 pm

Celebrate Arlington’s biodiversity by helping us conduct a citizen science inventory of plants and wildlife that will help shape the County’s updating of its Natural Resources Management Plan.
Participating in the Bioblitz is a great way to discover and get to know the wildlife and flora of Arlington. We will team participants with experts to help find, identify and catalog plant and animal life, using a free application called iNaturalist. Novices are welcomed. Please let us know if you would like to be a team leader (what’s your expertise?) or participant.
For more information and to register call Alonso Abugattas at 703-228-7742 or email

Check out a tutorial on how to use iNaturalist, which will be the primary recording tool for this project.

Sign up to help with the event.