BioBlitzes / Biodiversity

The City Nature Challenges (CNCs), like the City Nature Challenge: Bonner County (CNCBC), are examples of BioBlitzes. What are BioBlitzes? They are systematic observations on nature (flora and fauna) in a particular area over a specified period of time. They can be informal and individual, more formal as part of a larger group, or done by professionals. Since the professionals (like wildlife biologists, who typically use them to document and monitor populations of species) have finite staff and budgets, lay people (citizens) can add capacity to their efforts by collecting this information, which can then be used for larger scientific studies…they can be part of a citizen science project.

But, a big benefit is that “citizens” (of all ages) get a chance to (re)connect to the landscape on which they live, work and play. BioBlitzes can help (re)introduce people to the species that have coevolved in the bioregion together over millennia. And, it can help them understand which species are struggling, or are now missing altogether.

Here are the first two paragraphs in “Decoding Animal Language: Front Row Seats To A ‘Wild’ Play” (
“If the world of decoding animal language is new to you, you’re in for a treat. Decoding animal language is a bit like pulling back the curtain onto a universal play. The actors may change, but just like the changing cast of Hamilton in New York vs Chicago vs San Francisco, the play is the same. Once you learn the parts played by the animals in your backyard, you’ll be able to recognize the lines anywhere in the world you travel.

“The feats that even the newest students of animal language are capable of border on the miraculous. To the uninitiated, the wisdom found in animal insights can seem like ESP, clairvoyance or some sort of shamanism; and to be honest, it is kind of neat when someone thinks you have superhuman powers! In reality, however, it just boils down to better observation. We encourage you to dive in right now by drawing back the curtain on one of the greatest dramas of all time. By honing a few simple observation skills, animals can tell us that there is a snake wriggling through the tallest grass on the ‘back 40,’ or that there is a cat coming down a far hedgerow or about the owl perched in the evergreen in the city park.”

The ”universal play” has been unfolding over eons, and almost all of that time without humans. Plants and animals have been co-evolving, depending on the intricate web of life. And, of all of the organisms, only humans have had the ability to technologically evolve; to spread across the landscape and alter entire ecosystems. In a sense, we’ve achieved a form of escape velocity: we are no longer dependent on the immediate natural resources for daily survival. We have largely freed ourselves of the web. And, in the course of doing so, many have lost an appreciation that there even is a web.

In urban areas, where the CNCs began -and where most of them are now- the web has largely been destroyed. So, even if one looked and noticed, there are hardly any animal languages even being spoken to decode. Many organisms simply cannot survive. A lot have been pushed out; pushed off of the best habitat and no longer have the food and shelter resources to survive, much less thrive. Over time, their populations decrease, some becoming threatened, then threatened to the point of extinction.

In a way, a CNC shouldn’t be about just documenting the Wild things (as opposed to domesticated or cultivated organisms) that have been able to hang on as their native ranges have shrunk. It should be about rediscovering our innate naturalist ability to notice the wild things that are no longer among us. That’s what the CNCBC Facebook Page has tried to do:
-to help discover the actors in our “universal play”;
-to (re)introduce the flora and fauna in the county, and to highlight those that are struggling;
-to encourage people to stay engaged over the course of the changing seasons, to watch the “scene changes” and the “actors” come and go off the “stage”;
-to decide, individually, and collectively, whether to adopt a land ethic that supports biodiversity, and to value the ecosystem services it provides.

There are big and small things that we can do to preserve and restore this incredibly beautiful landscape.

The CNC is just one weekend, and really not the best time of year, given our northern location (4/30-5/3). Hopefully it will inspire people:
-to continue to make observations throughout the year, using apps like Nature’s Notebook;
-to develop into skilled citizen scientists so that we can, if we want, help make collective decisions about development, and how we recreate on public lands.

In David Orr’s “Verbicide” book he wrote that the American child can identify 1000 corporate logos, but can't ID 10 plants and animals native to his or her hometown. That probably applies to lots of adults, too. Let’s see if we can use the CNCBC, and maybe other BioBlitzes in the summer and fall, to become more “biodiversity literate”.


Here are some good resources to learn more about BioBlitzes:

What is a bioblitz?

Why is biodiversity so important?

(Backyard) Citizen Scientist Rebecca Ray

Observing nature in your backyard is not dull but radically significant


NatGeo has got some great resources:

BIOBLITZ Counting Species Through Citizen Science

-NG BioBlitz Series: Exploring Biodiversity with Youth Outside, Inside, and Virtually

-NG BioBlitz Series: Observation Techniques and Species Exploration Using the Seek App


Finally, here’s a great, more scientific video produced by the Conservation Biology Institute:
Using community science to predict extinctions and monitor threatened species

Posted by geogehrig geogehrig, March 18, 2021 05:09


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