Botanical BioBlitz Exceeds Expectations

Well, I think we can safely say that iNaturalist has officially kicked off in Madagascar. I'm very happy to report that we have converged on a number of significant milestones for the project:

1,000 species
2,000 observations

These figures have exceeded my expectations and I’m so pleased that we are reaching a critical mass with this initiative. A collective of Malagasy botanists, from multiple institutions including the Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre (KMCC), Missouri Botanic Garden (MBG), California Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the University of Antananarivo (and many more!), have joined forces to scale up the documentation of plants on Madagascar. After some initial training, including a masterclass from Romer on how to create a guide, we set off from ‘Tana to the Analamazoatra/Perinet Reserve.

Romer Training
Romer on how to build an iNaturalist guide

Oh, and did I mention our special guest? iNaturalist’s very own Scott Loarie joined us. Scott gave us a 101 in iNaturalist and was more than happy to soak up some of the botanical wonders in the forest, and a few non-botanical wonders as well:

Scott Lemur
Scott's captures a great shot of the Common Brown Lemur

Approaching the challenge with high spirits, the team set out on a BioBlitz – possibly the first botanical BioBlitz in Madagascar? The aim was to split into groups and record as many plants as possible. The wealth of knowledge across the teams ensured a steady flow of identifications. A smart phone was assigned to each team and the Android iNaturalist app was put to through its paces.

Getting back to the hotel where the ‘wrap up’ was due to happen, it quickly became apparent that the internet was non-existent or extremely slow at best. We’d invested in a dongle to pick up some 3G, but it was clear we weren’t going to be able to upload all our observations. I think this was a useful lesson for us all. In north America and Europe we get used to being constantly connected, but in many parts of the world, getting online is still a challenge. Scott went home with a long list of things to consider for ‘offline’ functionality in the Android and iOS apps.

One thing you can be sure of in Madagascar is that whatever you do, you’ll find the Malagasy will make the best of any situation. Our trip was never short of laughter and high spirits and our new botanical task force took to the BioBlitz with great enthusiasm.

Group E in full swing - bioblitz happy

With the team already planning the next BioBlitz before we had even returned to ‘Tana it gave me great hope that we had started something special, something that would continue.

The BioBlitzers - revelation of the trip was Rokiman's cunning use of selfie stick (left of image) to get those out of reach observations - a stroke of genius!

Now, back in the office we can see the observations are rolling in. In one morning and one afternoon, we’ve amassed nearly 600 observations and nearly 100 species. This baseline data is vital for our conservation actions and the iNaturalist approach means we can ramp up our data collection. Now we can look to spreading the word to a wider audience. Interested? Get in touch.

Posted by stevenkew stevenkew, September 17, 2015 21:37



INaturalist & Bioblitz are very intersting methods for us, the Malagasy botanists and naturalists, who have lots of expertise but really needs help for consistency of our knowledge on the Malagasy unique and rich biodiveristy. Thanks to Steve and Lauren!.

Posted by tiana123 about 5 years ago (Flag)

Fantastic stuff! The Malagasy team really impressed and inspired us with their botanical knowledge and aptitude to use new technologies in the field and for so many organisations to all be working together. Looking forward to being back in Madagasikara soon, and to the next BioBlitz!

Posted by vandalg about 5 years ago (Flag)

I REALLY enjoyed looking at these observations. :) I wish I had more knowledge of the flora of Madagascar to help ID... Nonetheless, I've enjoyed living vicariously through the photos. :)

Posted by sambiology about 5 years ago (Flag)

Oh wow, I've never ever considered getting a selfie stick, but an iNat stick... that's an entirely different thing! I love seeing the new observations from Madagascar since it makes my eclectic and mostly unused knowledge of Tanzanian flora feel more useful (and if you add any observations to Nat Geo's Great Nature Project I'll be even more likely to see them!).

Posted by carrieseltzer about 5 years ago (Flag)

It was really a pity for me for not being able to join the team for this Bioblitz but I think I can catch up next time . Thanks a lot Steve and Lauren for the sharing......

Posted by sandriambololonera almost 5 years ago (Flag)

Love to hear about an excellent collaboration like this!

Posted by calloftheloon over 4 years ago (Flag)

Add a Comment

Sign In or Sign Up to add comments