Citizen scientists unite for Bainbridge BioBlitz

Do you like animals, plants and fungi? There’s something coming up that will knock your scientific socks off.

Rick Gillatt and Greg Jensen celebrate the discovery of Bainbridge’s many hidden creatures during last year’s BioBlitz.

Do you like animals, plants and fungi? There’s something coming up that will knock your scientific socks off.

IslandWood and the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, in partnership with National Geographic, will host the second annual Bainbridge lsland BioBlitz on May 14.

The BioBlitz will take place on IslandWood’s campus, Blakey Harbor Park, Hilltop Meadow and the Grand Forest. More than 300 people are expected to participate.

A BioBlitz is a 24-hour inventory of all animal, plant and fungi species living in a specific area. BioBlitz events are opportunities for community members of all ages to become citizen scientists as they work side-by-side with experts in “taxa teams” to gather important data.

BioBlitz is an intensive race against the clock to identify as many species as possible on three very unique properties, IslandWood, the Grand Forest/Hilltop Meadow and Blakely Harbor Park.

BioBlitz volunteers receive training and are invited to participate in science-skill building workshops before and after the event.

“We’re thrilled to be a part of this exciting effort to engage citizen scientists across the country,” said Christina Doherty, IslandWood’s Community Education Coordinator. “A BioBlitz is an incredible opportunity for people of all skill levels to contribute to a collective scientific knowledge base in natural history, while also connecting more deeply to the ecosystem, building awareness for what lives and grows in their own backyards.”

Anyone interested in joining the Bainbridge Island BioBlitz can register on IslandWood’s website at www.islandwood.org/bioblitz. Teams include the Grand Forest Birding, Trees with Olaf, Fungi, Dinosaur Plants, Aquatic Macroinvertebrates, Invertebrates, Reptiles and Amphibians, Nocturnal Creatures and more.

Doherty called the event “fast-paced, scientific-fun” and a “unique experience where Puget Sound neighbors can directly mix and mingle with practicing scientists.”

Community members who are not taking part in the inventory are invited to come to “Base Camp” at IslandWood to participate in games and activities focused on exploring the natural world. Partners in the event, including the Woodland Park Zoo, the Burke Museum, the National Park Service and the West Sound Wildlife Shelter, will host table investigations for those at the basecamp.

“We’ll have activities for all ages, and lots of life sciences materials to see and touch — including meeting live animals,” Doherty said. “We’re proud that we have the educational partners in this event…we’re all in this together.”

At last year’s BioBlitz, 454 unique species were noted, she said.

“That means each was unique, although there may have been a great number of each species seen during the ‘Blitz,” Doherty said.

Among them were a large mouth bass and a spider called Hypomma marxii.

“Last year we had a team at Gazzam Lake where there is a wonderful hiking trail,” she said.

“There’s been a story told among the locals for years of a gigantic fish seen in the lake. We never knew if it was a fish tale or for real. But a scientist snorkeled in the lake at 2 a.m. and sure enough saw it. It was a large mouth bass — and really lived up to its name.”

Another Burke Museum scientist, also at Gazzam Lake, found the Hypomma marxii spider — which had only been seen twice before in Washington state.

What makes this event so great is that it doesn’t cost much, just a bit of time and, of course, curiosity, Doherty said.

“The real takeaway from events like a BioBlitz is that citizens now see themselves as scientists who are contributing in meaningful ways and who are deeply engaging with their sense of place,” she said. “In order to conserve and be active stewards of wild places, we first have to know what’s there.”

BioBlitz partners include the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, Woodland Park Zoo, Burke Museum, National Park Service, West Sound Wildlife Shelter, Bainbridge Beach Naturalists, Kitsap Beach Naturalists, Bats Northwest, Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Parks & Recreation District, Kitsap Audubon Society and the Kitsap Peninsula Mycological Society.

The Bainbridge Island BioBlitz will be one of 200 similar events nationwide being highlighted by National Geographic as a part of its celebration of the National Parks Centennial. Data from the Bainbridge Island BioBlitz will be shared May 20-21 during a BioBlitz  celebration on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

While no one from Bainbridge is scheduled to attend the celebration in Washington, D.C., Doherty said National Geographic is sending one of their staff to be at the event on Bainbridge.

To learn more about the national events, go to www.nationalgeographic.org/projects/bioblitz.

“This is a great opportunity to learn about what’s living in your own backyard,  and join a national effort in cataloging the biodiversity of North America,” Doherty said.

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