BioBlitz 2012: Get out and Explore!

Rocky Mountain, National Park, Colorado — What is a BioBlitz? At its core a BioBlitz is about connecting with nature. Trained scientists team up with students and the general public—you and me—and explore a place. You take a close look at what’s around you, learn about all the living things that call that place home, and realize that you are part of biodiversity and its splendor. We cannot be set apart from the natural world; we are an integral part of it.

This year’s BioBlitz in Rocky Mountain National Park, August 24-25, 2012, is the sixth in a series hosted by the National Park Service and the National Geographic Society that counts down to the Park Service centennial in 2016. The park service marks its 96th birthday on Saturday, August 25. The Rocky Mountain National Park BioBlitz is part of the celebration. All are invited to participate in this free, fun event based at the east-side gateway of the park in Estes Park, Colorado.

The National Geographic Society, which will celebrate its 125th birthday next year, has been a champion of the National Park Service from the start. We helped forge the legislation that created the National Park System. We have continued to celebrate the splendors of the Parks in our magazines, books, television documentaries, maps, websites, and apps. BioBlitz is another way to celebrate the parks in a hands-on way.

BioBlitzes are all about citizen science. The national parks have been fairly well documented over time, but there will always be new generations who will be enchanted by discovering the parks for themselves. And sometimes we find species that are new to the park’s roster. At the BioBlitz in Biscayne, Florida, a species of tardigrade new to science was found. The spirit of BioBlitz is for citizens, especially young people discovering for themselves what lives in the parks. There are thousands of species to find.

Scores of scientists donate their time and knowledge to showing hundreds of young people the wonders of diversity. Citizens who take part in the exploration help gather species for identification, often simply by using their smart phones or digital cameras.

A photo of a bug or a leaf or a bird or a snake can be uploaded from the BioBlitz to the “Project Noah” website, where citizen scientists across the world can help with identification and information. It’s a great way to take stock of what’s in our parks, in real time.

If you can’t join us at BioBlitz, get inspired to explore a nearby park or your own backyard. At you can: see what’s happening at the BioBlitz; log onto National Geographic’s online mapping tool Fieldscope that allows you to analyze maps, photos, and scientific data from the BioBlitz; and get tips on doing your own BioBlitz.

In past years we have partnered with the National Park Service to host BioBlitzes in the riverine environment of Washington D.C.’s Rock Creek, the Mediterranean ecosystem of California’s Santa Monica Mountains, Lake Michigan’s Indiana Dunes, Biscayne’s marine habitat, and the desert communities of Arizona’s Saguaro National Park.

These great landscapes are in our backyard. They are connected with our cities and each of us. Understanding and appreciating what’s in the backyard of our cities will help us know what’s in the backyard of our homes.  What birds and butterflies are flying through our cities, and what they need to be able to live among us.

Knowledge of our role in the natural world will help us manage our planet in a more sustainable way. As we at National Geographic believe, everyone’s an explorer. Get out there and join the adventure. Bring your child or a friend, and delight in discovery with those who care.

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
John Francis serves as Vice President for Research, Conservation, and Exploration at the National Geographic Society, directing funding of these disciplines through the Committee for Research and Exploration, the Conservation Trust, and the Expeditions Council, Young Explorers, and Waitt grants programs. Francis also serves on boards for the National Park System, UNESCO, and the IUCN. John received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz and spent five years as a postdoctoral fellow and research associate at the Smithsonian Institution studying the behavioral ecology of marine mammals. Since his beginning roles as grantee and then producer of wildlife films for National Geographic, he has worked to enhance connections between the scientific/conservation community and the public -- made possible through the Society’s funding of path breaking projects and global media reach.