Changing Planet

Biodiversity Youth Ambassadors Blog from Golden Gate BioBlitz

By NPS Biodiversity Youth Ambassadors

Reblogged with permission of the National Park Service Biological Resource Management Division, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science

Our BioBlitz youth ambassadors are back!

Caleb Ezelle, Dara Reyes, Valyssa Flores, and Parker Hopkins are joined by the newest ambassadors, Ben Clark and Lurlene Frazier, during the 2014 BioBlitz at Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Follow along as they share their experiences over their two day journey searching for life in the park.


Golden Gate BioBlitz — Day 1


Today is the first day of the 2014 Golden Gate National Park BioBlitz. I met a graduate student from the Rocky Mountain Sustainability and Science Network (RMSSN). He is from Nairobi Kenya, and is studying in Washington D.C. His job is to balance urban development and wildlife conservation in Kenya. From him, I learned about the importance of preserving Kenya’s natural resources because the people of Kenya live off the land.

Today, we also learned about living off the land when we went on an edible plants inventory in Crissy Field. On the inventory, I learned about how people in history used plants as food and medication. It is important to conserve the plants here in the San Francisco Bay not only because they could be used to save lives, but also because of the butterfly called the mission blue. The mission blues are dying off because they are loosing their natural host plant, the lupine plant.

Today was basically starting out the Bioblitz by with the opening ceremony. We had several workshops as well. We went through a sketching workshop in which I sketched a strawberry plant. We also had a mapping workshop where we mapped out today’s activities. We were also able to go through the festival and see all the booths. At the opening ceremony I was able to give a speech. At the light the torch ceremony we got to talk to the scientists. It was very enlightening to just listen to others questions and helped me answer questions I have. I am looking forward to the inventories tomorrow. I am having a blast.

Exploring mud.Photograph courtesy of NPS.Dara

On the first day of BioBlitz, March 28, 2014, the Youth Ambassadors and I welcomed Lurleen, the new ambassador into the Biodiversity Youth Ambassador program. After the opening ceremony, I went to the “Light the Torch” conference and listened to amazing scientists like Dr. Sylvia Earle about their field of work.

Exploring mud. Photograph courtesy of NPS.

Dr. Sylvia Earle is a truly amazing person because she taught me to always keep biodiversity in my heart no matter what field of work.

I first met Dr. Earle at the 2010 Bioblitz in Biscayne National Park. It was an honor to see her again this year and she really influences me on what I want to do in the future.

Then I had the opportunity to go on some awesome inventories like mud grabbing and wild edibles. In mud grabbing, I looked at benthic macro invertebrates at Crissy Field. In wild edibles, I learned about a variety of edible plants and their uses. For example, buttercup and miners plant indicate that there is a water source nearby because the soil is very moist. Miners is also rich in vitamin C. Another indicator of a nearby water source are willow trees. The acid in willow tree bark can be used as an aspirin. My day has just started and I can’t wait to learn more.

Lurlene at Opening Ceremony. Photograph courtesy of NPS.


My favorite thing today was the mud-grabbing activity. It showed that when you dunk random water, there is stuff in it and sometimes it is not the “good” stuff and there could be sea monkeys in it. Moreover, I thoroughly enjoyed talking with a college student from the Rocky Mountain Science and Sustainability Network program. It was both interesting and helpful to get advice on educating youth and college stuff. We shared many similar ideas and gave each other advice. In addition we also got advice.

Lurlene at Opening Ceremony. Photograph courtesy of NPS.

We also got advice from a panel of great leaders such as Sylvia Earl, a National Geographic Explorer and Bert Frost, the Associate Director for Natural Resource Stewardship and Science. I want to got into marine biology so getting direction from a couple of experts and erudite marine biologists was phenomenal. I learned that you don’t have to be good at science or math to be an environmentalist.

Another thing that was achieved and went well was the opening ceremony. It was nice to see that so many people care about the environment and biodiversity as much as I do. There were so many bright and young faces that I hope to see take a stand on important issues. I hope that the first day of Bioblitz has inspired them to help the earth as much as they can.

In sum today was highly successful and fun. I wasn’t sure what to expect as a Golden Gate National Park Youth Ambassador. But today has set the bar and showed me how essential and important it is to spread awareness in biodiversity.

Ambassadors generating power by biking. Photograph courtesy of NPS.


Over the past day and a half, I have learned many things that will stay with me for my career and future as I think about what I will do. My outlook for the future gets brighter the more I hear from the important people around me. There are many lessons to be learned from every single booth, exhibit and inventory here at the Golden Gate Natural Recreation Area.

Ambassadors generating power by biking. Photograph courtesy of NPS.

Here are some of the things that have stood out to me so far.
1. “Light the torch” discussions
These seminars never fail to enlighten me with more knowledge from the brightest people in the industry (of resource stewardship and science) I really wish that one day I can strive to be the leader they talk about, one that can drive the generation’s preservation movement. I hope that by the time I get there, it is still a movement towards preservation and not restoration. Restoration is already an active part of what the NPS has to do in each of its parks, and if they are not properly taken care of, it would decline slowly to a point that we couldn’t restore it anyway. In other words, the words of these professionals helps me relate their present circumstances to ones we might face in the future as leaders of the ever-continuous National Parks Service.

2. Owl pellets/Edible Wilds
Another thing I discovered today was the amazing truths about edible plants and their elusiveness. With our guide, we walked along a trail, a completely ordinary trail, and we literally stopped and found a use for every plant that was not grass (even though grass had a use too). Something else that shocked me was also the s imple diversity of plants along this 50 foot stretch of trail. It was exciting hearing all the useful things I can do with them if I can see them and how the medicinal effects can help me as well.

3. Ross School
Ross School is a private school on East Long Island. They headed out to Tahiti to take “Biocube” samples with real scientists. They found over 125 different species in 1 cubic feet of a reef in Tahiti. I learned even more valuable things from them but not time to share that now, off for more fun.

Kimberly Arthur, of Denali National Park and Rocky Mountain Science and Sustainability Network talking with Valyssa. Photograph courtesy of NPS.


Today was the first day of the Bioblitz 24 hour inventory. Today I met Kimberly of Denali National Park. She is a museum curator from the Navajo nation in Arizona. Her connection to the National Parks was through photography. She taught me a bit about photography and let me take pictures on her camera. She is also the first Native I have met from Arizona that works for the National Parks. I found it interesting that I found someone who shares the same interests that I have and from similar culture.

Kimberly Arthur, of Denali National Park and Rocky Mountain Science and Sustainability Network talking with Valyssa. Photograph courtesy of NPS.


Golden Gate BioBlitz — Day 2


Today is the second day of the BioBlitz festival. We went to the Redwood forest in Muir Woods to go on a predatory beetle inventory. It was pouring rain, but that just added to the fun experience. On the inventory, we went with two entomologists to check seven pit fall traps they had set last night. We first found two species of millipedes.

Youth ambassadors in redwood forest. Photograph courtesy of NPS.

I learned that those we found give off a toxic fluid. For example, in one trap two millipedes with yellow spots dotting their sides gave off an almond-smelling aroma, which was cyanide gas. The reason for the yellow spots is to warn predators that it is toxic. Back at base headquarters, we looked at different beetles and arachnids under a microscope. The coolest thing we saw was a snail-eater beetle, promecognathus crassus, that had its head stuck in a millipede segment! That’s what happens when you don’t stick to your diet!

Youth ambassadors in redwood forest. Photograph courtesy of NPS.

We went out today on the second morning if the Bioblitz, and it was cold and raining, but It was so cool (no pun intended)! I have never seen a Redwood Forest before but I have heard a lot about them. It was absolutely beautiful. I hope to return soon. Being from Southern Louisiana, it was interesting to learn that the Redwood trees are related to the Bald Cypress, which I see on a daily basis. The first inventory we participated in was spiders and beetles. It was hard to see because of the rain but I would come back and do it again in a heartbeat.

It is cold and rainy on the morning of March 29, 2014, but that does not stop me from going on an inventory. I went on the predatory beetle and spider inventory. Even though I have a huge fear of spiders, I still learned some interesting facts about the redwood and calymmaria spiders. I also had the chance to see two different species of millipedes. One of the defense mechanisms of the millipede is releasing a yellow fluid that leaves a foul taste in its predator’s mouth. The other species we found had yellow spots along the sides and released cyanide gas to defend itself. One of the most interesting beetles I saw was the click beetle. When the beetle is on its back, it pops up into the air and scares away its predators. It definitely scared me!

Today was an excellent trip to Muir Woods. I was pleased to be put into the mushroom inventory group. Despite the rain, I would say it went rather well. I learned lots about mushrooms and how they grow. It is crazy how there are about 2.6 million species of fungi. However not all of them are “mushrooms”. We saw that mushrooms are not bad, they actually keep forests under control and keep lots of species from dominating a particular area. We got guided around Muir Woods from a professor at Stanford. He answered each of our questions thoroughly.

Examining mushrooms. Photograph courtesy of NPS.


Today I saw more and thought more about what I want to do the future. We went on a mushroom inventory of Muir Woods National Monument. There’s more to see than just the trees here. We observed several dozen species of fungi. The rain poured down and the redwood forest and it gave us a magical vigor to explore the outdoors. Fungi that were squishy, flat veiny and long were all given names by our wonderful biologist Kabir. He was able to point out as many species as we threw at him and also was able to give the common names as well as some memorable names; Turkey Tail and Little Brown Mushroom.

Examining mushrooms. Photograph courtesy of NPS.

We looked into the “pores for spores” and saw how detailed that a small world can be. We learned about the fruiting and growth of the organisms. All of these were as fascinating as the Redwoods which tower above. What was so great about all of this was how our trusty guide showed the knowledge. It was easy to understand yet complex. In general, this was my favorite part of this BioBlitz so far. San Francisco is just bursting with biodiversity. Anyway, it’s time to fly; not literally, of course.

Youth ambassadors in redwood forest. Photograph courtesy of NPS.


Today was the second day Bioblitz. We went out into the field to do a mushroom inventory with a scientist from Standford. The most interesting part about it was when I found the Artist Conk mushroom and stood inside the Redwood tree. One of the most interesting things about biodiversity is that everything is connected even the fungi and Redwood tree. The fungi helps break down the tree which is good for the soil and to help the trees to not overpopulate.

Youth ambassadors in redwood forest. Photograph courtesy of NPS.

This blog post was first published on

National Park Service Biodiversity Youth Ambassadors participate in National Park Service and local community events that catalyze exploration of the natural world, inspire moments of discovery, and cultivate awareness of the importance of biodiversity and environmental conservation at the local, national and global scale.

The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation is actively participating in the strategic development and success of the National Park Service Biodiversity Youth Ambassador Program through the Collaborative Storytelling Project (Inspired by Nature), through participation in the National Park Service/National Geographic annual BioBlitz program, and through support of Youth Ambassador social media networks. 

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media.

Assignments in 80 countries/territories included visits to a secret rebel base in Angola, Sahrawi camps in Algeria, and Wayana villages in the remote Amazon. Braun traveled with Nelson Mandela on the liberation leader’s Freedom Tour of North America, accompanied President Clinton and Chelsea Clinton to their foundation’s projects in four African countries and Mexico, covered African peace talks chaired by Fidel Castro in Havana and Boutros Boutros-Ghali in Cairo, and collaborated with Angelina Jolie at World Refugee Day events in Washington, D.C. As a member of the National Geographic Expeditions Council, and media representative to the Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration, he joined researchers on field inspections in many parts of the world.

Braun has been a longtime member/executive of journalist guilds, press clubs, and professional groups, including the National Press Club (Washington) and editorial committee of the Online Publishers Association. He served as WMA Magazine of the Year Awards judge (2010-2012), advisory board member of Children’s Eyes On Earth International Youth Photography Contest (2012), and multimedia/communications affiliate of the International League of Conservation Photographers (2015-2017).

David Braun edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world.

He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience.

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  • clinical microscope

    This is a great blog.I love your blog. Keep up such a great work

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