Changing Planet

A Virtual Walk in the Woods, Courtesy of CBS and BioBlitz

Families across the United States this weekend got a glimpse of the annual National Geographic and National Park Service BioBlitz. CBS Sunday Morning took viewers into the recent team-up with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy as it told the story of this year’s exploration of the wild areas around San Francisco, California.

Glenn Plumb, chief wildlife biologist for the National Park Service, Marine biologist Michael Reichmuth, and National Geographic grantee Steve Sillett from California’s Humboldt State University showed off the thrill of getting out into the wilderness, rain or shine, to notice and examine all the plants and animals big and small that surround us.

The figure that looms largest in the report (which you can watch above) is pioneering conservationist John Muir. Born in Scotland, like many in the mid-19th century he came to North America and fell in love with its vast wilderness. Exploring the mountains of California and writing eloquently about the beauty and power of untamed nature, he inspired people across the country from small town teachers to Theodore Roosevelt to explore the wild for themselves and to ensure that parts of it would always remain free from exploitation and alteration.

One hundred years after his death, the National Parks system that he helped to create has made Muir’s vision a beloved centerpiece of the American consciousness. While he may never have imagined anything quite like a modern BioBlitz, let alone a television report about it, it’s easy to imagine him smiling through that formidable beard at the image of hundreds of kids out in the rain, picking up bugs, counting mushrooms, and gazing up at the trees in the woods that bear his name.

The next 24-hour BioBlitz will take place Friday-Saturday, May 15-16, 2015 at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. To receive updates or answers to any questions, email

[Updated 9/4/2014]

Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. He is currently beginning a new role as communications director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish.Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010.He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history.

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