When groups from around the world gather in a place as wild as Australia for something as outdoors-oriented as the World Parks Congress, they’d better not sit inside wearing neckties and high-heels all day.
To that end, the recent congress in Sydney included a BioBlitz, an intense, public, 24-hour inventory of all the different living species in the area. Inspired by the annual BioBlitz held by National Geographic and the U.S. National Park Service, the Sydney event had volunteers and visitors from the community coming out to Sydney Olympic Park to meet up with scientists and naturalists to go on the hunt for bugs, birds, reptiles, plants, and more.
Mary Ford, Senior Manager of Citizen Science at National Geographic was there, and here’s what she had to say about the experience.
How did you and your team participate in the Sydney BioBlitz?
We worked with the Office of Environment & Heritage (OEH) within the Government of New South Wales, as well as other partners from the U.S., Australia, and Canada ahead of time to share lessons learned from our own National Geographic/National Park Service BioBlitzes and helped to coordinate some of the logistics.
Our Great Nature Project Manager, Carrie Seltzer, set up a page on GreatNatureProject.org to document everything we found. On the day of the event, it was really fun to participate in the inventories and count many species I’d never seen before. To be able to count red-rumped parrots and laughing kookaburras was just incredible.
What was the most exciting interaction you had with plant, animal, or person?
The coolest, weirdest thing we found was dog vomit slime mold. That’s it’s real name. It looks just like dog vomit, but it’s a slime mold (a slime mold is a fungus-like organism that use spores to reproduce). Kids were grossed out by it but also loved it.
How was this different from the usual BioBlitz?
It was terrific to have Ben Britton participate. Ben hosts Ben Britton’s Animal Encounters on the Nat Geo WILD channel in Australia and is a popular TV personality. His enthusiastic support generated a lot of attention.
Also, Australia’s National Geographic channel sent a film crew out to document the BioBlitz and interview organizers and participants. We’re incredibly grateful for the channel’s support; it added a lot of pizzazz to the event and the footage will be very useful as we promote and support future BioBlitzes.
What did you learn about the overall BioBlitz movement around the world?
It’s growing! There are many BioBlitzes going on in the U.K., in Canada, and in the U.S. I met quite a few of the people who coordinate these events, and we are excited to share information and learn from each other.
I also talked to several people in other countries, including developing nations, who are very committed to starting up BioBlitz programs. I know there’s a BioBlitz being planned in Mumbai as we speak.
What was the final species count?
There were 571 observations made and 170 species documented. Many of the invertebrates identified had never been previously seen in the area. OEH was thrilled!
Intrigued? See where the next BioBlitz will be.