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See Highlights From Hawai‘i Volcanoes BioBlitz, Discover Next Year’s Location

[This text is from an official press release.] HAWAI‘I VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, Hawaii (May 20, 2015)—After two intensive days of exploration and documentation, the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park BioBlitz held on May 15 and 16, 2015, captured a vivid snapshot of the unique plant and animal biodiversity in the park. The event brought together more...

Perhaps squeamish at the idea of counting bugs at first, students soon came to see them as fascinating and entertaining creatures, all part of our one continuous natural world. (Photo by Eric Leifer, National Geographic)

[This text is from an official press release.]

HAWAI‘I VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, Hawaii (May 20, 2015)—After two intensive days of exploration and documentation, the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park BioBlitz held on May 15 and 16, 2015, captured a vivid snapshot of the unique plant and animal biodiversity in the park. The event brought together more than 170 leading scientists and traditional Hawaiian cultural practitioners (alakai‘i), more than 850 students and thousands from the general public. Together, they conducted a comprehensive inventory of the plants, insects, mammals, birds and other species that inhabit the 333,086-acre island park. Under the theme of “I ka nānā no a ‘ike” (“By observing, one learns”), alakai‘i were integrated into the survey teams for a more holistic approach to the research and exploration endeavor.

(Photo by Kirk Shorte National Geographic Your Shot)
Traditional Hawaiian cultural practitioners called alakai’i opened each inventory with an oli, or chant, asking that the people’s hearts and minds be open to what nature had to show them. (Photo by Kirk Shorte National Geographic Your Shot)


  • More than 6,000 people, including more than 850 schoolchildren, participated in the BioBlitz and the concurrent Biodiversity & Cultural Festival.
  • With a scientist-to-student ratio of 1 to 5, students were able to truly work side by side with top scientists.
  • Twenty-two new species were added to the park’s species list, and sightings were documented of 73 species at risk, including the Kamehameha butterfly and the federally endangered nēnē. The BioBlitz survey substantially increased the number of fungi species on the park’s list, with 17 new fungi documented at the close of the event. Scientists predict up to 60 new fungi species could be added to the park’s list in the coming weeks.
  • The initial scientific species count as of the afternoon BioBlitz closing ceremony on Saturday, May 16, was 416, with 1,535 observations recorded over the course of the two-day event. Organizers expect this number to increase significantly over the next several months as cutting-edge testing of the collected samples continues.
  • The park’s 35th annual Cultural Festival was moved from July to the BioBlitz weekend and was expanded to include biodiversity booths and activities. The festival showcased how Hawaiians are true ecological experts and I ka nānā no a ‘ike principles continue today. The Biodiversity & Cultural Festival featured hands-on science and cultural exhibits, food, art and top Hawaiian music and dance performances.


(Photo by Ted Roe, National Geographic Your Shot)
The prevalence of ferns in the wooded areas of the park sometimes gives the impression there could be a dinosaur just beyond the next cinder cone. (Photo by Ted Roe, National Geographic Your Shot)

The Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park BioBlitz was part scientific endeavor, part outdoor classroom excursion and part celebration of biodiversity and culture. Participants combed the park, observing and recording as many plant and animal species as possible in 24 hours. Activities included catching insects, spotting birds, observing plants and fungi, and using technology to better understand the diverse ecosystems across the park.

“We’ve known for many years that Hawaii is a hotspot for fungal diversity, but it’s rare to have as many eyes on the ground hunting for mushrooms as we did for the BioBlitz. With this concerted effort, it’s no surprise that in just 24 hours we documented almost 10 times the number of previously recorded fungal species in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. We look forward to partnering with the National Park Service and the National Geographic Society on future public outreach and scientific inventories. It is only with these types of collaborations that we will ever begin to get a sense of the true biodiversity of Hawaii,” said fungi expert Dr. Nicole A. Hynson, assistant professor in the Department of Botany at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

(Photo by Eric Leifer, National Geographic)
Led by expert guides, children and adults alike followed walks across the lava fields and through the rain forests in search of birds, bugs, and more. (Photo by Eric Leifer, National Geographic)

“The BioBlitz and Biodiversity & Cultural Festival presented an incredible opportunity to connect the community with leading scientists, international sister parks and cultural practitioners this weekend,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “This event embodies our National Park Service centennial mission to encourage everyone to ‘Find Your Park’ — literally — by exploring and understanding our vital connection to our natural world.”

“The Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park BioBlitz was a wonderful combination of past, present and future,” said John Francis, National Geographic’s vice president for Research, Conservation and Exploration. “It was exciting to bring together Western science and traditional Hawaiian culture and pair it with the great iNaturalist app, smartphones and pumped-up cell service courtesy of Verizon. I hope this holistic approach serves as a model for other BioBlitzes and scientific endeavors.”

(Photo by Andrew Hara, National Geographic Your Shot)
Where massive volcanoes alter the landscape on a grand level, tiny fungi make their own smaller but still vital impression. (Photo by Andrew Hara, National Geographic Your Shot)

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Parks BioBlitz was the ninth in a series of 10 annual BioBlitzes hosted by the National Geographic Society and the National Park Service leading up to the National Park Service centennial in 2016. During closing ceremonies, the BioBlitz flag was passed to Karen Cucurullo, acting superintendent for the National Mall and Memorial Parks, and Dr. Michael Stebbins, assistant director for biotechnology in the science division of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy. The 2016 National Capital Parks BioBlitz will feature inventory activities at national park sites in and around Washington, D.C., May 20-21, next year. The capital celebration will be the cornerstone of BioBlitzes and biodiversity events at U.S. national parks that same weekend.

The National Mall in Washington, D.C., seen from above the Lincoln Memorial looking East. (Photo courtesy NPS)
The National Mall in Washington, D.C., seen from above the Lincoln Memorial looking East, will be the centerpiece of the BioBlitz 2016 nationwide festival. (Photo courtesy NPS)

The first BioBlitz hosted by National Geographic and the National Park Service was held at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., in 2007. The second took place at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California in 2008. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was the site of the third BioBlitz in 2009; Biscayne National Park outside Miami was the 2010 site; Saguaro National Park in Tucson was the 2011 BioBlitz site; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado was the 2012 host park; in 2013, BioBlitz took place at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve outside New Orleans; and Golden Gate National Parks in Northern California was the site of BioBlitz 2014.

Verizon was the lead sponsor of the 2015 Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park BioBlitz. Generous individual, organization, and foundation support was provided by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas D. Rutherfoord Jr., Friends of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and Hawai‘i Pacific Parks Association, Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation, Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, Edmund C. Olson Trust II and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Additional generous corporate supporters included Kona Brewing Company, KapohoKine Adventures, First Hawaiian Bank, Roberts Hawai‘i, Alaska Airlines and Big Island Candies. In-kind donations were received from Hawai‘i Volcanoes Lodge Company LLC, KTA Super Stores, Hawai‘i Forest & Trail, Impact Photographics and Aloha Crater Lodge.

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Meet the Author

Andrew Howley
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. In 2018 he became 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. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.