Earth Notes: Blitzing Biotic Diversity

Jun 24, 2015

How do we know who lives where? Increasingly, land managers are turning to a fun and educational event to find out: the bioblitz.


A bioblitz is an intensive survey and inventory designed to record as many species as possible in a given area over a given time, usually a 24-hour period. Students and citizens learn how scientists work in the field, and right away put those skills to use—observing, identifying, and recording things that live in their own backyard.

This May, Coconino County Parks and Recreation held its first-ever bioblitz at the Pumphouse County Natural Area south of Flagstaff.

Participants at Pumphouse pulled on boots, used binoculars, turned over logs, and swept nets through grasses and water, examining and recording data on any and all organisms they found. They had lots of hands-on experience–touching a garter snake, holding tiger salamanders, and witnessing newly hatched mayflies.

More than fifty people turned out. They tallied nearly 150 plants and animals in about eight hours. Both children and adults helped, led by volunteer naturalists with specialties in snakes, plants, and birds. The county will build on the data and watch for trends.

Bioblitzes have become popular all over the world. In the U.S., the National Park Service and National Geographic Society have co-hosted them in a different national park each year, leading up to the Park Service’s centennial next year.

For Coconino County, the blitz is just the beginning of learning about the biodiversity of an important wetland area.