BioBlitz Moves to September but Pollinator Awareness Can Continue at Home

By Michele White, CAE, IOM | Posted on April 14, 2020

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As we navigate our current world during COVID-19, sadly many things we initially had planned must change. That includes NRPA’s Parks for Pollinators BioBlitz, supported by The Scott’s Miracle-Gro Foundation. Originally scheduled for June 2020, the BioBlitz will be pushed back to September 2020 to ensure communities across the country can participate.

NRPA wants to support park and recreation agencies as they encounter uncertainty about their ability to host events during the upcoming months. We hope that moving the BioBlitz to September will give agencies time to plan and to encourage everyone in their communities to participate in an event they can look forward to! Please be sure to visit our website for more information and to access toolkits that can help you plan and host your event! If you have any questions, please contact me

This delay does not stop us from promoting the fun of citizen science and BioBlitz events. As families search for virtual activities to do while staying at home, why not recommend they host a personal BioBlitz? Below, we share easy steps, tools and resources your community members can use to host their own BioBlitz. Encourage people to learn about pollinators at home or to get outside where they live — while practicing physical distancing — to find local pollinators.

Please note: For more information and messaging on COVID-19 and physical distancing for your community, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Center webpage.

Conduct your own BioBlitz at home

Whether it’s your backyard, an open space near your home or area along sidewalks as you take a walk around your block, you can find plants and animals anywhere. They live in the smallest of places and can help you learn about the biodiversity around you! Get your family together — or just go yourself — for a trip outside to find all the species you can in a safe manner

How to host a personal BioBlitz

Let’s walk through all the things you’ll want to plan for and collect to host your own BioBlitz. Once you gather your tools and decide where you’ll be conducting your BioBlitz, you’ll be ready to go outside and start finding things! We’ll provide some suggestions for things to discuss with your family about the findings after you’re finished.

1. Where will you go?

The first step will be figuring out where you want to search for different species. Will you explore your yard, your local park, an open space near where you live or around your block, or even a nearby flower bed? Remember the smallest of spaces can be home to many things to find and learn about. Pick a place that you feel comfortable with to start, and a place where you can practice safe physical distancing, as well as adhere to any current local regulations and guidelines. 

For those that can’t get outside, you can still spend time learning about pollinators and local species. You can even search for life inside your home! Check out iNaturalist’s Never Home Alone: Wild Life of Homes.

2. Map it out! 

Maps are helpful to identify your search area. They help you select whatever area you wish to search. You also can use them to record where you find plants and animals (if you aren’t using technology to help). Also, it’s a great exercise for kids. They can draw their own map or can use tools like Google maps to identify and outline the area you plan on surveying. If you plan on documenting by hand, drawing a grid on top of their map is a great way to help record what they see.

For those tech-savvy families, you can create your own BioBlitz electronically by using iNaturalist to document what you find. Just download the app on your smartphone, take pictures with the app and use it to help identify what you found. It’s that easy! The app will add your findings to its database with the location and suggested identification. Then, other iNaturalist users will verify or help identify what you have found. The app does the identification and recording for you.

3. Know what to stay away from! 

Make sure to know which species in your area are poisonous — both plants and animals. This includes poison sumac, oak and ivy as well as any other critters that might pose a threat. For a list of common plants to be careful of, read this blog by Greenbelly or check with your local extension office regarding information specific to your area. For animals, it’s always best to just observe and not disturb! When in doubt, it’s best to stay away. 

4. Get your tools! 

In addition to a map or your smartphone, you might want a few other things:

  • Notebook for taking notes and recording findings, if you’re doing it by hand
  • Smartphone with apps for identifying specimens, like iNaturalist
  • Camera to take pictures of what you find — smartphones work great and if using the app, the camera function is built-in
  • Magnifying glass
  • Field guides for local or regional flora and fauna

5. Get outside! 

Now that you have your space identified and have collected all your tools, it’s time to start your own BioBlitz! Since this is your project, you can make it as long or short as you wish. Depending on the size of your search area, it could take you 10 minutes or an hour — you decide. And, maybe you want to divide your family into teams or do it as one group, either is fine. You can set goals or leave it open-ended — as long as you have fun! And don’t forget to take pictures of, or even draw, everything you find.

6. Talk about what you found! 

When you’re finished documenting everything you’ve found either on your map or on your smartphone, think about all the living creatures making a home around you. Review what you have found and compare it with each other.

  • Identify anything you were surprised by finding
  • Name your favorite species that you found
  • Look up details about what you found and learn about the different species, especially the ones you don’t know
  • Talk about the habitats each of the species you found need — for instance, butterflies need flower-like gardens, beetles can be found anywhere, birds live in trees and bushes, worms live in the dirt 
  • Discuss how your everyday activities might affect these species.
  • Learn how these species can look at different times of the year — for instance, caterpillars turn into moths and butterflies
  • Set a schedule of when you will go out and survey the same spot to see if you find new things and can see how a different season impacts the species you found previously  

For those who want to get their tech-savvy kids involved, but might not know where to start, try iNaturalist’s Seek app. The youth-friendly program allows you to earn badges while you learn! It requires no registration and doesn’t collect user’s data — and is completely kid-friendly.

If you want to check out other things you can do to identify the biodiversity around you while stuck inside, check out iNaturalist’s other ideas.

Whatever you decide, there are many ways to enjoy nature and learn about what lives near you.    

Michele White, CAE, IOMis NRPA’s Conservation Program Manager.