Transforming Citizens into Pollinator Lovers

May 21, 2020, Department, by Jennifer Fulcher

2020 June We Are Parks and Rec Pollinator Lovers BioBlitz 410

For an enhanced digital experience, read this story in the ezine.

Park professionals all abuzz about the benefits of a BioBlitz

Change can begin with one person. And that is why Jenny Corbett, lead naturalist at Wickiup Hill Learning Center in Iowa, believes so strongly in BioBlitz events.

The NRPA Parks for Pollinators BioBlitz promotes education about pollinators and facilitates the collection of data on the pollinators found in parks. During these events, individuals use the iNaturalist platform on their smart devices to take photographs of plants, insects and animals in a designated park space. The gathered citizen science data can help park professionals develop plans for protecting pollinators, as well as the plant life they rely on.

“No matter how many people participate…hopefully, they will go home, plant a little corner in the yard as a pollinator garden,” Corbett says. “If you can get one person to change how they see their yard, that they don’t need to have a ‘green desert’ all mowed perfectly, neat and tidy, you have made a difference.”

Corbett believes in her role as an educator. Both she and her fellow staff members know the importance of sharing knowledge about pollinators. Her center hosted a NRPA Parks for Pollinators BioBlitz last year and had hosted similar BioBlitz events previously. “Staff took special concern to help educate the public about native pollinators and how critical it is to plant native plants,” she says.

“[It’s] always worth the effort,” Corbett says. Hosting an event requires organization and advance planning. The work behind the scenes relies on many different staff with various skills in such tasks as giving presentations, collecting supplies and communicating about events, she adds.

“Anything we can do to encourage the public to think about their role as ‘citizen scientists’ and to give them tools to provide data is very valuable in the long run,” says Cindy Haverkamp, parks planner for Pierce County Parks and Recreation in Washington state. The Parkland Prairie Nature Preserve once was a dumping area for trash and a camping site for the homeless in an urban area. Recently, the preserve has been restored by the hard work of “an army of volunteers” to a native prairie where the public can learn about this environment, Haverkamp says.

Data collected the same time each year will be especially valuable for the preserve. “As park professionals, we want to know quite a few things about this site,” she says. Data will help track native species and any reemergence of invasive species.

“Events like Parks for Pollinators benefit the community because they raise awareness,” Haverkamp notes. Many people don’t understand how important pollinators are or how they connect to both the human and animal world. “If we can use tools like iNaturalist to get their attention or to increase their curiosity about their local environment, they will be more intentional about taking care of it, which will benefit all of us,” she says.

“A BioBlitz is a great way to reconnect with your parks,” says Rowan Prothro, recreation specialist for Georgetown Parks and Recreation in Texas. These events allow both park professionals and park visitors to gain a deeper understanding, better connection to and feeling of ownership of their park.

Last year, Prothro coordinated a BioBlitz at Garey Park. The work to plan and market the event as well as to create a project through iNaturalist and teach staff how to use the technology proved well worth the effort. “We had many people visit the park who had never been there before,” he says. The event drew individuals who had never gone on a hike and helped everyone form a stronger connection to the natural world around them while providing some useful data.

To learn more about the national Parks for Pollinators campaign and how to host your own BioBlitz, visit the NRPA BioBlitz webpage.

Jennifer Fulcher is the Communications Manager at NRPA.