Take the BioBlitz 2021 challenge
by Dr Sarah Treanor Bois
Director of Research and Education at the Linda Loring Nature Foundation
July is high season for a lot of things in Nantucket. This may be the hardest time to get an ice cream cone or a parking spot, as many of us know, but it is also the peak growing season – when the greatest biodiversity is visible on the road. ‘Isle. Blooming flowers, ripening berries, budding autumn asters, and young birds abound. There is so much to see in all of the island’s habitats. What’s the best way to see and appreciate this multitude of species? Take part in the Nantucket Land Council and the Linda Loring Nature Foundation July Bioblitz Challenge!
What is a bioblitz, anyway? A bioblitz is generally an effort to catalog as many species as possible in a given area over a specified period of time. Usually a bioblitz involves a mix of experts and community scientists to cover an area. Nantucket is a great place for bioblitzes, as there are clear advantages to being an island for the geographic boundary. July is the perfect season to assess living things on the island, and in terms of participants, this is where you come in. Anyone can join in and search for species. It’s free, and it’s a snap with the iNaturalist app. Have a cell phone? You are ready to go. All you have to do is take a photo. Using the free public iNaturalist app, we can compile a list of species seen on Nantucket during a given time period. By uploading photos of any living thing to the iNaturalist community, you can receive comments to help you identify what you saw. iNaturalist also offers online maps that show what other people have recorded and where they found it. Take a quality photo, and members of the iNaturalist science and nature community will identify what you have found.
Why iNaturalist? It is one of the most popular natural apps that helps people around the world identify plants and animals. This is a joint project between the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic. At the time of this writing, there are currently over 71 million sightings from around the world documenting over 338,000 species. This huge database is used by scientists to track different aspects of nature. By recording and sharing your observations, you’ll create scientific-grade data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature.
My favorite part about iNaturalist is that when I don’t know what an unusual caterpillar is, for example, all I have to do is take a picture. I can then upload it to iNaturalist and click “What did you see?” An iNaturalist algorithm suggests species based on photo and location. If that doesn’t get you far, or if there is still too much to choose from, teams of expert volunteers help identify the sighting until it is “research-grade”.
Attending the July Nantucket Land Council (NLC) Bioblitz is a great way to learn more about iNaturalist (which I use year-round) and learn about local biodiversity. The NLC also offers many ways to help you discover the tools you need to participate in the Bioblitz.
Nantucket Land Council associates and volunteers are hosting a series of Saturday “How to Bioblitz” sessions at our Bioblitz partner Linda Loring Nature Foundation at 110 Eel Point Road. The four sessions will be held on July 10, 17, 24 and 31 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.: choose the one that fits your schedule. These “How to Bioblitz” sessions are free and open to the public – come explore with us!
Last year, NLC documented over 500 sightings of over 300 unique species. The goal for 2021 is to make more than 1,000 observations and identify 500 unique species. At the time of this writing, the NLC Bioblitz had already recorded 214 sightings of 161 species, and that was just starting on July 1! You can consult the project page ( inaturalist.org/projects/nlc-llnf-bioblitz-2021 ) to keep an eye on what has been seen, where and who the leaders are. Common milkweed is currently the number one with the most sightings, closely followed by one of my favorite native wildflowers: Goat’s Rue.
So, for the rest of the month, go anywhere on the island with your smartphone, take a photo of the species you see, upload it to the iNaturalist app and join NLC and LLNF for Bioblitz 2021! You can document almost any living thing you find – fish, crabs, insects, flowers, trees, etc. – to help document the many special species found on Nantucket Island.
Prizes will be awarded to participants who observe the following: 1) rare / endangered species, 2) migratory species and 3) species not yet recorded in Nantucket County. The iNaturalist database automatically buffers location information for rare species, so there is no hassle in sharing information about these special species.
By participating in the Bioblitz 2021 Challenge, not only are you engaging in our beautiful open spaces and diverse habitats, but you are fostering a love of the outdoors for yourself, your children, and joining a community of like-minded environmentalists. To learn more and receive updates on bioblitz results, visit nantucketlandcouncil.org.