Citizen scientists an important part of effort to create a biodiversity snapshot of park’s natural resources
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Top scientists and naturalists from around the country will team up with citizens, Colorado students and the National Geographic Society for a two-day bioblitz at Rocky Mountain National Park later this summer, combing the park to observe and record as many plant and animal species as possible in 24 hours.
The Aug. 24-25 event is part scientific endeavor, part festival and part outdoor classroom. Inventory activities include counting elk, catching insects, spotting birds, exploring and examining aquatic invertebrates and using technology to better understand the diverse ecosystems of the park.
“The BioBlitz offers each of us, especially young people, the opportunity to discover and connect to nature. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the National Park Service’s 96th birthday on Aug. 25,” said National Park Service director Jonathan B. Jarvis, who is scheduled to attend.
The bioblitz is open to the public. To be part of an inventory ream, register online starting July 25.
Children eight and up may participate in inventory teams with their parents, and there will also be age-appropriate activities for younger kids at the biodiversity festival to be held at the Estes Park Fairgrounds, 1209 Manford Avenue.
The biodiversity festivel runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 24 and 25, will feature music, live animals, science demonstrations, hands-on activities provided by prominent science and environmental organizations, food and art. For a schedule of events, go to www.nationalgeographic.com/bioblitz.
Rocky Mountain National Park features one of the most extensive reaches of Alpine tundra in the country. Several recent studies have shown that tundra is facing pressure from global warming, pollution from nitrogen compounds and even from the deposition of desert dust layers that cause the snow to melt much earlier than the historic average.Getting some good basic info on species diversity will help biologists track future impacts and changes.
“This will be a great family event, and we invite everyone who knows Rocky Mountain National Park, or wants to know the park better, to get involved,” said Rocky Mountain National Park Superintendent Vaughn Baker. “There is amazing biodiversity that exists within the park and in our own backyards. We hope locals and visitors will participate in this one-of-a-kind opportunity to connect even deeper with this special place.”
The National Geographic Society and the National Park Service have been tight for nearly a century, since the society helped helped draft legislation to establish the national park system in 1916. National Geographic has given grants to establish or sustain national parks and has extensively covered the parks in its media for nearly a century.
The Rocky Mountain National Park BioBlitz is the sixth of 10 annual BioBlitzes that will be held at national park units around the country, leading up to the National Park Service’s centennial in 2016.
“We expect to reach new heights at Rocky,” said John Francis, National Geographic’s vice president of research, conservation and exploration. “We will have leading scientists from around the country and the region to help citizens explore the park like never before. One of our BioBlitz scientists, Dr. William Miller, just published about a new species he discovered at the Biscayne BioBlitz in 2010. We look forward to working with Dr. Miller, other amazing scientists and the public to make new discoveries — personal and perhaps scientific — and appreciate the rich biodiversity in the park and our own backyards.”
The first annual BioBlitz took place in 2007 at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. The others have been at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California in 2008; Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 2009; Biscayne National Park in Florida in 2010; and Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Ariz., in 2011. Smaller-scale events throughout the year happen at various national parks across the country, and information about these can be found at