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Bay Area national parks to host BioBlitz 2014

Citizen science in the spotlight

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Fungi growing in redwood litter at Muir Woods National Monument. bberwyn photo.

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Muir Woods. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — California’s Golden Gate National Parks will host BioBlitz 2014 (March 28-29), bringing together 300 scientists and naturalists from around the country, more than 2,000 students, including 1,400 students from the San Francisco Unified School District, school groups from surrounding counties and thousands of Bay Area community members.

Bioblitz participants will comb the parks, observing and recording as many plant and animal species as possible in 24 hours. Inventory activities include counting seals, documenting insects, spotting birds, examining aquatic invertebrates and using technology to better understand the varied ecosystems of these unique national parks in an urban area.

“The Golden Gate National Parks are well-loved by the surrounding Bay Area as well as visitors around the world,” said Golden Gate National Recreation Area General Superintendent Frank Dean. “BioBlitz will allow people to explore the parks in a new way, better understand the biodiversity that exists and help document and protect these amazing natural resources,” Dean said.

Golden Gate National Parks includes three national park units spanning more than 80,000 acres and 91 miles of shoreline of federal, state and county open lands along the Northern California coast. Over half of the bird species of North America and nearly one-third of California’s plant species are found within these boundaries.

. BioBlitz 2014 will take place in several national parks, including Muir Woods National Monument, Fort Point National Historic Site and sites in Golden Gate National Recreation Area such as the Marin Headlands, Crissy Field, the Presidio, Mori Point and Rancho Corral de Tierra.

“The more that is known about the parks, the better we are able to protect and preserve them. Working together with the community, we can better achieve our goals and protect what makes this area one of the most beautiful places on Earth.”

The Biodiversity Festival will be held at Crissy Field’s East Beach in the Presidio of San Francisco from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, March 28, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 29. The festival features science demonstrations and exhibits, hands-on activities provided by prominent science and environmental organizations, photography workshops, food, music and art.

Explorers of all ages can enjoy the festival and can “graduate” from Biodiversity University by participating in a variety of activities. The Crissy Field Center will be transformed into the BioBlitz data center where BioBlitzers will work side by side with scientists to identify and catalog what is being discovered in the field. All festival events are free and open to the public.

A major component of BioBlitz is the opportunity for the public to work alongside leading experts to count, map and learn about the parks’ diverse organisms — from microscopic bacteria to the towering redwoods. The Golden Gate BioBlitz is the eighth in a series of 10, held at different national parks across the country, leading up the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016.

“BioBlitz is citizen science at its best,” said John Francis, National Geographic’s vice president of research, conservation and exploration. “At previous BioBlitzes, we helped national parks identify new species, and at Florida’s Biscayne National Park in 2010, we identified a species that was completely new to science. This year, we will be using smartphones and Bay Area-based technology from iNaturalist to document finds with photography, map them and add this information directly to the National Park Service databases. It is exciting to see the public, especially students, make new discoveries and take part in protecting the parks.”

“We are pleased to be working with our park partners on this important initiative,” noted Craig Middleton, executive director of Presidio Trust. “Over the past decade, more than 20 percent of the San Francisco Presidio has been carefully restored and rehabilitated, and BioBlitz will provide an opportunity to further explore and highlight key areas of biodiversity, including the Tennessee Hollow Watershed and Dragonfly Creek.”

A longtime partner of the National Park Service, National Geographic helped draft legislation to establish the Service in 1916, has given many grants to create and sustain national parks across the United States and has extensively covered the parks in its media for nearly a century. The BioBlitz program is the latest successful collaboration between the two partners.

The first BioBlitz took place in 2007 at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. Others have been held at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California in 2008; Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 2009; Biscayne National Park in Florida in 2010; Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Ariz., in 2011; Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, Colo., in 2012; and Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve outside New Orleans in 2013. Smaller-scale events take place throughout the year at various national parks across the country. For more information, visit nature.nps.gov/biology/biodiversity/.

How to Get Involved: 

Public registration for the Golden Gate National Parks BioBlitz opens on Monday, March 3. To be part of an inventory team, participants must register online at nationalgeographic.com/bioblitz. Participation on inventory teams is limited, and spots will be filled on a first-come basis. Children ages 8 and older, accompanied by adults, may participate in the free inventory opportunities.

Everybody can enjoy hands-on fun at the two-day Biodiversity Festival at East Beach in the Presidio of San Francisco. No registration is required for the festival. To learn more about BioBlitz 2014 and the Biodiversity Festival, visit nationalgeographic.com/bioblitz or call (800) 638-6400, ext. 6186. For more information about the parks, visit nps.gov/goga.

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