Competitive Bioblitzing (how bad an idea?)

I have an iNat idea, and like most of my ideas I don’t know if it is a good one, and doubt it is original. But I at least find it interesting and so would appreciate hearing people’s thoughts on it.

I work in a park in the San Francisco Bay Area. Part of my job is participatory science, so I have a good excuse to try to expand the iNaturalist database for the park. We have about 20K iNat observations of about 1400 species in the park, and are still frequently finding new species because so many amazing naturalists live nearby. We’ve had very successful City Nature Challenge events, gotten lots of people involved, documented both conservation worthy and invasive species that we didn’t know were here, etc. and I’d like to keep building on that.

Recognizable iNaturalist who have contributed to this project include @graysquirrel @loarie @dloarie @catchang @kestrel @kueda and ya know, several hundred others. If you haven’t been here, let me know, I’ll get you a free pass.

I am not by nature a competitive person, and do not take an interest in any spectator sport, but I’m interested in the idea of teams of naturalists having a day, within the bounds of the same park, and within rules set up to prevent damage to the park, seeing who can find the most previously undocumented things within the park. The exact rules would need to be worked out, but first I’d like to hear what people think of this idea in principle.

I, as an employee, would be judge not participant. I would have to disqualify any observation that violated the rules (no going off trail, no trapping, no digging, no collecting, etc.) I’m imagining something only roughly in line with CNC. Participants would have 1 day (in winter, which is a good time for iNat in this climate) to take as many observations as they want, and then maybe a week thereafter for uploading and IDs. However, to count, observations would need to be taken on or near the trail network of this park. And while my ultimate goals are to build community and know more about the total biodiversity, I can imagine different ways of deciding who wins. Points for each observation, for each species not previously know in the park, for each species that no other team observed. All of the above? Teams of three maybe? Randomized teams perhaps so no one ends up competing against @graysquirrel @catchang and @gyrrlfalcon ?

Anyway, I’d like to hear your thoughts. Would this violate the rules or spirit of iNat? Would you like to participate? What obvious pitfalls might I be stumbling towards? How would you like to see it work? Does this already exist and I’ve just missed it?

If I do end up designing a game like this, I’d like to do so in a way that the rules are transferable to other contexts, so suggestions are greatly appreciated. Again, I don’t know if this idea is either good or novel, so don’t hesitate to tell me, please. And I’d have to get the idea approved, so no promises.

Thank you!


I competed as part of a team (we won :D) in a competitive bioblitz via iNat last year:
The ‘rules’ were purely most species wins, so that would be one option.

One of my colleagues ran something similar in Australia earlier this year, but approached things differently. They got a list of species known to be in the reserve, and then assigned each one a point value, with rarer stuff worth more, common stuff worth less. They then scored each participant/team based on this system, with extra points awarded for species new to the reserve. Apparently it was quite successful.


I just always am wary of a huge influx of captive animals and cultivated plants as observation entries, especially in a more urban setting (referring to some current ongoing Hong Kong projects), rather than actual flora and fauna that have found their way into the bioblitz regions (eg. butterfly nectaring on a flower, ant crawling on the ground, weed growing on side of curb etc).

So at least the users should spend the time sorting out their observations and marking casual ones that are clearly cultivated/captive, since those indicate human preferences more so than actual biodiversity.

Other challenges I see would be finding said creatures, and taking photos of things with a pulse with good enough quality to be reliably identified to eg. genus level, but I suppose that can be mitigated by having teams containing people with various iNatting experiences.


I think this would be a lot of fun! I also know a good handful of folks who would be interested in exploring the park in general and adding some observations.

I think you should make a team with me, @sea-kangaroo, @gyrrlfalcon, and @catchang and make everyone else compete against us though ;)


Cool! I didn’t know that happened, but I’m glad it did. And congrats on the win. Point values by rareness sounds like a bit more work, but I see the appeal. I’m glad to hear the idea is not one that others recoil from.

I agree, that could be a problem. One advantage to keeping it within the state park where I work is that there are very few captive/cultivated species to be found. I suppose in other settings one could hope that limiting it to Research Grade observations would give observers a motivation to mark each other’s cultivars as such, and to make their own observations IDable.

I knew you would want that, but I think it might be more fun for others if we don’t. Also @graysquirrel I think you might have an advantage as you are already quite familiar with this park. You know where all the freshwater algae are hiding.


Furthermore, iNat also has a bioblitz guide you may find helpful.


Thank you! I’ve organized several bioblitzen (the proper plural) but never a competitive one.

1 Like

There’re tons of competetive bioblitzes going on all the time, the main bioblitz, CNC, is competetive, there’s nothing bad in an idea, all depends on execution of it, like clearly stating captive doesn’t count or something like that.


Thank you! Do you know where I can find well stated rules for previous competitive bioblitzen? I agree that having a well considered and clearly stated set of rules is key.

Don’t think of particular one in English, but our plant competition was going Friday-Sunday for observing and uploading till evening of Monday, wild only, competition was in regions, you can do it with groups or individually, winner was one with highest species count+number of observations, species being the priority. Each week number of most observed species from previous week were excluded, this scheme works very good if you want to see more biodiversity. Also you can drop competitive part and just add a new list of excluded species each week/bioblitz, so with time there’ll be more and more species found.


Interesting. My context is a bit different, because I want to have a one day event in a specific park that takes most people some time to get to. So I’ll need to think about how to apply these ideas. Thank you.

You can take already existing observations and look up what is overrepresented there, and instead of three days make it one day and some for uploading (though a week you proposed is probably too much for uploading observations from one day).

1 Like

in the most recent IDathon we made it so people who already had many IDs or very few IDs were scored and rewarded separately. I think it worked OK, although hopefully we can make it work better next time. This allowed the most experienced to compete against each other, and for their rewards to have actual meaning (although it may be telling that most of the power-identifiers declined their prizes!). And it keeps newer people from getting trounced.


I’ve been part of competitive bioblitzes (without/pre iNat), and one of the goals was usually to find species that were suspected to be present in the park/target area based on range/habitat but that hadn’t been documented before. So if there are any target species of interest like that, you could make observers aware. Or offer bonus points or a separate category for documenting species from the park that hadn’t been observed before on iNat.

1 Like

I come down on the side of this would be wicked fun! I forget the name, but there’s a birding competition here in Massachusetts, USA, where teams of (very, very good) birders compete to find the most number of bird species within a 24-hour period. I think there are extra points awarded for rarities? I’ve never competed, because I am no longer even a competent birder, but I very much enjoy the hourly or so posts by the organizers noting, for example, the 6 Great Horned Owls heard in one spot by Team Roadrunners, or the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper found in such and such salt marsh by Team Awkward Auklets.

So, I think a competitive bioblitz focused on one site would be fun and interesting to participants. I’d caution that if your real goal is to expand the number of species documented from the park, you’d probably want to attract experts in whatever taxa you think are missing (inverts, I’m guessing) and those experts might very well want to - and actually need to - do things like collect moths by trapping overnight in several spots, or dig small areas of ground to look for beetles, or go off-trail to assess the flora of wetlands.

You might need two kinds of bioblitzes - one to attract general naturalists to explore the park, and one to attract taxa experts to fill in gaps in the list of species in the park.


I feel like a competitive bioblitz is great fun for people who already are established inat users and understand how it all works. For newbies I think it gets problematic.


this blitz is like species - valid for one, or many :joy:

Needs two competions. One for new people - find and learn to recognise these 10 common species

And - Cape Town won - so we need a different target. More like
These species should be here, but no one has them on iNat yet.
How many can you find?? (For which you would need to compile your lists)

One of the things I appreciate about iNat is it’s (relatively) non-competitive nature.

My POV is that too much in our lives (especially for young people) is already competitive. I think competition will take some of the joy of discovery out of your bioblitz. Will participants spend time to just watch an animal or plant and appreciate they can learn more about it by taking time to watch it in it’s world? Will they be tuned to notice details? Will they have time to develop a sense of wonder in discovering and taking in a new lifer species?

This may well be fun for the high-level users you already called out. But, for my $.002, I’m dubious about it as an approach to push for beginners or ordinary users. It seems like this approach is less likely to foster an appreciation of environment and organisms.

I would really like to visit the park on a non-competitive basis, though. :)


To prevent captive/cultivated observations you could always subtract a point for every one of them.