Competitive Bioblitzing (proposed rules)

I recently asked here if organizing a competitive bioblitz at the park where I work would be a bad idea, and no one pointed out any major downsides. So I went and wrote some possible rules for a game called The Winning Inch. I would appreciate feedback on them. Please note that none of these are final, and I still can’t promise the event will happen. However, a set of rules that will make for a fun, safe, responsible event would make it very likely. Please peruse the following and provide constructive feedback. Thank you!

The Winning Inch is designed to be played by teams of iNaturalists who already understand how to observe responsibly, including that one does not mess around with anything affecting data quality. The intent is to gather iNaturalists to a defined Place for a one day bioblitz, with particular emphasis on a) community fun and b) documenting the biodiversity of that Place at that time in a non-destructive and responsible way.

Teams of naturalists shall be referred to as Inches, because that is how groups of naturalist generally move. The Winning Inch will be the one that accumulates the most points by the end of the Identification Period based on iNauralist observations taken on the Field Day.

Place: Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Kenwood, Sonoma County, California.

Field Day: 1/2/2022 (rain date 1/9/2022)

Identification Period: Ends 9pm one week after Field Day (1/9/22 or 1/16/2022)

Maximum Group Size: 3

Organizer: Dr. Dan Levitis, Sonoma Ecology Center

Ways to participate:

  1. Show up and don’t compete, just bring your iNat.
  2. Act as an observer/judge/helper. Any participant employed at the Place should probably do this.
  3. Compete, according to the Rules laid out below.


  1. Inches are responsible for making sure they follow the intent of these rules.
  2. Only Research Grade observations taken within the defined bounds of the Place on the Field Day, uploaded and identified during the Identification Period, by members of the Inch using their own accounts can provide points.
  3. Non-Inch members may not help Inches with finding or observing on Field Day.
  4. Captive/Cultivated organisms must be marked as such and thus will not provide points.
  5. Observations will be disqualified if they violate the Place specific guidelines set out for non-destructive and responsible observation. These guidelines are enumerated below.
  6. Any observer with more than ten disqualified observations shall (unless Organizer overrules due to extenuating circumstances) be disqualified and their points deducted from their Inch’s total.
  7. No action may be taken which gives the impression of attempting to hinder other Inches, observers, or users of the Place.
  8. Any Inch engaging in unsafe, illegal, or antisocial behavior will be disqualified.
  9. Points will be distributed based on the point values below.
  10. To join the game, each Inch must enter their usernames and Inch Name into the Google form (to be linked here).
  11. No Inch may contain more than one iNat user with greater than 20K observations.
  12. Each team must, before the end of the Identification Period, report its total Points. Points will be checked by the Organizer before The Winning Inch is announced.

Place Specific Guidelines for Responsible Observing.

  1. Vertebrate animals must not be touched, picked up, or harassed.
  2. The ‘leave no trace’ ethos must be followed.
  3. No going off trail to take observations. Observing is allowed along roads and trails, in the campgrounds and parking lots, and other areas where park visitors are expected to go.
  4. No digging, trapping, habitat disruption, sample taking, removing materials from the park, or other activities not generally allowed of park visitors are permitted.
  5. No motorized vehicles may be used within the park except on paved Adobe Canyon Rd. and the campground loop. Reasonable accommodations can be made for those with disabilities who give organizer at least 7 days notice.
  6. Any part of the park marked as closed must be avoided.
  7. Particular care must be taken to avoid disrupting or eroding riparian areas.
  8. Naturalists wishing help forming an Inch may gather at the Group Campground starting at 8am.

Point Values (Research Grade Only)
Species not observed by other Inches on Field Day=100 per species
Species not previously observed within Place=100 per species
Species not previously observed within this State=1000 per species
Species not previously observed on iNaturalist=10000 per species
Species not previously observed by that Observer=500 per species
Largest number of species observed by any Inch=5000
Largest number of Observations by any individual=5000


That is too generous - 3 each (if the team has 3 members) would allow for misunderstanding or mistakes. 10 is either deliberate, or careless.


I think allowing Needs ID observations (perhaps checked by you or others to ensure they are not unreasonable) and/or a longer identification period would be a good idea. Rare or difficult-to-ID species may take a while to be confirmed, and requiring Research Grade pretty much excludes a lot of invertebrates.


I agree with @fluffyinca – include “Needs ID” observations. Otherwise you encourage the circles of identification seen in some classes where clueless observer’s photos are identified by his/her equally clueless friend.


My concern was that many place here have no cell reception, so GPS coordinates can be inaccurate. I’ve taken observations where I could see I was on the trail in the photo but they mapped 100m away. I’d hate to disqualify someone because they had some bad GPS readings. But maybe the rule should be that anyone with more than 3 will be reviewed and if in fact they are off trail they will be excluded.

You make a good point. Just recently @borisb IDed a beetle I observed in the 2019 City Nature Challenge. The difficulty is I often have no idea if an unconfirmed ID is correct, or even reasonable. And it makes it a ton more work to try to review all the “needs ID” to see if they look reasonable. Maybe two weeks instead of one to reach RG?

Yes, that could be a problem. I won’t be inviting any classes to participate, but they might show up, or others could fall into the same trap. One solution would be to count needs ID also, with little attempt to review the verisimilitude. Another would be to recruit a couple of experienced IDers to look through and check as many of them as possible. This needs more thought.


Excluding people like me who use a camera, and then download the pictures at home?. I place the location on the map without any GPS.

Bioblitz and City Challenge I think allow 2 weeks for IDs.

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If my memory serves, CNC allows four days. Unless they changed it?


We had longer for the Southern Bioblitz. Might be interesting for you to keep an eye on the number of Research Grade species added week by week - it will peak … then dwindle.

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I wodner how cold it will be in early January at your bioblitz location. My thinking is if you push back towards the summer you may be able to have higher chance of seeing more species, especially in terms of invertebrates.

California’s winter is a great time to for mosses, lichens, slugs, birds, etc. By late summer here most things have dried out completely, and there is much less life to be (easily seen). But if this first iteration goes relatively smoothly and isn’t too terribly time consuming, I’d be happy to do it again in summer. Spring is best, but we have a big event here for the City Nature Challenge, and don’t want to compete with that.


very true, different seasons brings out different types of life

I don’t mean to be rude here but you misspelled “Competitive” in the title.

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Thank you! I wouldn’t do well in a spelling bee.

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The rules don’t specify that GPS needs to be used. I don’t see any problem with manual location specification. But for those who do use GPS, it can sometimes give the false impression that they went way off trail.

Then your 10 makes good sense

Asking them to upload with computer, where it’s much easier to correct locations in relation to other observations and trail, would be reasonable to avoid them being off borders.

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