Tips for Public Bioblitz organizers

I’m helping to organize a couple of public bioblitzes for the City Nature Challenge this year. Each will have a handful of experienced iNat users leading groups, and an unknown number of visitors. We have people sign up in advance but the number that arrives can be very different. I’ve done a bit of this before, and it feels like comedy improv as much as participatory science. This thread: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/are-there-strategies-for-dealing-with-bioblitzes/2405 deals mostly with how to handle the flood of observations that come in after the bioblitz, but I’d appreciate insights into the events themselves. For example, I’ve found that it is very helpful to, before advertising the event, set up a project that automatically includes observations from the bioblitz days and area. That way, when people worry about how their observations are going to be included I can tell them it is all taken care of automatically. I’ve found that it works well to have one group that stays and takes observations at the meeting place the whole time, both because that way people with limited mobility can participate, and because that way people who come late or get separated can join that group. Please share what works well, what are pitfalls, what have you learned from experience? Thank you.

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My apologies if you’ve already seen it, but iNat’s Help page has a BioBlitz Guide, which is a good start.

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Thank you! I had not seen it, but the information therein is familiar to me. I guess I’m looking more for the finer lessons about what works well during the blitz itself. The technical side of things iNat makes easy, and broad recruitment and logistics I have well in hand, but I have room for improvement in the art of making the blitz as fun, inspiring, and useful as possible.

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If you need any extreme weather events, just lemme know
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/delay-maintenance/7220/5

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Any ongoing natural disaster cancels. I am confident iNat will not schedule downtime during the City Nature Challenge, so that artificial disaster I won’t worry about.

I do, however, worry that the COVID-19 epidemic may crest here about the time of the City Nature Challenge, and that could certainly cause cancellations. Not much I can do about that either.

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Hi, I’m organising a mini bioblitz for 26 April (https://trail.bioburbage.org.uk) and will watch this thread with interest. It’s part of an ongoing project and won’t be part of the City Nature Challenge, but maybe we’ll raise enough interest to take part next year.

I’ve already set up a place and ongoing project for our parish and a Facebook page to publicise it, and a few people have signed up to iNaturalist and have added observations.

I’ve chosen an easily accessible area for the event and I plan to start with a demo/recap of adding observations to iNaturalist, give them a printed checklist of what makes a good observation, point out any safety issues, and stay together for a little while before splitting up. It’s an out-and-back route so we won’t need a map and it shouldn’t be a problem if people progress at different speeds.

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I’m not really an export about this, having been to just 3 bioblitzes that were all small affairs, but here’s my two cents:

  • make sure you have enough people who already know how to use the app and iNat in general; it may help to set up a workshop on it either immediately before or at least the week of your event
  • be sure to explain the common iNat pitfalls to EVERY GROUP: do not upload multiple species in one observation, but also please do upload your 5 shots of the same plant all in one go; try not to upload unknowns, etc
  • consider recruiting people who know some names of organisms, such as botany students from the local college, nearby nature organisations, etc. If they go with the public groups it will help front-load the ID process
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Personally I do not see the meaning in those bioblitzes where the user with the highest number of observations wins. This is not the right way to make citizen closer to nature.
Apart this, these are the tips I feel I can suggest:

  1. encourage participants to observe wild organisms and, possibly, to avoid those that are obviously not wild
  2. in the case of plants, two photos of the same plant are better than one and three are better than two and so on, especially if more characters of the same plant are photographed
  3. few well documented observations are better than many poorly documented ones
  4. do not collect plants or catch animals, these are things for experts
  5. it is better not to post many observations of the same individual/specimen that other users have already posted, instead try to find something that the other participants may still have not observed
  6. explain clearly that iNat is not a game and has its rules
  7. analyse carefully what is posted in the framework of the bioblitz and, in the case, try to fix what is to be fixed
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My tips:

  1. Involve the locals from the very beginning
  2. Tread lightly (actively minimise the impact your event has on the environment)
  3. Make it fun (stories are cool!)
  4. Encourage everyone to explore new ways to see things (and that includes the scientists!)
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Thank you all. Those are good tips. @kiwifergus, what do you mean by

  • Make it fun (stories are cool!)
  • Encourage everyone to explore new ways to see things (and that includes the scientists!)
    Examples please!

I’m just an amateur iNatter… “resourcefully challenged”, but very passionate about seeing as much of what is out there as I can. So in preparing for an upcoming bioblitz, I investigated purchasing a professional moth trap. NZ$600 for a reasonable quality skinner! Ouch! So I experimented with a polystyrene fishbox, bug zapper that I wrapped in clingfilm, and a couple pieces of perspex. $30 spent on the stuff I didn’t have lying around the house, and I have a reasonable take on a moth trap! Set it up in my back yard to test it, and caught 7 different moths. Put up observations on iNat, and one of the moths turns out to be on a border watchlist, so have to contact MPI! 20 specimens caught and sent away, turns out there are two descriptions that are thought to be synonyms, the other name is an occassional visitor from Australia… but the dna testing on the specimens I sent in reveal it is neither! That is a story still unfolding :)

At a recent bioblitz down near Napier, the freshwater scientists were using electric zappers to stun fish that would then float to the surface, they would make observations and hold them in a large bowl of the creek water until they recovered, and then release. It was so cool to see other scientists from other fields (the birders, the plant people, even me the “not scientist but passionate spider geek” getting as excited as all the children were at seeing it all happen! Moth sheeting at night is brilliant. Think about how most plants are collected or observed in the daytime, are there differences in seeing plants at night? What if we use the UV light of the moth trap on plants and mosses? Will it attract things out of the moss? Oh, wow! Some of those mosses fluoresce!..

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I am managing a bioblitz scheduled to occur on 3/29 and am following your thread to learn about yours and other experiences and suggestions. Our blitz will occur on one unit of the State Park system and will most likely result in subsequent blitzes on other units in the near future. I will share a summary of our experiences and suggestions afterwards.

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Unfortunately but necessarily, both Bioblitzes I was helping to organize have been cancelled due to coronavirus. All parks and open areas have been closed to the public in my county, so we can’t even plan a dispersed bioblitz.

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Back-yard, indoor and out-the-window bioblitz!

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