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Dec. 05, 2012

What's a BioBlitz?

by The Bug Chicks

Click to enlarge images
In May of this year, we were able to take part in a BioBlitz event run by Portland Parks and Recreation. BioBlitzes are held all over the country each year. Groups of volunteers participate in a 24-hour, marathon fauna survey in a specified area. Each volunteer group -- led by a local scientist or expert -- focuses on a different type of animal (mammal, bird, amphibian, reptile, or arthropod) and tries to find and catalog as many species of that animal as they can in the allotted time. Think of it as a biological scavenger hunt.
 
Portland Parks and Recreation chose Forest Park as the location for the survey. With more than 5,000 acres of wilderness, Forest Park is one of the largest forested urban parks in the country. The park had some data on existing wildlife, but this was the first time a BioBlitz had been conducted in the area.
 
We were asked to lead one of the groups for the arthropod section of the survey. (Of COURSE we said yes!) There were several different arthropod teams, since these animals are the most abundant and under-surveyed in the park. A few days prior to the actual event, we laid pitfall and pan traps in hopes of catching some ground-dwelling insects.  During the event itself, the volunteers helped us check the traps. They also learned other insect collection techniques, like using a sweep net and beat sheet.
 
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Most species of bird, mammal, and amphibian were identified on the spot during the event.  However, with insects, spiders, and other arthropods, identification can be a bit tricky.  Most of our specimens were identified after the event was over by Jim LaBonte and his crew at the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Insect Pest Prevention and Management Team. We really appreciated their hard work.  Because we moved to Portland only about a year before BioBlitz, we’re still unfamiliar with many of the native species, so having local experts help with identification of our traps' catch was awesome. The good people at BugGuide were also on hand (online) for BioBlitz participants who uploaded specimen photos during the event! 
 
A great way to see what went on at the Forest Park BioBlitz is to check out the segment Oregon Public Broadcasting filmed for their popular show Oregon Field Guide.  It’s a great piece that showcases the rugged beauty of Forest Park and gives a taste of what it’s like to participate in a biological survey.
 
Watch BioBlitz on PBS. See more from Oregon Field Guide.
About The Bug Chicks

Kristie Reddick and Jessica Honaker are The Bug Chicks. They each have Masters Degrees in Entomology and love to teach people about insects and spiders.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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