Current Nature: Join The BioBlitz Challenge

Kristin Bullett •

‘Tis the season to be outdoors. Beach days, gardening, yard games, and summer camp are in full swing and many of us on Nantucket are spending more time outside these days. Blooming flowers, ripening berries, buzzing insects, and fledgling birds abound this time of year. 

There is so much to see in every habitat across the island! What’s the best way to see and enjoy this multitude of species? Join in on the Nantucket Land Council and the Linda Loring Nature Foundation’s July BioBlitz Challenge!

What is a BioBlitz, anyway? A BioBlitz is an effort to catalog as many species as possible in a given area over a specified amount of time. July is the perfect season to capture living things on the island, most of which are quite active this time of year, coinciding nicely with people being outdoors more often.

Joining the BioBlitz is simple. We use a free app and website iNaturalist to catalog observations and identify what is being seen. When you’re out and about and see something in nature, snap a photo and upload it to iNaturalist and it will automatically be counted towards the BioBlitz! iNaturalist has great tools for identifying what you’ve found, and your observation can be seen by others who can help identify as well. If you have a smartphone you can use the free app, or you can access the website on any computer.

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See a cool mushroom? You can figure out what it might be on iNaturalist!

Why iNaturalist? This is one of the most popular nature apps helping people around the globe identify plants and animals. It is a joint project between the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic. As of this writing, there are currently more than 140 million observations from around the world documenting more than 430,000 species. And those numbers are always ticking up! This huge database is used by scientists to track where species are and when, and is a major tool used in research. By recording and sharing your observations, you’ll create research- quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature. iNaturalist is a fun way to be engaged with science and contribute to research.

My favorite part about iNaturalist is getting help in identifying the cool things I see in nature. Maybe you have bumped into an interesting caterpillar, or perhaps there is a beautiful wildflower blooming in your neighborhood. You have probably experienced the burning curiosity of needing to know what it’s called! When you upload a photo into iNaturalist, an algorithm suggests species based on the photo and the location. If those suggestions don’t seem right, your observation will be offered up to the iNaturalist community to help identify it until it is “research grade”- meaning the identification has been confirmed by multiple people. Identifying observations is another great way to participate in the BioBlitz. If you have a knack for identifying plants, know our local shellfish well, or can spot a monarch caterpillar from a mile away you can help! Browse through the project page and when you see something you recognize, add an identification to confirm what has been spotted.

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You can see where to find Lady Slipper Orchids on island with the mapping tools in iNaturalist. We’re hoping to capture one in this year’s BioBlitz!

Participating in the July Nantucket Land Council (NLC) Bioblitz is a great way to learn about iNaturalist, which you can use anytime, anywhere. I frequently use it off-island since I’m less familiar with species away from home. One of my favorite aspects of iNaturalist is that you can upload observations of any “signs of life”, which means feathers, shells, bones, scat, tracks, seeds, and eggs can all be uploaded and identified. I love solving a good nature mystery, and iNaturalist has helped me figure out what critter has left behind tracks in the sand, or what bird shed a feather I found in my yard.

So far, the BioBlitz has racked up over 500 observations by over 40 people, recording 280 species on Nantucket- impressive numbers for just over a week! We would be thrilled to beat last year’s totals. Let’s see if we can do better than 1,688 observations, by 133 people cataloging 659 species. We have a few weeks left to get there! Keep an eye on the progress on our project page here.

Each Friday in July, you can join us and the Nantucket Land Council for a Nature Ramble, where we’ll discover what’s out and about along our trails and share how to use iNaturalist. Meet us at our trailhead at 110 Eel Point Road on July 14 or 28 to learn “How to Bioblitz”! Rambles are free and open to anyone, just register in advance. This is a great way to practice using the app with others and get a feel for how it all works.

By taking part in the BioBlitz challenge, not only are you engaging with our beautiful open spaces and varied habitats, you are fostering a love for the outdoors and joining a community of like-minded environmentalists. We’ll see you on iNaturalist!

Kristin Bullett is the Community Engagement Coordinator at the Linda Loring Nature Foundation

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