Biological diversity: discovery, science, and management in this issue

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The 2011 bioblitz was held at the Katharine Ordway Field Station, owned by Macalester College. Here, volunteers combed through tallgrass prairie; sand gravel prairie; oak savanna and woodland; riparian forests; seasonal and permanent ponds, seeps, and springs; and a backwater lake adjacent to the Mississippi River. Despite intermittent drizzle, this event garnered 611 species at final count.

In 2013 the bioblitz moved to the 92-acre (37 ha) Coldwater Spring site. The National Park Service acquired 29 of those acres in 2010 from the U.S. Bureau of Mines, and in the two years leading up to the bioblitz, a dozen abandoned buildings were demolished and park staff began restoring the upland area to a mix of oak savanna, wetlands, and prairie.

One hundred volunteers ranging in age from 2 to 90 and with a wide variety of skills and experience assisted bioblitz scientists in documenting the presence of 574 species. Parents commented on how much their kids enjoyed collecting bugs and mammals and seeing the fish that were brought from the river. Even a late-night owl walk was a big hit among casual participants, despite a lack of calling owls. People enjoyed simply being out at night, in the park, savoring the knowledge that these mysterious birds were out there in the dark, even in the city.

Information acquired during the bioblitzes is helping park resource managers in numerous ways. First, there is increasing awareness of what biota are found within the riverway. Several species observed during the 2009 bioblitz were new to the park. That information has led to follow-up studies focusing on fungi, insects, and frogs. Second, the 2013 bioblitz at Coldwater Spring provided excellent baseline data for the property in its first year since site restoration had begun. Park staff plan to hold a bioblitz there every five years to document change in species composition and numbers as restoration of the area continues and plantings mature.

Sampling understudied taxa in Great Basin National Park

What species occur in Great Basin National Park? For many taxa, including plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish, this question has been answered through targeted sampling and data collection since the park’s establishment in 1986. However, data on invertebrates—an abundant but understudied taxon—have been incomplete or absent. To help fill this knowledge gap, the park decided to use the bioblitz approach to sample, identify, and catalog invertebrates in the park.

Because of Great Basin’s relatively small size (77,000 acres or 31,161 hectares) and re mote location (286 miles, or 460 km north east of Las Vegas), there is a limited pool of subject-matter experts and volunteers interested enough to come to the park and assist with plant and animal surveys. Furthermore, because many areas in the park are difficult to access, a bioblitz focused on different park units or regions was not an option. Therefore, to maximize participation and efficiency, Great Basin staff, as at Acadia, chose to focus their bioblitzes on one order or class of organisms per year.

Park staff were introduced to the bioblitz concept during a program session at the 2009 George Wright Society Conference on Park and Protected Area Management in Portland, Oregon. After returning home, the park established a partnership with Southern Utah University to assist with the first bioblitz at Great Basin.

The primary objectives of the Great Basin bioblitzes are as follows:

• Conduct inventories for taxa not included in the National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring Program

• Determine which invertebrate species are present in the park

• Expand the number of species known to occur in the park

• Collaborate with subject-matter experts from various agencies and universities to strengthen park partnerships

• Engage citizen scientists to help develop park stewards

• Share results to initiate additional studies in the park

• Establish an invertebrate reference collection for park staff and visiting researchers

The park does not have a prioritized list of invertebrates to determine the focal group each year. Instead, the availability of a lead taxonomist helps the park decide how to focus the event. This lead taxonomist is responsible for leading a workshop, demonstrating sampling techniques, identifying specimens to the family level during the event, and providing the expertise, staff, and lab capacity to identify the specimens to the finest taxonomic level by the following year.

The park has now hosted six annual bioblitzes, with a budget ranging from $500 to $7,500 (table 3). The budget covers a stipend for the principal taxonomist, supplies, and salaries of seasonal employees whose time is dedicated to the event. The park was fortunate to have one bioblitz participant, Dr. Ken Kingsley, volunteer to serve as the first taxonomist-in-the-park. Dr. Kingsley spent one week each month during summer 2012 collecting, organizing, and curating the growing invertebrate collection. The Nevada State Entomologist’s office has also been an indispensable partner, bringing additional collecting equipment, microscopes, and knowledgeable staff to make each event run smoothly.

Table 3. Summary of bioblitz events held at Great Basin National Park, Nevada, 2009–2015



Common Name

Lead Taxonomist


Taxa Families Added

Species Added





Jeff Knight, Nevada State Entomologist




Organizational support from Southern Utah University



Crickets, Grasshoppers, Related

Dr. Andrew Barnum, Dixie State College




Inclement weather



Bees, Wasps, Ants

Dr. James Pitts, Utah State University




First 48-hour event




Dr. Riley Nelson, Brigham Young University




NPS Biodiversity Coordinator Sally Plumb attends



Spiders, Mites, Ticks, Pseudoscorpions, Solfugids, Scorpions

Dr. Paula Cushing, Denver Museum of Nature and Science




Nighttime activities attract significant attendance



Butterflies, Moths

Dr. Paul Opler, Colorado State University




New moth species


Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera

Mayflies, Stoneflies, Caddisflies

To be determined




May/June 2015

Great Basin National Park is generally undersampled for most invertebrate orders, and the bioblitzes provide an opportunity for scientists to apply their knowledge in a beautiful setting where the results will be used. The gathering of scientists at a bioblitz also serves to train graduate students, meet colleagues in the same or a similar field, and share knowledge with park visitors who are eager to learn.

Students and children are always welcome at bioblitzes and have helped collect and sort specimens. A high school teacher from Colorado brought his summer biology class to the 2011 Hymenoptera bioblitz, and they helped collect many additional specimens. Children, with their lower stature and innate curiosity, have helped their parents and scientists find insects and arachnids that otherwise would probably have been missed. In 2013, Dr. Paula Cushing gave a special presentation about arachnids to children, focusing on Charlotte’s Web. Children (and adults) could touch a real orb-weaver spider, and some children who had always been afraid of spiders suddenly became their advocates.

A potential new species to science (Acanthetropis sp. nov.) was documented during the Hymenoptera bioblitz in 2011, and the Arachnid bioblitz documented two orders (Solfugids and Scorpions) that were new to the park. More than 75 families have been added to the park’s taxonomic list along with numerous genera and species, providing a more complete species list for the park. Park staff are looking forward to future bioblitzes, and the focal groups are already identified for 2015 (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera––the aquatic insect orders of mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies). The information gained from these bioblitzes fosters a greater awareness of the park’s biodiversity among both managers and the public. It can also help drive management decisions about where to focus conservation efforts by elucidating locations where more intense sampling and additional research are needed in order to determine species trends.

The diversity of life in our national parks is phenomenal, and the bioblitz has become a popular way of documenting that life and facilitating personal discoveries of it for the visiting public. If every bioblitz has a person who makes as exciting a discovery as a species new to science or even to the park, or who simply learns how to follow the sound of crows to a hidden owl, then the event is a job well done.

[Park Ranger Robb Reinhart points out harvester ants to young participants at the Hymenoptera bioblitz in Great Basin National Park. Credit: David Hunter]

[This wasp was one of 22 species in the Crabronidae family (the most species of any taxa) found during the Great Basin Hymenoptera bioblitz. Credit: David Hunter]

(Top) Park Ranger Robb Reinhart points out harvester ants to young participants at the Hymenoptera bioblitz in Great Basin National Park. (Bottom) This wasp was one of 22 species in the Crabronidae family (the most species of any taxa) found during the Great Basin Hymenoptera bioblitz.

Literature cited

Chandler, D. S., D. Manski, C. Donahue, and A. Alyokhin. 2011. Biodiversity of the Schoodic Peninsula: Results of the insect and arachnid bioblitzes at the Schoodic District of Acadia National Park, Maine. Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station Technical Bulletin 206. Accessed 24 April 2014 at http:// /aes_techbulletin/11/.

Cohn, D. 1996. Scientists invade [northeast] park: 24-hour survey strives to log nature’s diversity. Originally published in The Washington Post. Accessed 21 April 2014 at

Discover Life in America (DLiA). 2013. Fifteen years of discovery. DLiA white paper. Accessed 22 April 2014 at

Droege, S. 1996. Species list (May 31–June 1, 1996), Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens––BioBlitz. Accessed 21 April 2014 at

About the authors

Gretchen M. Baker ( is an ecologist at Great Basin National Park in Baker, Nevada. Nancy Duncan ( is the Natural Resource Program manager at Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ted Gostomski ( is a biologist and science writer with the NPS Great Lakes Inventory and Monitoring Network in Ashland, Wisconsin. Margaret A. Horner is a supervisory biological technician at Great Basin National Park. David Manski ( is the former chief of Natural Resource Management and acting deputy superintendent at Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine. An “emeritus” employee, he recently retired from the National Park Service after a 35-year career on various natural and cultural resource assignments in the United States and abroad.
Ocmulgee National Monument Butterfly Bioblitz

[Middle school students pause to photograph a butterfly on the first day of the 2013 Butterfly Bioblitz at Ocmulgee National Monument. Credit: NPS photo]

Middle school students pause to photograph a butterfly on the first day of the 2013 Butterfly Bioblitz at Ocmulgee National Monument.

National park

Ocmulgee National Monument, Georgia


23–24 October 2013

Activity name/type

Butterfly Bioblitz


Five teams of scientists led groups of community volunteers in the field of this 702-acre (284 ha) park to observe and identify as many species of butterflies as possible over the course of the two-day event. Participants were encouraged to photodocument the butterflies they encountered—no collections were made—and used cameras, binoculars, field guides, and checklists to help make identifications and to record their observations. Students from middle school participated on the first day (see photo), while the general public took part on day two. Participants received a T-shirt, water bottle, and backpack for helping with the event.

Key partners

NPS staff of the Southeast Coast I&M Network, Congaree National Park, and Cumberland Island National Seashore and entomologist Marc Minno, author of Butterflies Through Binoculars and Butterflies of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia


480 community volunteers, scientists, and staff

Number of species

40 butterflies and 5 dragonflies


Hundreds of photographs of butterflies were submitted to park staff, resulting in identification of 28 species; an additional 12 species were identified by other means. The park set up a children’s education area so that the youngest participants could learn about the life cycle of butterflies and get involved in a hands-on crafts program. The event helped raise awareness in the community of the important role butterflies play in park and area ecosystems. The park considered the event a success and has received funding to repeat the activity in August 2014, with hopes of expanding the list of species documented in 2013.

Park contact

Angela Bates (

George Washington Carver Bioblitz

Below left: Derek Hennen, University of Arkansas; others: NPS Heartland Network/Hope Dodd

[Millipede. Credit: Derek Hennen, University of Arkansas]

[Group of five scientists process aquatic invertebrate samples. Credit: NPS Heartland Network/Hope Dodd]

[Scientists search for small mammals. Credit: NPS Heartland Network/Hope Dodd]

[Two people search for water mites. Credit: NPS Heartland Network/Hope Dodd]

(Clockwise from top left). Millipede collected in the forest by David Bowles’s team. Aquatic invertebrate sample processing at Williams Pond by Kip Heth’s team. Small-mammal collecting from prairie by Karen Pulicinski’s team. Water mite sample collecting from creeks by Andrea Radwell’s team.

National park

George Washington Carver National Monument, Missouri


27–28 September 2013. Similar events are planned for this park on 27 September 2014 and at Buffalo National River on 18 October 2014.

Activity name/type


Focal taxa/habitats

Aquatic and terrestrial insects, small mammals, water mites


Staff from the NPS Heartland Inventory and Monitoring Network selected four focus taxa based on understudied groups from previ ous inventories. Lead scientists selected study protocols with park approval via the NPS Research Permit and Reporting System. Four teams made field collections in various ecosystems using scientific methods. Teams comprised local adult volunteers recruited through public media and university contacts. Team leaders and NPS staff held an orientation meeting to discuss the schedule, methods, data recording, equipment, and safety. Field collections were made from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday; blacklight traps were set the previous night. Aquatic and terrestrial collections were used for educational purposes Saturday afternoon in the visi tor center classroom. Scientists reported taxa count data to the Heartland Network once identifications were complete.

Key partners

Staff from the national monument helped to coordinate the event and provided use of the visitor center, park grounds, and public outreach. Taxonomic team leaders came from Missouri Southern State University, the University of Arkansas, and the NPS Heartland Inventory and Monitoring Network. Team leaders and members volunteered their time.


Thirty-nine volunteers participated in the event, 4 as leaders and 20 as team members, with an additional 15 visitors participating in the educational program.

Number of species/specimens

More than 1,200 organisms were collected, comprising 141 species, of which 89 were new to the park.


A final report has been published: Hinsey, J. A., and T. M. Johnson. 2014. George Washington Carver National Monument (GWCA) Bioblitz Event–2013. Natural Resource Data Series NPS/ HTLN/NRDS–2014/686. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA.


The event was held in conjunction with National Public Lands Day and was well attended by curious visitors, including toddlers and octogenarians. The park considered the event a success in part because it provided an opportunity to involve adults and older students as citizen scientists in the collection of authentic data that will be archived in the NPSpecies database. The park plans to host future bioblitz events based on the favorable outcomes of this initial activity.

Park contacts

Theresa Weiss-Johnson ( and Jan Hinsey (

Upper Delaware Bioblitz

National park

Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, Pennsylvania


28–29 June 2013

Activity name/type

Upper Delaware Bioblitz

Focal taxa

Aquatic macroinvertebrates, birds, fish, fungi, herpetofauna, lichens, mammals, mosses, plants, terrestrial invertebrates


A 64-acre (26 ha) privately owned property mostly in the half-mile-wide wild and scenic river corridor in the northern portion of the park


Nine taxonomic teams (TWiGs), comprising scientists from the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, several universities and agencies, students, and volunteers, combed the site to locate and identify taxa, and subsequently to verify certain identifications in the lab. Collection protocols and sampling methods used by each team are described online at The public was invited on Saturday to view the results, talk with team members, and participate in instructive programs (see


Delaware Highlands Conservancy, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Friends of the Upper Delaware River, Monroe County Conservation District, National Park Service (Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate, Northeast Regional Office, and Washington Office), Norcross Wildlife Foundation (the property owner), Northeast Pennsylvania Audubon Society, Paul and Scott Hunt, Pennsylvania Native Plant Society, Verizon Wireless (for WiFi access), and Wayne County Community Foundation

Key science partners

The Academy of Natural Sciences (Patrick Center for Environmental Research) of Drexel University, Delaware Highlands Mushroom Society, East Stroudsburg University, Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy


About 50 scientists and amateur naturalists helped collect and identify specimens. More than 25 volunteers planned and ran the event. Approximately 250 park visitors attended educational pro grams to learn about the event and its findings.


Five inches of rain fell the night before the bioblitz, hampering the search for snakes and collections at aquatic study sites. The Pennsylvania endangered bridle shiner (Notropis bifrenatus) was documented in a new park location. All 27 documented crane flies were new records for Wayne County. (The previous state record for Cryptolabis paradoxa, a riverine crane fly, was in 1917.) Among plants, 29 vascular species (11 of them native) and 31 species of bryophytes were new county records. Areas prone to flooding had a higher proportion of nonnative plant species. Twenty species of ground beetles, a group that reflects specific microhabitat associations, were recorded. All mosquito specimens tested negative for West Nile virus. No bats of the genus Myotis, hardest hit by whitenose syndrome, were identified. Herpetofauna identifications included salamanders, newts, frogs, toads, turtles, and one snake species. Some duplication occurred among species recorded by the aquatic macroinvertebrate and terrestrial invertebrate teams, suggesting the need for better coordination among these teams in the future.


A final report is available at http://www.upperdelawarebioblitz .com/science/default.html. An article about the importance of protected habitats to bryophyte diversity was published in the March 2014 issue of Evansia (see “A list of bryophytes for Wayne County, Pennsylvania” at doi:10.1639/079.031.0104).

Educational outcomes

More than 1,000 species of plants and animals were documented in 24 hours and have been entered into the NPSpecies database. The event highlighted the diversity of life that enriches the soil, cycles nutrients, purifies water, pollinates plants, and creates air—ecosystem services that benefit and sustain humans and that cannot easily be reengineered. By involving the public in a science-based park management activity, the bioblitz supported the NPS Call to Action strategy 7, “Next Generation Stewards.”

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