TUCSON, Ariz. (Oct. 26, 2011)—After two days of round-the-clock exploration and documentation, the Saguaro National Park BioBlitz held on Oct. 21 and 22, 2011, provided a snapshot of the many plants and animals in the 91,445-acre park flanking Tucson on the east and west. Led by nearly 200 scientists from around the country, thousands of amateur explorers, families and schoolchildren conducted a 24-hour inventory of the plants, insects, birds and other creatures that inhabit the desert park. The event was presented by National Geographic and the National Park Service, in collaboration with the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Friends of Saguaro National Park.
- 5,500 people, including more than 2,000 registered schoolchildren, participated in BioBlitz and its concurrent Biodiversity Festival.
- The initial species count as of the 3:30 p.m. closing ceremony Saturday was 859, and the number continued to rise throughout the afternoon as more data sheets came in from the field. Over the next few months, organizers expect the number to increase significantly as state-of-the-art testing of the collected samples continues.
- The 24-hour count, from noon Friday to noon Saturday, added more than 400 species to park lists, including 190 species of invertebrates and 205 species of fungi previously unknown to the park. At least one species of bryophyte new to the park and potentially new to the science community was also added, and the count continues.
- Renowned conservationist, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Wildlife Conservation Society scientist Dr. J. Michael Fay conducted a seven-day Tucson Transect. Walking from the backcountry on the eastern edge of the Rincon Mountain District of the park, crossing the city of Tucson and continuing to the western edge of the Tucson Mountain District, he documented every living thing he encountered.
- The Biodiversity Festival included a wide variety of music, Native American performances, dance troops, talks, nature walks, live animal demonstrations and other activities. The festival focused on biodiversity and encouraging the public to do their part to protect the environment. Many visitors interacted with representatives of science, nature and environmental organizations at more than 45 booths around “base camp” — the Tucson Mountain District Red Hills Visitor Center. Thousands of adults and kids earned “degrees” from “Biodiversity University” by participating in educational programs throughout the festival.
- An integrated art program at “base camp” included flags featuring local species, made by local artists in schools and recreation and senior centers. Festival participants were able to do art on site, and more than 100 poems and prose were written as part of a poetry inventory done with local scientists and writers. A poetry garden/walk displayed some of the submissions in their natural setting.
The BioBlitz was part scientific endeavor, part festival and part outdoor classroom. Participants combed the park, observing and recording as many plant and animal species as possible in 24 hours. Activities included counting cacti, catching insects by day and night, spotting birds, exploring washes and using technology to better understand the diverse ecosystems of this unique park.
“This was a fantastic opportunity for the public to meet and work with scientists, to understand and appreciate what makes Saguaro National Park such a special and biologically rich place,” said Darla Sidles, Saguaro National Park superintendent. “For many people, especially school children, this was their first visit to the park, and it was exciting to have them experience it with amazing scientists and naturalists as their guides.”
“I was thrilled by the connections made through the event,” said John Francis, National Geographic’s vice president for research, conservation and exploration. “Scientists joined students and people from the surrounding communities and celebrated their unique roles as members of the natural systems where they live. It was also exciting to see new technology and smart phone apps being used in the field to document and identify species finds.”
New this year was a National Park Foundation Electronic Field Trip (EFT), where more than 90,000 registered participants logged on from schools across the country to participate in two live broadcasts during the BioBlitz. Millions more were able to view the EFT on public television stations nationwide. The EFT is also available for viewing anytime at www.electronicfieldtrip.org.
Saguaro National Park was the fifth in a series of 10 annual BioBlitzes to be hosted by National Geographic and the National Park Service leading up to the Park Service’s centennial in 2016. During closing ceremonies at the “base camp,” the BioBlitz flag was passed to Ben Bowbowski, acting deputy superintendent of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, where the sixth BioBlitz will take place in 2012.
The first BioBlitz was held at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., in 2007; Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California was the BioBlitz site in 2008; Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was the site of the third BioBlitz in 2009; and Biscayne National Park, just outside Miami, was the 2010 site.
National Geographic has had a close relationship with the National Park Service since the Service’s inception; the Society helped draft legislation to establish the Service in 1916. National Geographic has given grants to establish or sustain national parks and has extensively covered the parks in its media for nearly a century.
The Saguaro BioBlitz was made possible through the support of foundations, nonprofit organizations and corporations. The presenting sponsors were Friends of Saguaro National Park; Tucson Electric Power, a UniSource Energy Company; Verizon Wireless; and The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Additional nonprofit and foundation support came from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum; Unilever United States Foundation; the Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation; the Western National Parks Association; The Martin & Hildegard Gluck Foundation; the Bess Spiva Timmons Foundation; and The Norcross Wildlife Foundation. Additional corporate support was provided by BBVA Compass; Citigroup; Southwest Gas Corporation; Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise; Summit Hut; West Press; and Old Tucson Studios.
Established in 1933, Saguaro National Park protects an incredible example of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem. The landscape is dotted with archaeological sites, historical remnants and places of importance for American Indians. Saguaro National Park is located adjacent to Tucson and consists of two districts that border the east and west sides of the city. More than 70,000 of the park’s 91,445 acres are designated wilderness. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/sagu.
The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society works to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 400 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; exhibitions; live events; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 9,600 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com.
NOTE: Images are available at http://ftp.nationalgeographic.com/pressroom/bioblitz.
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