ESTES PARK, Colo. (Aug. 28, 2012)—After two days of exploration and documentation, the Rocky Mountain National Park BioBlitz held on Aug. 24 and 25, 2012, captured a vivid snapshot of the plants and animal diversity in the Rocky Mountains. Led by nearly 200 scientists from around the country, thousands of amateur explorers, families and schoolchildren conducted an inventory of the plants, insects, mammals, birds and other creatures that inhabit the majestic park and found several species not previously documented in the park. A companion festival at the Estes Park Fairgrounds celebrated biodiversity. The Rocky Mountain National Park BioBlitz and Biodiversity Festival coincided with the National Park Service’s 96th birthday on Aug. 25.
- More than 5,000 people, including more than 2,000 schoolchildren, participated in the BioBlitz and the concurrent Biodiversity Festival.
- The initial scientific species count as of the 4 p.m. closing ceremony Saturday was 489, but a passing bald eagle during the ceremony raised the count to 490. Organizers expect the number to increase significantly over the next few months as state-of-the-art testing of the collected samples continues.
- The two-day, 24-hour (noon-to-noon) inventory added species to the already well-documented park’s species list. They tentatively included a lizard, nine insects and 13 nonvascular plants. Researchers are verifying these possible new records for the park. The big brown bat species was officially confirmed at BioBlitz 2012.
- In addition to scientific discovery, the 2012 BioBlitz focused on personal discovery and understanding the park in new ways. For a group of fourth graders from a Denver school, it was the ultimate field trip and the first time in a national park for most of the students.
- National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis participated in the BioBlitz, working side-by-side with students exploring meadow and alpine tundra ecosystems. The BioBlitz coincided with the release of “Revisiting Leopold: Resource Stewardship in the National Parks.” This is a report that revisits the 1963 Leopold Report, which has been guiding Park Service management of natural resources for 50 years.
- The Biodiversity Festival included a wide variety of music, nature-inspired activities, photography workshops, talks, art, live animal demonstrations and hands-on science activities. The festival emphasized biodiversity and encouraged the public to do its part to protect the environment. Many visitors interacted with representatives of science, nature and environmental organizations at more than 45 booths.
- An integrated art program at the festival included flags featuring local species, made by local and visiting artists and schoolchildren. Festival participants were invited to do art on site, including “create a creature” and participating in a watercolor class led by a 9-year-old artist-in-residence.
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 elk, catching insects, spotting birds, exploring and examining aquatic invertebrates 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 and to understand and appreciate what makes Rocky Mountain National Park such a special and biologically rich place,” said Vaughn Baker, Rocky Mountain National Park superintendent. “For many people, especially schoolchildren, 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.”
“Watching scientists, students and the general public in the field exploring and making discoveries put a smile on my face,” said John Francis, National Geographic’s vice president for Research, Conservation and Exploration. “Scientists joined students and residents 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 smartphone apps being used in the field to document and identify species finds.”
Rocky Mountain National Park was the sixth 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 the BioBlitz flag was passed to Carol Clark, superintendent of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, where the seventh BioBlitz will take place May 17-18, 2013.
The first BioBlitz was held at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., in 2007; the second took place at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California in 2008. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was the site of the third BioBlitz in 2009; Biscayne National Park, just outside Miami, was the 2010 site; and Saguaro National Park in Tucson hosted the 2011 BioBlitz.
The Rocky Mountain National Park BioBlitz was made possible through the generous support of foundations and corporations. Through National Geographic’s partnership efforts, the 2012 presenting sponsors were Verizon Wireless and GEICO. Additional corporate and foundation support came from Southwest Airlines and the Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation.
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.
NOTE: Images are available at http://ftp.nationalgeographic.com/pressroom/bioblitz.
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