NEW ORLEANS (April 23, 2013)—Are you ready to BioBlitz? The National Park Service and National Geographic Society are teaming up to host a 24-hour BioBlitz species count and two-day Biodiversity Festival, Friday-Saturday, May 17-18, 2013. BioBlitz 2013 will take place at the Barataria Preserve of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. The preserve, located at in Marrero, La., protects more than 23,000 acres of wild Louisiana wetlands.
Part scientific endeavor, part festival and part outdoor classroom, the BioBlitz will bring together 100 leading scientists and naturalists from around the country, thousands of local citizens of all ages and nearly 2,000 students from the greater New Orleans area. Together they will comb the park, observing and recording as many plant and animal species as possible in 24 hours. Inventory activities include counting alligators, catching insects, spotting birds, exploring and examining aquatic invertebrates and using technology to better understand the diverse ecosystems of this unique National Park Service area.
A major component of BioBlitz is the opportunity for the public to work side-by-side with leading experts to count, map and learn about the park’s diverse organisms, ranging from microscopic bacteria to towering bald cypress trees. To be part of an inventory team, you must register online at www.nationalgeographic.com/bioblitz. Registration is now open. Inventory team spots are limited and will be filled on a first-come basis.
Children aged 8 and older accompanied by adults may participate in inventories, and younger kids can enjoy hands-on fun at the Biodiversity Festival at the Barataria Preserve. All BioBlitz and festival parking will be at Bayou Segnette State Park (7777 Westbank Expressway, Westwego, La.). Everyone going to BioBlitz will receive free park admission, free parking and free round-trip shuttle service to the preserve. Handicapped-accessible shuttles will be available.
The free Biodiversity Festival will feature music, science demonstrations, hands-on activities provided by prominent science and environmental organizations, food and art. The festival will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, May 17-18. “Explorers” of all ages can enjoy the festival, watch scientists at work and “graduate” from Biodiversity University by participating in activities. No registration is required for the festival. For a schedule of events and details about BioBlitz and the festival, go to www.nationalgeographic.com/bioblitz.
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve Acting Superintendent Lance Hatten said, “Those of us in Louisiana know exactly how precious our wetlands are and how important it is to protect them. We hope everybody takes advantage of this opportunity to explore areas of the Barataria Preserve that most visitors never see, to help us learn things that will help us protect our wetlands for decades to come and to have a great time at the festival.”
“We’re excited to be exploring this amazing ecosystem,” said John Francis, National Geographic’s vice president of Research, Conservation and Exploration. “We will have leading scientists from around the country and the region to help citizens explore the park like never before. At previous BioBlitzes, we have helped national parks identify new species to add to their rosters, and at Biscayne National Park we identified a species new to science. It is exciting to see the public, and especially students, make new discoveries and learn how to keep nature whole.”
The Jean Lafitte BioBlitz has been made possible through the generous support of corporations, foundations and state and local agencies. Corporate support comes from Southwest Airlines. Foundation support is from the Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation, the National Park Foundation and the National Park Trust. The Louisiana Office of State Parks and Jefferson Parish have also helped to make this event happen.
National Geographic has had a close relationship with the National Park Service since it 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 Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve BioBlitz is part of the organizations’ latest collaboration. It is the seventh of 10 annual BioBlitzes that will be held at national park units around the country leading up to the National Park Service’s centennial in 2016. The first took place in 2007 at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. The others have been at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California in 2008; Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 2009; Biscayne National Park in Florida in 2010; Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Ariz., in 2011; and Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, Colo., in 2012. Smaller-scale events throughout the year take place at various national parks across the country; information about these can be found at http://nature.nps.gov/biology/biodiversity/docs/BiodiversityDiscovery.pdf.