WASHINGTON (April 23, 2007)-Washington can lay claim to more than the White House, the Capitol, monuments and world-class museums. At the heart of the city and no less inspiring is the country’s oldest urban national park-Rock Creek Park. To better understand, appreciate and protect this 1,783-acre natural treasure, the National Park Service and National Geographic Society have joined forces to host the 24-hour Rock Creek Park BioBlitz, May 18 and 19, noon to noon.
Part scientific endeavor, part festival and part outdoor classroom, the BioBlitz will bring together leading scientists, naturalists and adventurers from around the country with teams of volunteers of all ages. Together they will comb the park, observing and recording as many plant and animal species as possible in 24 hours. Volunteers of all ages are needed to help count species of bugs, birds, butterflies, bats, wildflowers and other plants and animals that call Rock Creek Park home. For more information and to register, log onto www.nationalgeographic.com/bioblitz. Registration is required. Information is also available by calling (202) 775-6186.
“This is an amazing opportunity to work with and be inspired by such leading scientists as Harvard Professor Edward O. Wilson, considered by many to be the father of the modern environmental movement. He began his illustrious career of exploration as a boy in Rock Creek Park, inspired by an article on ants in National Geographic magazine,” said John Francis, National Geographic’s vice president of Research, Conservation and Exploration.
Francis encourages parents and caregivers to bring children to the BioBlitz. “Today, youngsters are so programmed that exploring nature is lost in the mix. The planet’s future rests in the hands of our children. We look forward to exposing them to the amazing wildlife in their own backyards. Who knows, we might inspire the next E.O. Wilson,” he added.
Adrienne Coleman, Rock Creek Park superintendent, said, “It will be exciting to have the public join with the best to really explore the park and understand what a treasure we have in Rock Creek Park. Best of all, the information we gather will help us preserve it, so that generations to come will continue to enjoy the park.”
The Rock Creek Nature Center, at 5200 Glover Road, N.W., will serve as the BioBlitz base camp. Participant check-in begins at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 18. Festivities will begin at 11:30 a.m., with a kick-off ceremony. The 24-hour race to document the biodiversity of Rock Creek Park will begin promptly at noon, when teams will go near and far within the park boundaries to begin the nature inventory. Activities will include wading in the creek to find fish, sweeping nets through fields to catch butterflies, searching the forest floor for hidden wildflowers and catching bats with nets at night. Meanwhile, activities will continue at the Nature Center, where talks by experts, displays, entertainment and children’s activities will take place throughout the day and night. Data collection, testing and identification will also be located at the base camp and be active throughout the BioBlitz.
The National Geographic Society has had a close relationship with the National Park Service from the start. It helped draft the legislation to establish the Service in 1916, has given grants to establish or sustain national parks, and has extensively covered the parks across National Geographic’s media for nearly a century. The Society has drawn attention to the parks’ beauty, the challenges they face, and their importance as locales where we can study and protect our natural, cultural and historical heritage. The Rock Creek Park BioBlitz is the Society and National Park Service’s latest joint venture, and plans are underway to hold annual BioBlitzes at other urban National Park units, leading up to the Park Service’s centennial in 2016.
When Rock Creek Park was founded in 1890, it was on the edge of the growing city and a favorite area for rural retreat. The third oldest national park, Rock Creek Park was established to “provide for the preservation from injury or spoliation of all timber, animals, or curiosities within said park, and their retention in their natural condition, as nearly as possible,” according to Congressional legislation. Today it continues to be a vibrant natural refuge with an extensive system of hiking, bicycling and equestrian trails; picnicking areas; fishing venues; sports facilities; as well as historic and cultural sites. Visit www.nps.gov/rocr.
More information about the Rock Creek Park BioBlitz, registration, and volunteer and participation opportunities can be found at www.nationalgeographic.com/bioblitz.
Leading up to the May 18/19 BioBlitz, the National Science Foundation will hold a “Café Scientifique” — a forum in which scientists and the public mingle in a informal atmosphere with food and drink — on Tuesday, May 1, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., in Arlington, Va. The evening’s topic will be “Backyard Science Survey: A Buggy Bonanza,” featuring entomologist Gary Hevel of the National Museum of Natural History. For more information, visit nsf.gov/events.
On Saturday, May 5, National Geographic Live! will present a family concert celebrating the BioBlitz with entertainer Billy B. The program will take place at 11 a.m. at National Geographic. For details, visit nationalgeographic.com/nglive/washingtondc/s2007/family.
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 350 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and five other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; radio programs; films; books; DVDs; maps; and interactive media. National Geographic has funded more than 8,000 scientific research projects and supports an education program combating geographic illiteracy. For more information, visit nationalgeographic.com.