Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bioblitz 2011!

 I've been out Bioblitzing the last few days, which has been awesome. Okay, Bioblitzing really isn't a verb, but it should be! A Bioblitz is a short event to document biodiversity.

This particular Bioblitz was to find Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, and ants) at Great Basin National Park. In addition to the scientific focus, the Bioblitz had a strong outreach/education component. Ranger Robb led an afternoon kids' hike to a harvester ant mound and explained it. The kids thought it was absolutely fascinating!

 In the evening graduate students studying Hymenoptera gave a campfire talk. They talked about their projects. Then they entertained the crowd by changing the song "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" to "Head, Thorax, and Abdomen." They had everyone in the crowd do the movements. It was fantastic.

 It was a good turnout, and some of the folks at the campfire talk signed up to be Bioblitz participants the next day and spend some time searching. Two little boys even collected some ants on their bristlecone hike and turned them in.

 One really fun part about the Bioblitz was meeting the other participants. This is Sarah, and I loved her vial bag. I think it may have to become the next fashion accessory.

 Cecilia came from Brazil to study Hymenoptera at Utah State University, and Juanita came from Columbia.

 This is Ken, a retired entomologist who was so gracious sharing his knowledge. In another post I'll pass on some of what he taught me. His binoculars will focus on things only a couple feet away, giving a whole new dimension to insect watching.

 How do you like this bee?
If you say, That's not a bee, you're right. It only has two wings and no waist, which makes it a Diptera (which means two wings). Diptera are flies, and this fly's coloring imitates a bee.

 Students, visitors, and entomologists enjoying a patio talk by another graduate student.

 It was neat seeing the specimens being brought in. This couple had signed up at the campfire program to collect Hymenoptera. They came in so excited. They had found a few cool things. Plus, they said that the Bioblitz experience made them look at the national park in a whole new way. Their peripheral vision was expanded as they tried to locate the insects they might want to catch. And they realized that as they walked, they paid attention to things they had never really noticed before.

Just listening to them brought tears to my eyes. How cool to have a transforming experience and have your horizons broadened and be helping science at the same time!

 A school group from Colorado came and participated the second day, and Desert Boy couldn't resist joining them. With all those nets sweeping the vegetation, they were bound to find some neat things.

 They found this beautiful green wasp, a cuckoo wasp.

 Two of the students examine their catch.

 Here one transfers a find into the baggie. They were so professional, and even though it was the last field day of their 14-day trip, they went after the task with energy.

I sure want to go on a high school class trip like them!
 A big part of a Bioblitz is managing the data, and Sara helped enter the datasheets from the specimens coming in one morning. Even though it isn't one of the funnest tasks, Sara managed to have a big smile. She's going to go far.

 Near the end of the 48-hour collecting period, some of the experienced entomologists from the Nevada Department of Agriculture pulled out their microscopes to start sorting the specimens. So many were collected, especially from the light traps and malaise traps, that they wanted to make it a little easier for folks in the lab.

 Dr. James Pitts, the lead entomologist for the event, helped Becky preserve the specimens she had caught in her bowl traps--colored bowls filled with soapy water. She had a good number.

 Melissa made sure her datasheets were complete before she turned them in. She included a little of the vegetation in her sample, since some hymenopterans can be very particular about what vegetation they use.

 Grace and June were a delight to meet, as well as their fun mom. They did a super job collecting in various locations and I hope we get to spend more time with them!

 The Bioblitz was lucky to have two great sponsors, Western National Parks Association (WNPA) and the Great Basin National Park Foundation. They both provided lunches, at the beginning and end of the event. WNPA also provided some raffle prizes that made some of the participants extra happy.

 Apparently if you're an entomologist, you don't want to get far from your microscope, even if it is lunch time!

The event concluded with the preliminary results:
Over 60 participants
Over 160 collections brought in
Over 25 families of Hymenoptera added to the park list
Over 65 species of Hymenoptera added to the park list

Dr. Pitts and his students now have a big job of sorting, pinning, and identifying ahead of them. We can't wait to find out more about what was caught. They will undoubtedly add some families and many species to the tally. It may take a few (or many) months to process the thousands of specimens collected.

Well that's the quick overview. It was super fun and now I'm ready for a good rest.
If you ever have a chance to participate in a Bioblitz, I highly recommend it!


The Incredible Woody said...

That poor bee that's not a bee is really, really likely to get swatted! Ha!

Who knew bugs could be so much fun?!?

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Dent Ford said...

hm I like the idea going outside and meeting new people. That Bioblitz seems like a pretty good event.
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